If we were to sum up the 2018-2019 ski season in one word, it would have to be POWDER. American resorts, particularly in the west, were absolutely hammered by snow from fall through spring. The blizzards led to actual walls of snow—some of which caused significant road closures and havoc—but also, let’s admit, totally unforgettable ski conditions. There were also some wildlife sightings and monumental markings in the world of winter sports.
Here are some highlights from an unforgettable season.
Many, Many Feet of Snow
Colorado : If you weren’t there to witness for yourself, you surely read or watched the mind-boggling video of snow avalanching down onto mountain roads, including Colorado’s Interstate 70, the key artery through the Rockies. The multiple avalanches forced the Colorado Department of Transportation to schedule road closures and delays throughout February and March for avalanche mitigation and snow control.
Tahoe : “Februburied” became a word in Tahoe this February, with all ski areas smashing their monthly snowfall records. There was so much snowfall this winter that Tahoe’s streets were literally threaded through walls of white, some measuring more than 40 feet tall and resembling canyons.
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Breckenridge : It was barely mid-January when Breckenridge tallied more than 16 feet of snow and announced it would extend its season from the originally slated closing date of April 21 to Memorial Day, May 27.
Tahoe : During Februburied, pretty much every resort in Tahoe extended its season. However, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows gets the win. Grab your shorts and bikinis and head to shred this summer because after more than 50 feet of snow had fallen by the end of February, Squaw announced it will stay open until July 7.
Crazy Wildlife Encounters
Keystone : At Keystone, the bountiful snow did nothing to deter Colorado wildlife, particularly moose, which seemed to want to mingle with humans more than ever this ski season. In fact, officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife suspected that a bull moose that fell into the window well of a home in Keystone this March was trying to avoid snow drifts by walking through shallower snow close to the house. It took a tranquilizer, a pulley rig, and more than 30 rescuers to lift the 900-pound animal out.
Breckenridge : If you haven’t searched YouTube for the video of a pair of moose galloping through the crowd at the base of Beaver Run chairlift at Breckenridge’s Peak 9 this March, do it right now. One moose completed a full loop around the lift maze and zigzagged up the ski run, scattering crowds but causing no harm, before circling back to its friend.
The Great Ladies of Skiing
Of course, we are talking about Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, both of whom call Vail home. Vonn, who announced that this season would be the last of her wildly decorated ski racing career, had to cut competition even shorter than planned when nagging knee injuries continued to plague her. This did not stop the world’s greatest female skier of all time, at age 34, from breaking one final record in her last ever race performance at the 2019 World Ski Championships in Sweden, held in February. She landed one final medal in downhill, becoming the oldest woman to do so in world championship history. She’s also the only woman to medal in six world championships.
At only 24 years old, Shiffrin, who has now won three Olympic medals (including two consecutive golds) and seven world championship medals including three in February, threw down the most winning season of her career to date. Not only did she claim her third straight overall World Cup title, but her 17 victories were the most ever notched by a World Cup alpine skier in a single season. She also became the first in history to land the overall title, plus the slalom, giant slalom, and super G titles. She also claimed to have more fun than she’s ever had racing, so clearly she’s doing something right. With her trajectory, she should continue to do so for many seasons to come.
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World Sports Stages
Beaver Creek : As they do every season, the world’s fastest skiers descended on Beaver Creek this December for their only U.S. stop on the men’s alpine World Cup tour. The races were expertly shuffled around snowstorms, and the Europeans dominated. The races marked the last Colorado will see of Norwegian champion and Beaver Creek favorite Aksel Lund Svindal, who announced retirement in February.
Whistler : You may think that the Winter Olympics are the only chance to catch professional bobsled and skeleton racing. Wrong. From Feb. 25 to March 10, Whistler (the venue for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games), hosted more than 250 top athletes from 35 countries in the BMW International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation World Championships for the first time ever. In the nail-biting, Olympic-caliber team event, Germany edged Canada for gold while Team USA took bronze.
Stowe : Dozens of the best Nordic and alpine skiers from 24 colleges across the country descended on Stowe, Vermont for the NCAA Ski Championships in February and March. While new snowfall posed some challenges, the races went on, some coming down to the wire for nail-biting finishes.
Park City : The U.S. Olympic Committee granted Salt Lake City and surrounding ski areas— including Park City—the go-ahead to bid for another Winter Olympic Games. The area’s success in hosting the 2002 Olympic Games made it an easy vote, as all of the existing infrastructure is still in place. Most likely, the bid will be for the 2030 Games, but it could be sooner.
Written by Shauna Farnell for Matcha in partnership with Epic Mountain Rentals.
Featured image provided by © Tomas Cohen / Vail Resorts