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Mountain News: Snow tallies upside down from last year

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VAIL, Colo. — Other places get bigger dumps than Vail, but it's always been a point of local pride that Vail rarely gets shut out entirely by storms.

"Vail has the most consistent snow of any place in the world," Mayor Andy Daly, who has been involved in the ski business at various Colorado resorts for more than 40 years, said at a community meeting last week.

But consistent or not, Vail went into Christmas for the first time since 1981 without opening its famous Back Bowls.

In Vail, as elsewhere, ski and community officials were trying to put the best light on the lack of snow in the busy week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

"You take last year's snow, and this year's snow, and between the two of them we have two average seasons," joked Chris Jarnot, chief operating officer for Vail Mountain, referring to last years' phenomenal snowfall. "Our grooming crew has been pulling rabbits out of hats so far," he added.

In Breckenridge, the Summit Daily News noted that Denver International Airport, located on the prairie 24-kilometres east of Denver, had received as much snow.

In Idaho, Brundage Mountain didn't open until Friday before New Year's Eve, the second latest opening in the 50-year history of the resort. The resort, located three and a half hours north of Boise, near McCall, brands itself as "Idaho's best snow."

Bogus Basin, located a half-hour from Boise, wasn't open as of New Year's. Rain was destroying the efforts of snowmakers, the Idaho Statesmen said.

For many resorts, Vail and Brundage included, the red-letter year of record was the 1976-1977 season. By then, a few resorts — Winter Park in particular — had begun investing in snowmaking. Another drought, in 1980-1981 was equally disastrous during December. In some Colorado resorts, only an inch of snow fell. Lingering doubts about snowmaking receded.

Of course, it's been warm enough to melt snow. On New Year's Day 1981, lift ops in Steamboat sported Hawaiian shirts. This past Friday, Steamboat hit a high of eight degrees celcius, reported Steamboat Today, causing grooming crews to resort to an old machine to break up the surface glaze on the ski trails.

Perhaps surprisingly, local officials in Colorado reported very few complaints. Adam Suttner, the director of sale and marketing for Vail Resorts, reported that surveys revealed customer satisfaction on par with last year when Vail and many other resorts were having epic powder storms.

In Snowmass, the gist was the same. "Our guests love the blue skies," said Russell Forrest, the town manager of Snowmass Village. Not so much the singer LeAnn Rimes, who tweeted to fans about a mishap: "Tailbone hurts from falling on a stump that tripped up my board 'cause THERE'S NOT ENOUGH SNOW."

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