A high potential for snow is headed toward Colorado. But will it lead to powder days at Summit County’s ski areas?
The clouds over Summit County will go from blue to gray after Saturday as a series of snow-producing storms make their way into Colorado, according to multiple weather reports.
The systems are expected to hit Saturday night and last through Thursday night, varying in intensity. The timing could lead to complicated road conditions and traffic over the holiday weekend, so drivers are encouraged to check road conditions regularly at COTrip.org.
National Weather Service meteorologists say partly cloudy skies Saturday will be replaced with a possibility for patchy blowing snow. The storm’s power will build through Sunday morning when winds above treeline are expected to be “very strong.” Between 1-2 inches of snow accumulation are possible Sunday, and there’s a 30% chance of patchy blowing snow on Monday after 11 a.m. The potential for snow remains all the way through Friday.
As for how deep the snow will be, OpenSnow.com meteorologist and founder Joel Gratz says there is too much variability in the forecast models to tell quite yet.
Gratz’s report issued Friday says there is “lots of potential for next week” but outside of suggesting “the northern mountains (near and north of I-70)” could see “2-8 inches of snow” on Sunday, he says the rest of the details remain “somewhat elusive for now.”
“Next week is going to be interesting. There is the potential for deep snowfall as we’ll have plenty of moisture and lots of energy to lift the air due to the jet stream overhead” and spin in the atmosphere “streaming across Colorado,” Gratz wrote. “The issue is that every forecast model differs at least slightly about how all of these ingredients come together, so my confidence is still medium (at best).”
On Sunday, Gratz says there’s a potential that Steamboat Springs Resort and the mountains closest to Wyoming may receive a bulk of the snow, but after a short reprieve on Monday, another storm system is expected to develop over the northern and central mountains, bringing the potential for “decent of significant snow.” If the system swirls around, snow could linger into Tuesday.
The third system that could produce snow will hit Wednesday to Thursday. Though Gratz says he’s not confident on the storm’s timing, he called it “a strong storm will bring snow to most mountains.”
Where has the powder been falling?
The last snow system to move through Colorado resulted in more than 2 feet of snow being dumped on Purgatory Resort — 33 inches to be exact. Wolf Creek Ski Area received 29 inches, Silverton Mountain netted 26 inches and Irwin Guides reported 25 inches, while Telluride and Cuchara saw 18 and 11 inches respectively.
Ski slopes in Summit County were largely missed, resulting in a reduction in snowpack across the last few weeks due to sunny skies, warm weather and a lack of consistent snow. The snowpack went from 121% of the 30-year median on Jan. 19 to just 108% of the 30-year median as of Friday, Feb. 17.
However, Summit County still has more than two months until the snowpack typically maxes out. Historical records show that peak snowpack is normally around April 21 before levels begin to decline dramatically.
According to each Summit County ski area’s website, Breckenridge Ski Resort is currently in the lead for most snow falling on its slopes so far this season at 202 inches and a base depth of 50 inches. Copper Mountain Resort is just 3 inches shy of hitting the 200 inch mark for the season, and its base depth is sitting around 52 inches. Keystone Resort says it has received 169 inches so far, and its base depth is around 41 inches. Arapahoe Basin Ski Area rounds out the list at 153 inches for the season and a base depth of 52 inches.
Breckenridge, Copper and Keystone have all reported 100% of their terrain open, and Arapahoe Basin partially opened The East Wall, which is typically the last piece of the resort to get the green light, adding to the extreme terrain options at the resort so far this month.
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