Consistent storms and heavy snowfall lead to better-than-average January in Summit County

Regions across Colorado have been reporting some of the most snow in years

A snowboarder shreds at Copper Mountain Resort on Wednesday, Jan. 18. At the beginning of February, the resort had reported a total of 185 inches of snow so far this season — with 71 inches falling in January.
Copper Mountain/Courtesy photo

A combination of recurring storms and heavy precipitation made January one of the snowiest months in years in Summit County and across Colorado, bringing with it a flurry of powder days for mountain resorts and high hopes for a strong spring ski season.

According to National Weather Service meteorologist Zach Hiris, data from a weather service partner office in Dillon reported a total of 26.5 inches of snowfall in January — a roughly half-foot increase from the average total of 18 inches. The Dillon office has been reporting averages since at least 1910, according to Hiris. 

Snowpack levels are also above normal, with data from the USDA’s Natural Resource and Conservation Service showing that Blue River Basin snowpack is 117% of the 30-year-median as of Feb. 1. The basin includes all of Summit County. 

“Most of the state of Colorado did pretty well in terms of precipitation,” Hiris said. “It’s only really southeast Colorado that’s struggled, but with that being said a lot of the plains have still done well.”

To the north, snow levels have been even greater, with Steamboat Ski Resort on track to total 400 inches this ski season — a record not seen in more than a decade. According to Hiris, “Northwest Colorado, including Steamboat and the Park Range, are sitting at about 150% of normal,” in terms of snowpack levels. 

It’s fueled temporary relief for much of the state’s drought-stricken areas, with more than 45% of Colorado being drought-free as of Feb. 2 according to a U.S. Drought Monitor report

Last month’s snow totals are due in part to several back-to-back storms, with three systems hitting Summit and other Colorado regions in just one week in mid-January. For Summit’s ski resorts, it’s welcomed news after recent years of underperforming seasons. 

“January 2023 was the single strongest month of snowfall Copper has seen since February 2020,” stated Copper Mountain Resort spokesperson Olivia Butrymovich, in an email. “These strong totals set us up to have a tremendous spring season of skiing and riding.”

Copper has seen 185 inches of snow this season — with 71 inches falling in January. The resort is tied with Breckenridge Ski Resort, which also reported a season total of 185 inches so far. Keystone Resort most recently reported 159 inches while Arapahoe Basin Ski Area reported 146.5 inches. 

The strong January showing has been a boon for Summit resorts which saw much of its terrain open this past month. Both Keystone and Copper are now 100% open while Breckenridge is 98% open and Arapahoe Basin is 93% open. 

It’s also led to several better-than-expected snow days for skiers and boarders, with snowfall on Jan. 12 exceeding meteorologists’ predictions by as much as 14 inches. A forecast the day before had called for 1 to 3 inches of snow. But totals as high as 15 inches in Breckenridge led to a day of soft landings and joyous shouts from skiers and boarders. 

This week’s forecast — while not as snow-heavy as weeks past — could still bring a few inches of fresh powder, according to a Feb. 5 OpenSnow report from meteorologist Joel Gratz. 

“By Monday’s first chair, most northern and central mountains should see 3-6 inches of snow accumulation,” Gratz wrote in his report. During the day on Monday, lingering moisture, a northwest flow, and temperatures conducive to making fluffy snowflakes should keep snow showers going.”

Snowfall will likely end by Monday night, Gratz wrote, with a dry spell until at least Thursday when a few more inches could be in store. In total, Gratz predicts Copper will see the most snow this week with 6 inches followed by Breckenridge and Keystone with 4 inches and Arapahoe Basin with 3 inches. 

Hiris noted Colorado is still about two months out from its peak snow accumulation — which is usually around mid-March to early April. 

“What that means for the rest of the season? At this point, it’s pretty difficult to say,” Hiris said.

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