Early snowfall brings smiles to skiers’ faces | SummitDaily.com

Early snowfall brings smiles to skiers’ faces

Summit Daily/Brad OdekirkSnow from Tuesday's High Country storm gathers on the needles of evergreen trees and the golden leaves of aspens along Highway 6 n Loveland Pass Wednesday morning.

SUMMIT COUNTY – Tuesday afternoon’s snowstorm fueled the daydreaming of area skiers and snowboarders but wreaked havoc on Summit County byways with cars spinning off roads, closing the Dam Road and eastbound Interstate 70 lanes.The storm didn’t bring the six inches National Weather Service (NWS) officials forecast, but it did bring three inches to various areas throughout the county.Colorado State Patrol Corp. Matt Ozanic said three troopers and a sergeant responded to at least 15 wrecks Tuesday. Most were on the interstate and Highway 91, although one on the Dam Road forced the closure of that road for a few hours late Tuesday afternoon.No one was killed in any of the wrecks.”Today it’s pretty quiet,” Ozanic said of accidents on the county’s roadways. “But we’ll see.”

Snowshowers were expected to persist throughout Wednesday, but taper off toward the end of the week, NWS officials said. Unlike most autumn snowstorms which typically cover the peaks at 10,000 feet, this storm dropped snow down to levels of 7,000 feet.Rick Bly of Breckenridge, who has been measuring precipitation for the NWS for the past 27 years, said it took an hour longer to return home Tuesday from Evergreen than it usually does.”Just outside the entrance to the (Eisenhower) tunnel, there was a truck crossways in the road, just enough room for one car to get by,” Bly said. “It was slushy, then it was getting cold enough that it was freezing. It just took you. I hate that feeling of your car starting to go and letting off the gas is the only option and hope. It’s awful.”He took unofficial snow and precipitation measurements at his home Tuesday night – he officially measures the snow at 8 a.m. each day – and noted that six inches had fallen, amounting to .97 inches of water. That compacted to four inches of snow by Wednesday morning.But it brought the monthly precipitation level just over the historic average, from 1.44 inches to 1.45 inches.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Summit County will have a record ski season, however.”A comment I heard was, ‘Oh, boy, we’re going to have a wonderful, terrific, splendid winter,'” Bly said. “That’s a nice attitude, but in 1961, we got 53 inches of snow in September. Did that portend anything? It took us until January to get another 52 inches and in that same time period we should have gotten 70 inches of snow. It’s not a predictor. It doesn’t mean much.”Historically, the best indicator of a good ski season is the amount of snow that falls in October, he said. In his records, Octobers that receive average or above-average snowfall result in a good ski season 80 percent of the time.The early season snowfall – most of which fell on the last day of summer – has ski area officials excited.Emily Jacob, spokeswoman for Breckenridge Ski Resort, estimated about three inches fell Tuesday and another two to three inches overnight into Wednesday. Resort workers don’t begin official measurements until mid-October.

Copper Mountain Resort plans to open Nov. 5, and Breckenridge and Keystone resorts hope to open Nov. 12. Snowmaking has already begun at Copper Mountain Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.Copper Mountain got three to four inches of snow in the Center Village, and various depths on the mountain, said Katelin Hill, public relations coordinator for Copper Mountain Resort.”Snowfalls like this this time of year create a nice buzz in the air,” Hill said. “With all the media attention, everyone’s getting excited about it. It’s exciting for all of us.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or jstebbins@summitdaily.com.

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