2023 kicks off with more terrain openings — and snow — for Summit County’s ski resorts | SummitDaily.com

2023 kicks off with more terrain openings — and snow — for Summit County’s ski resorts

Winter advisory warning to be in effect in the county Sunday night through Monday

A snowboarder enjoys fresh powder on Peak 9 in Breckenridge during this past week's snowstorm from between Christmas Day, Dec. 25, 2022, and New Year's Eve.
Sarah McLear/Breckenridge Ski Resort

Summit County mountain resorts are ringing in the new year with fresh tracks for skiers and snowboarders after opening new terrain over the past week — and weather reports show a continued streak of snowfall

As of Sunday, Breckenridge Ski Resort is reporting 142 of its 187 trails and 34 of its 35 lifts are open — equating to 75% of the resort’s terrain.

Peak 6, which opened Dec. 26, marked the last of the resort’s five peaks to open, though many of its more difficult trails still remain closed. 

Keystone Resort is reporting all 20 of its lifts are open, with 82 of its 120 trails also open. Outpost Gondola, however, was on hold as of Sunday, according to the resort. A majority of the trails still closed are intermediate and advanced runs on its Outback Peak and Dercum Mountain.

At Copper Mountain Resort, 22 of 23 lifts are open, according to the resort, with the Three Bears lift — which takes skiers and boarders to Tucker Mountain — on hold as of Sunday. The lift had been running earlier in the week making the Alpine lift, which opened Dec. 30, the last to officially open. 

The resort is reporting a total of 130 of its 156 trails are currently open — about 75% of its terrain.

And at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, seven of nine lifts and 79 of 145 runs are currently open, according to the resort. The Lazy-J Tow rope and Zuma Lift — which give access to the Montezuma Bowl — are the only ones currently closed. 

In total, the resort is reporting all of its easiest runs are open while 66% of its more difficult are open, 62% of its most difficult are open and 35% of its extreme are open.

With new terrain also comes new snow, with 6 to 12 inches forecasted to accumulate in Summit County by Tuesday morning, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Caitlyn Mensch. 

Snow will begin to fall Sunday night and all day Monday, Mensch said, bringing with it a winter advisory warning for the county which will be in effect from 7 p.m. Sunday through the end of Monday. 

“Expect winter driving conditions, anything that can range from snow-covered roads to slick roadways,” Mensch said, adding that while higher mountain passes will see some wind it should mean “a little bit of blowing snow, but nothing impassable.”

Mensch said the incoming storm’s snow-to-liquid ratio, which measures how much snow will be made for every inch of liquid the system carries, will be in the mid- to higher-range — meaning fluffier snow. 

“A higher snow ratio is telling us that for every inch of liquid you’re getting more snow,” Mensch said. “It’s definitely indicating it’s going to be fluffy.”

Joe Gratz, who runs the online site OpenSnow, wrote in a Jan. 1 report that “Tuesday should offer first-chair fluffy powder across the northern and central mountains thanks to the snow on Monday night.”

According to Gratz’s report, Summit’s ski resorts could see between 5 and 7 inches of new snow by Tuesday, building off several inches that were predicted to fall over the past few days

The recent systems moving through the county are reasons to be optimistic for a fairly active season, Mensch said, even as data shows that current snow accumulation is slightly below average. 

For example, total snow accumulation for Breckenridge is 149.5 inches, according to Mensch. That’s slightly below the average of about 160, though Mensch said there are plenty of opportunities for that to change. 

“I feel like we’ve been fortunate, at least in December,” Mensch said. “It’s definitely a good sign. We don’t see any strong signals for a really dry system in January, so we just got to hope that we’ll keep seeing some systems come through and bring some snow to everybody.”

As snow enthusiasts continue to explore expanded mountain terrain, they should be aware of avalanche risks, said Dillon District Ranger Adam Bianchi.

“We’re having many avalanches across the district, so it’s important to understand the avalanche terrain you could be going into,” Bianchi said.

An avalanche on Dec. 31 killed a man skiing outside Breckenridge’s Peak 10, in a backcountry area called The Numbers. Bianchi said backcountry terrain can be especially prone to avalanches due to loose snowpack.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, parts of the county west of Silverthorne and slightly north of Copper are considered to be in a high danger zone for avalanches while the rest of the county — including Breckenridge and Keystone — is in high to considerable danger zones. An avalanche warning is currently in effect for the Flat Top Mountains, Park and Gore ranges.

Bianchi advises going to Avalanche.State.co.us for daily information on avalanche conditions. 

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