Mountain News: Fourth of July skiing? 

Skiing could be incorporated into Independence Day activities

GRANBY, Colo. -- The creeks and rivers this year across much of Colorado are a sight to behold. For much of the last month they've been crowding their banks, with high runoff expected to continue yet for several more weeks. Usually, the show lasts no more than about three weeks.

Much snow remains up high. The Loveland ski area, located along the Continental Divide above the tunnels that accommodate the passage of Interstate 70, last weekend looked as though it could resume operations with nary a missed beat.

On the other side of the tunnels, residents of Breckenridge had six inches of snow early last week, before the weather turned hot.

Still, the blast of cold had given lingering backcountry skiers good cause to ruminate on extended skiing forays. After a chilly weekend foray to nearby Rabbit Ears Pass, 30-plus year Steamboat Pilot veteran Tom Ross reported confidence of incorporating skiing into Steamboat's Fourth of July celebration.

"Why would anyone go skiing on as summer day meant for picnics, ball games, parades and concerts?" he added. "Because we can!" He even conjectured that there could be enough snow to recreate the Winter Carnival on Steamboat's main street, Lincoln Avenue.

In Vail, kayakers on Sunday were studying the thrashing Gore Creek, calculating whether they could squeeze under bridges and studying their angles through the obstacles found in the rushing torrents.

Anglers of the fishing type were rejoicing at all the water - not because it delivers good fishing now. Very much the opposite. There's no wading into these waters. But the rushing waters are scouring the interstitials, as the spaces between the river-bottom rocks are called, where small invertebrates live and which are crucial for the good health of fish.

Even at the headwaters of the Colorado River, these strong, flushing flows have become rare. So much water is detained by dams and diverted by tunnels for use on farms of eastern Colorado and the cities that lie at the foot of the mountains.

At Granby Reservoir, just south of Rocky Mountain National Park, 1,400 cubic feet per second of water was spilling from the dam in what the Sky-Hi News described as a "fantastic, arching display." This is the first time in 14 years.

A section of river below the dam had flows of 1,800 cfs. Quoting a local government document the newspaper reported flow greater than 1,000 cfs just 11 times in the past 45 years.

Because of relatively cool weather, flooding has been minor. Even so, the diversions and dams have made this year's sort of flooding relatively rare. The Aspen Times , citing a report from a 2008 report from a group called the Roaring Fork Conservancy, said the river of that same name had small flooding four out of every 10 years before the large-scale diversions began. Now it's three out of every 20 years.

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