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El Nino year could make for an ideal ski season

Zac Koch
Zac Koch

El Nino approaches.

While Denver experiences some heavy snow every year, averaging about 53 inches of snowfall annually according to the Weather Channel, El Nino years are particularly nasty.


And though most of the places in North America expecting to be affected by this El Nino year are shaking in their boots, Coloradans are prepping their ski and snowboard boots. A good number of riders already made it up to Arapahoe Basin last weekend for opening day, and it was only the second week of October.

The past four El Nino years have produced snowfall well above the Denver average: in 1997 we got 72.1 inches, in 2002 we got 61.8 inches, 2006  got 72.6 inches, and in 2009 we got 60.6 inches.  Keep in mind this is for the Denver area. The high country typically sees three to four times as much snow, and all of the El Nino snow that doesn’t make it to Denver falls in the mountains.

Seldom in the sports world do we hope for really gnarly weather, but skiers and snowboarders alike can agree that clear skies do not make for a fun season.

So, what can you do to take advantage of this anomaly? After all, it’s only every four years or so high country powder junkies are visited by the infamous El Nino, the Santa Claus of the mountains. And according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, El Nino years are twice as likely to produce 20-inch snowstorms in the high country.

First, you’re going to want to get your pass. Most pass prices go up as the season approaches, and the prices just started rising last week. They may seem pricey upon first glance, as the starting price for the adult Epic pass is $769, but that pass is unlimited to numerous places, some of which are tough to make it to because of distance.

Luckily, a College Epic Local pass is offered at $509 as of now, and most of the places available are extremely accessible. Can’t afford it or don’t want to spend money on places you won’t go? Fine. The College Summit Pass is offered at $409 for unlimited riding at Keystone and Arapahoe Basin with limited restrictions to Breckenridge (Note: you must have proof of 12 or more credits for college passes). If Keystone and A-Bay are your go-to places, a limited pass is offered at $309.

If you’re a Rocky Mountain Super Pass kind of person, and prefer Winter Park and Copper, Wells Fargo is promoting a deal in which opening an account is rewarded by a two-for-one voucher for the Super Pass. This pass is offered at $419, but with the voucher it comes down to $210 bucks apiece.

Timeout. $509 is a pretty steep sum of cash for a college kid. But after five trips to the mountains, you’ve got your money’s worth, and for the Summit and Keystone or A-Basin passes, even less trips are required. With the Wells Fargo deal, a Rocky Mountain Super Pass holder pays off their pass in two trips. If El Nino delivers like it is predicted to, there will be more than enough powder days to rejoice in.

Here’s to a year of buttery powder, shredders.


Thanks for keepin’ track with Zac.

Collegian Assistant Sports Editor Zac Koch can be reached at and on Twitter @zactkoch

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