Ahhh, spring in the high country

It’s not always easy living at 9,000 feet at the end of the road in a ski town. Heck, the official start to spring started Monday at 3:24 p.m. Mountain Time. It was dumping outside. As snow farmers we can appreciate that added to an already bumper 2022-23 crop. It appears we will be harvesting for a while.

More than one person has commented this week that they are ‘over’ the snow. More than one person has said something to the effect that they are having ‘berm anxiety’ as they wonder how big a pile of plowed snow and ice will have to be removed from the bottom of the driveway or the car pull-in. I would bet that more than one person is probably on their Kayak app right now booking beach or desert accommodations. 

It is spring in Crested Butte and the old-timers would tell you that what you are experiencing is the way it always was – and they walked uphill both ways to school six days a week in Gunnison, just because. But the old-timers would swear the snow would pile up into May and June was the real “mud season.” CBMR’s original ski school director Robel Straubhaar, who grew up in Gstaad, Switzerland, used to tell CB newcomers who fretted over the lack of early season snow that “it doesn’t matter when the snow starts — it matters when the snow stops.” It doesn’t look like it will stop any time super soon, we are still in March after all.

The phone forecast has a lot of clouds with snowflakes coming out of them for the next 10 days. The OpenSnow app (and what Joel Gratz says usually happens) has blue bumps in the forecast indicating…more snow.

If you can’t get enough skiing, you are loving this. But if you can’t get enough skiing, be super careful in the backcountry — there were several major avalanches in the region recently that claimed lives. No one needs to deal with that right now. So, enjoy the spring snow but please stay aware.

Snow management was certainly easier in the not-so-faraway days when there were fewer people in town. There were more vacant lots to push the snow in the middle of town. There were fewer people ‘walking like penguins’ that you had to navigate. 

Look, at heart, we are winter snow farmers in the North Valley. The snow is the crop that generates the economy and the harvest that brings pleasure to most of us that arrived to originally ski a steep mountain in the middle of Colorado. We literally sow the seeds through a regional cloud seeding program to help bring us a bumper crop. BTW, it worked this year. We rolled over the 300 inch marker this week. The idea is not to necessarily cover the rocks on the Spellbound entrance, but to help fill the reservoirs that feed people from here to Mexico. This year it will do both, as well as help put some water in the underlying soil and aquifers. 

This consistent snow will have an impact on the timing for the ranchers’ summer moves. It will impact how high and when you might bag a peak. It should help bring a colorful summer of wildflowers. 

The spring equinox took place Monday afternoon. It was dumping. Wet or dry, the equinox promises the start of a season of renewal, color and awakening. The high valley reality is that that promise does not always arrive on time up here at the headwaters. We are what we are and this year we are a winter dream. It will result in an ideal Rocky Mountain summer.

I’ve always claimed that the summer days here are worth three of the best days anywhere else on the planet. Lord knows we are all earning those summer days now as the snow continues to fall relentlessly. 

If you are having trouble dealing with the slow transition from winter to spring, hold onto visions of the summer nirvana ahead. Remember that the days this week finally contain more daylight than darkness. Breathe in the falling snowflakes and visualize turning those flakes into wildflowers…it will happen and it will be worth it.

—Mark Reaman

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