With the large snowfalls Tuesday and Wednesday, Summit County resort officials are saying skiers and snowboarders can expect more terrain to open through the weekend. Avalanche forecasters, meanwhile, recommend extreme caution when making any trip into the backcountry.
“When we get big winter storms like this certainly avalanches are a concern,” Colorado Avalanche Information Center deputy director Brian Lazar said. “We expect a widespread avalanche cycle. Right now travel in the backcountry is not recommended.”
As of Wednesday, the avalanche center had a warning in effect through noon Thursday. Lazar said the center would reassess the warning Thursday morning.
Hikers and skiers are encouraged to stay away from slope grades greater than 30 degrees.
Lazar said the current snowpack has two weak layers from early-season snow that will make avalanche-prone slopes especially susceptible to slides.
While backcountry conditions might be unstable, area resorts continue to reap the benefits of early-season snow.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s really important to us to have this kind of snow this time of year,” Breckenridge Ski Resort spokeswoman Kristen Pettit Stewart said. “Man, if we can show this snow on TV for the Dew Tour, it’s a huge win for us. It’s the TV event that shows Colorado is open for ski season.”
And this weekend it’s looking like a huge win for area skiers as well, with Copper Mountain Resort, Keystone Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Breckenridge all planning to open new terrain.
“It’s been puking snow up here nonstop since yesterday, and the skiing has been simply outstanding,” A-Basin communications director Adrienne Saia Isaac said. “It looks like full-on winter across the mountain, and we’re hoping to get more terrain open here soon.”
Winter weather forecasting specialist Joel Gratz — founder of opensnow.com — said the snowpack in the mountains is already well above normal, with areas of the Colorado Rockies recording 120 to 140 percent of the average snowpack for this time of year.
”It’s a very strong early season for snow across the state,” Gratz said. “This is a welcome change. Most of Colorado is above average for this time of year.”
Gratz’s early forecast calls for another storm to roll through Saturday and Sunday. “It could potentially be a 3-6 incher.”
With more good news in the forecast, here’s a look around the county at what’s open and what might be over the weekend.
This time last year Breckenridge had 186 acres open, Pettit Stewart said. As of Wednesday evening, Breck was reporting 892 skiable acres, with more expected soon.
“Because of this storm, we were able to open the E Chair terrain (approx 75 acres).”
Pettit Stewart said Breck is working to open an additional 280 acres of terrain, including the back bowls around Chair 6 and portions of Peak 7, in the coming days.
Get up-to-date conditions reports and terrain news via Breck’s new ski conditions twitter account @BreckConditions
As of Wednesday Copper Mountain reported 480 open acres with eight of 22 lifts operating.
“With this most recent storm Copper Mountain Patrol is working hard to get our upper mountain terrain, The 12’s, open for guests this weekend,” resort spokeswoman Austyn Williams said. She anticipates the new Storm King T-bar and Sierra chair will open this weekend, yielding a total of 650 acres.
While the Super-Bee chair from East Village will be open, terrain under the lift will remain closed for the U.S. Ski Team.
Copper will host the North Face Park and Pipe series this weekend, with winners earning a spot on the Sprint Grand Prix Tour. A number of U.S. Olympic hopefuls are expected to compete in the event.
Keystone, which opened terrain Wednesday and will have 341 acres available Thursday, plans to open a substantial amount of terrain this weekend.
Resort spokeswoman Laura Parquette said that patrol continues to ready more terrain and that she expects more acreage to be open Friday.
North Peak is expected to open along with the Outback and Bergman Bowl. The resort should have 581 acres open over the weekend — 581 lift accessible, 515 hike in.
A-Basin officials plan to open additional front-face terrain as soon as patrol can complete preparations. The ski area also will move its High Divide terrain park to its regular season location farther up the mountain.
A-Basin currently has 220 of 960 acres open.
Loveland Ski Area reports 328 acres of open terrain with four of 10 lifts running. Officials did not announce plans for additional terrain at press time.