Autumn officially started just weeks ago, but winter weather advisories have already been put into effect in the high Rockies.
Summit County residents woke up to an early blast of winter weather on Friday morning. The colorful autumn foliage was blanketed in snow along the mountainsides and into the valleys.
The National Weather Service got reports of as much as 4 inches of snow falling in neighborhoods just north of Breckenridge. Up to 6 inches of snow fell along the Continental Divide.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kalina said the northern Rockies were hardest hit in Colorado, but snow fell as low as 5,000 feet — reaching all the way to Denver, he said.
A blizzard warning was issued in southeast Wyoming on Friday. The area was one of the hardest hit in the widespread winter weather system.
Summit County was at the tail end of the storm, Kalina said.
Temperatures are expected to warm up locally in the next few days, reaching the high 30s on Saturday and the high 50s by Wednesday, according to National Weather Service reports. But another winter-weather system could deliver more snow in Summit County Wednesday night.
The early October snowfall comes on the heels of the fourth wettest September ever recorded in Summit County. Last month, 3.86 inches of precipitation soaked the high Rockies.
The most precipitation ever recorded in Summit County was 5.80 inches in 1930. Weather Service records date back to 1850.
Kalina said heavy precipitation levels in September don’t necessarily mean October’s weather will follow suit.
“The weather could go either way this winter,” he said. “It’s one of those hit-or-miss things.”
Even though there may not be a direct scientific correlation between wet autumn seasons and early winter conditions, Summit County ski area representatives are stoked about the early season snowfall.
“My hope for this season is that this early season snow trend continues through the rest of 2013 and deep into the New Year,” said Adrienne Saia Isaac, Araphoe Basin Ski Area’s marketing and communications manager. “I get hungry for snow just like any other skier or rider — I want to get my powder setup out as soon as possible.”
Austyn Williams, Copper Mountain’s public relations manager, said the resort was greeted with about 3 to 4 inches of snow in the base area on Tuesday night.
“An amazing miracle March and snowy end of last season left all of us at Copper fending for more. We just can’t wait to get back out there with the help of Mother Nature,” Williams said.
Keystone Resort also reported a few inches of snow accumulating overnight Friday. If the conditions continue, Keystone spokeswoman Laura Parquette said, the resort plans to fire up the snowmaking systems.
“Our more concentrated snowmaking is scheduled to begin on Oct. 15, but we’ll continue to pay attention to weather patterns and take advantage of opportunities to start laying down a sustainable base to provide our guests the best early season conditions possible,” Parquette said.
Kristen Petitt Stewart, spokeswoman at Breckenridge Ski Resort, said Friday’s snowfall will have no real impact on the park’s opening day.
The excitement surrounding an early snowfall might encourage people to start booking their ski trips, she said, “but the snow we look for to impact opening falls in late October and early November.”