Denver — Some of Colorado's largest ski resorts are expecting to reap a bounty of lodging reservations thanks to heavy, early snow, including record- or near-record November snowfalls in Steamboat Springs and Vail.
Winter storm warnings were issued Friday as snow continued to fall in Colorado's north-central mountains.
"In the past two weeks our reservations have increased by 49 percent compared to this time last year," said Ian Anderson, spokesman for the Vail Valley Chamber and Tourism Bureau. "High gasoline prices have been on our radar. We also have seen double the number of our hits on our Web site."
The Vail Cascade hotel has had to bring in reservation agents from its sister hotel in southeast Denver, spokesman Steve Janicek said.
"Our international business, the big money, long-term stays, are up 70 percent," Janicek said.
Steamboat Springs recorded a record 83 inches of snow in November, up from 78 in 1996. Calls or Web inquiries for reservations nearly doubled this week, said Andy Wirth, vice president for marketing at Steamboat.
Vail had received 118 inches through Thursday, 7 inches less than the record set for the same period in 1985-86. "This is the best skiing at Vail in 20 years," said Julie Rust, Vail Ski Patrol director.
Breckenridge's Imperial Express SuperChair lift, which will be the highest lift in North America, is scheduled to open Monday, a month earlier than previously planned.
The remote Silverton area is offering a free lift ticket to skiers and snowboarders who come this weekend and help pack avalanche zones with their boots.
The weather outlook looks good for Colorado resorts through the rest of the season. Klaus Wolter, weather scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last month predicted good precipitation for western Colorado, particularly the north-central mountains.
Elsewhere, the weather has been hit-or-miss this year. Utah's snowpack was below average before a storm dumped 3 feet last week. Ski Utah, the trade organization, reported an increase in holiday reservations ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent at its 13 ski areas.
Big Sky in Montana got 70 inches in November and opened its tram for Thanksgiving for only the second time ever.
Mammoth Mountain in California got 2 feet of snow during a two-day storm that began Thursday.