Ski town residents ski, shovel and revel in “the storm we all moved to Crested Butte for.”
Living inside a snow globe makes people say strange things.
“I hope it stops snowing,” said Scott Gates, a lifelong ski bum who has never uttered those words in his 24 years in this dead-end canyon. “I can’t believe I said that.”
In the middle of an epic storm cycle that has made Crested Butte the snowiest spot in Colorado — more than 90 inches of new snow has fallen in the past 10 days — buried ‘Buttians are digging. In the early mornings, they shovel. By midday they are furrowing the deepest tracks in recent history at Crested Butte Mountain Resort. Then it’s back to shoveling.
This snow, while a hassle, is a blessing. Locals call this the best storm of their lives. They high-five strangers on the hill. They chatter about “Snowmaggedon” and “Snowpocalypse.” Visitors excited to hunker down at the Grand Lodge with fireside hot toddies.
“I feel like it’s Groundhog Day,” said Arianne French, a passionate skier who has spent each of the past 10 days skiing and shoveling the roof of a downtown trailer listing under nightly deposits of deep snow. “Every morning, Teddy is telling me where to park, Mindy is shoveling her roof, Pinball is smoking on his deck. I love shoveling. Dealing with all these sketchy moments. Then I go skiing.”
“This has been relentless. We are tired. Skiing is our rest time from shoveling and now we are shoveling to recover from skiing,” said Wynne, who named his shoveling team Armstrong “because we put our backs and arms into it, saving our legs for skiing. These past couple weeks have been an endless Jenny Craig weight-loss program.”
At Clark’s Market, Crested Butte’s big grocery, Bruce Ost was spreading his fish and beef across a barren display, making up for a lack of chicken. The fowl comes from Nebraska, through a warehouse in Salt Lake City. That’s a lot of travel on snowy roads.
“It’s quite a supply chain, and when one link breaks, well, we run out of stuff,” Ost said. “I’ve only been here 26 years, but I’ve never seen it like this. It just keeps coming.”
Up at the ski area, patrollers are battling an avalanche threat that grows with each inch of snow. Since Jan. 1, the Crested Butte ski patrol has hurled 1,402 pounds of 2-, 4- and 6-pound explosives into hanging fields of deep snow, triggering avalanches before skiers do.
Antsy locals pester patrollers about openings. On Wednesday, the first time patrol has been able to open the area’s famed steep extreme terrain, an army of powder pirates pillaged the bounty during blinding winds, relentless snowfall and explosive blasts that echoed across the entire valley.
Before the mountain opened Wednesday, patrollers lobbed more than 130 charges into the area’s Headwall and North Face areas.
The wet snow has been a challenge for patrollers, said Frank Magri, a patroller for 23 years.
“It’s really hard to get something to slide in damp snow, so explosives are our only alternative,” Magri said.
The resort needed an emergency shipment of explosives delivered from Tennessee last week. Another emergency shipment is on the way.
“This is the winter we all moved to Crested Butte for,” said local educator and radio DJ John Hopper. “You just have to embrace every shovel load.”
Standing in a sideways wind of blowing snow at the packed North Face Lift line, someone started a chant Wednesday. Soon everyone was lauding life in a snow globe.
“Shake it again!” they shouted. “Shake it again!”