Storm expected to bring snow as ski resort delays opening

Hesperus waiting for more snow, but Purgatory is open

The Daily Times staff
The mountains outside Durango, Colorado, lack their normal snowpack, leading at least one ski area in the region to delay its season opening.

FARMINGTON — A storm system that rolled into the Four Corners area on Christmas may help with the dry conditions that led Hesperus Ski Area west of Durango, Colorado, to delay opening.

While the ski area was scheduled to open Dec. 21, the ski resort announced a day earlier that there was not enough natural snow for the opening to take place. The facility lacks snow-making equipment.

A press release states Hesperus has received a total of 12 inches of snow this season.

But the ski area may receive several inches of snow out of this storm, according to the National Weather Service.

A light blanket of snow covers a hillside Dec. 21 in Durango, Colorado.

“Hesperus Ski Area relies 100 percent on natural snowfall. The current weather pattern hasn’t provided much snowfall so far this season, so we’re delaying the opening of Hesperus Ski Area,” said Sam Williams, senior director of mountain operations at Hesperus Ski Area, in a press release. “Hesperus will open for the ski season as soon as there’s sufficient snow.”

Last winter, dry conditions delayed Hesperus’ season opening until February.

Pajarito Mountain Ski Area in Los Alamos also was scheduled to open Dec. 21 and announced it would be delaying the start of its season due to a lack of snowfall.

“We’ve had to make the difficult decision to delay Pajarito’s opening, but we’re confident that we can open very soon. The ski area has a great base, but we just need one more significant snow storm to open,” said Tom Long, general manager of Pajarito Mountain, in a press release. “Our team is excited to kick off the ski season, and we’ll open the mountain as soon as conditions allow.”

The Animas River flows along a trail Dec. 21 in Durango, Colorado.

Hesperus isn’t the only part of Colorado that is struggling with a lack of snowpack.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan rivers basin has less than 60 percent of its typical snowpack. Snowmelt in the basin feeds the Animas and San Juan rivers, which are the main source of water for northwest New Mexico.

Purgatory Resort has fared better than the lower-elevation Hesperus Ski Area. Purgatory, located north of Durango, has a summit elevation of nearly 11,000 feet above sea level, and its base elevation is about 8,000 feet above sea level. In contrast, Hesperus Ski Area’s summit is at 8,888 feet above sea level.

Purgatory Resort, which has snow-making equipment, reports having received more than 47 inches of snow since the start of the season. The ski area opened as scheduled on Nov. 17.