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Mountain News: Beginning to look a lot like last year



DENVER, Colo. — It's finger-crossing time at the National Ski Areas Association headquarters in suburban Denver. Unlike last year at this time, California is getting snow. But New Mexico and Colorado have been hot, or at least warm, and dry.

It's too soon to get excited, says Michael Berry, president of NSAA, but he admits to some anxiety. If snow arrives by Christmas, everybody will be much calmer.

Winter often takes its leisure during December, but it's hard not to remember last year. Ski areas in Colorado got enough snow to operate by Christmas, but only through prodigious efforts by snowmakers and expert grooming by trail crews. Skiing was pretty good considering the circumstances, said the charitable.

But in some places, there was no skiing. None. Squaw Valley was bone dry well into January. Idaho's Bogus Basin didn't open until Jan. 19, the latest effort since the ski area outside Boise opened in 1941.

Lodging reservations are starting to take a hit. Rob LeVine, general manager of the Antlers Lodge, told the Vail Daily that the week before Christmas would normally be 80 per cent booked. This year, it's at 30 to 40 per cent.

In Aspen, hotel bookings were also down. "The weather is having an impact," said Bill Tomcich, president of a central reservations agency.

What does the weatherman say? Don't expect much in the short term, said Ryan Boudreau, forecaster at, in an interview with the Aspen Daily News. The same high-pressure system that pushed most of the moisture from the Pacific Ocean to the north last spring is still in place, he said.

Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the official forecast sees equal chances of a wet or dry winter. But don't give up hope. Twenty per cent of storms make up 80 per cent of the weather, meaning that a few heavy dumps will change everything, he told the Daily News.

For now, most ski areas are open, but it's only because of human-created snow. Such was the case at Howelsen Hill, the 98-year-old ski area near Steamboat Springs, reports Steamboat Today. "The conditions are pretty good considering there isn't a lot of natural snow anywhere in the area," said Craig Robinson, a supervisor of the city's parks and open space department, which operates the ski area.

"We can all do snow dances, take our snow tires back off or, for those so inclined, pray," said the Vail Daily's Scott Miller. "The skies will bring when it happens to come."

Plastic bag options examined

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – A task force in Breckenridge has recommended that plastic bags be banned at large grocery stores and that paper bags be given out for a fee. The group also recommends a voluntary approach with smaller retailers. The town council will likely take up the matter in January.