Crested Butte Mountain Resort closed yesterday, January 9, due to too much snow. It was dumping at the "Last Great Colorado Ski Town in Colorado" as over two to three inches were falling per hour. Schools closed. Government offices closed. Employees called in sick, and others couldn't get to work if they tried. Restaurants hung window signs that read things like "Powder Day – Closed 'til noon". Every local and their mom was on the mountain yesterday, plus the out-of-towners, and high winds added to the chaos. Resort staff and machines just couldn't handle the load. The old mining town known in Southwest Colorado for its world-class steep terrain and sub-par annual snowfall totals closed at 1:30 p.m.
Erica Mueller, communications manager at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, says she doesn't think the resort has ever had to close early due to snowfall. "The snow was coming at a rate of 2-3 inches an hour and wasn’t letting up. It was wet and heavy," she wrote in an email at 7:00 a.m. Colorado time this morning. "Our team is still digging us out and patrol is about to get back out there when the sun rises to start controlling avy paths throughout the mountain. The riding is definitely going to be all time today. It has been for over a week now…. it’s crazy."
Some of our gear testers and contributing writers are on the ground–or should I say, in the white room–in Crested Butte now, so I reached out last night to get the inside scoop from people not employed by the resort.
Longtime snowboard journalist and Crested Butte local of 16 years, Mike Horn, told me it was so deep he could pretty much walk off his second story deck onto a double overhead snow bank. "I can't remember the last time it was this deep, this early," he texted. "Tough to get work done."
Watch the Butte get buried in this Powder Cam timelapse:
That was before they got another 19 inches overnight. Every morning for what seems like the past two weeks straight I've received an email saying that Crested Butte received anywhere from four to 11 inches overnight. This morning it said 19 inches. They've already received 187 inches this season. Just look up "Crested Butte Snow" and you'll see enough photos of buried buildings and cars to make you kick yourself for not being not there.
According to contributing writer Morgan Tilton, there are a ton of beginner riders in town. "The easy lifts shut down, forced the novices onto difficult terrain, people were getting hurt, and not enough patrol power to mitigate avalanche terrain while also pulling people down on sleds!"
The hydrological hammer that's been burying mountain towns across the country dropped about five feet on Crested Butte in the past week. The second swell is more centralized over the central Rockies and is expected to lay down another two feet or more this week. Yesterday afternoon, the resort's powder cam read, "For the safety of our guests and employees, we are shutting down operations early for the day."
Mueller said that prior to the storm the resort had over half of its extreme terrain open. "We are working to get those areas opened back up as quickly as possible. Given the amount of snow that we have received and the forecast, I don’t anticipate getting any new terrain open this week."
That might not matter too much when you can't see a hundred feet in front of you and your tracks are covered by the time you can retrace them.