Incoming snowstorm foreshadows an active winter weather pattern for Summit County, meteorologists say |

Incoming snowstorm foreshadows an active winter weather pattern for Summit County, meteorologists say

Back-to-back systems could mean more than a foot of snow for some ski resorts by next week

A snowboarder makes his way down the Schoolmarm run during opening day at Keystone Resort on Friday, October 28, 2022. Back-to-back storms could bring between 11 and 15 inches of snow to Summit County's ski resorts between Dec. 28 and Jan. 2.
Jason Connolly/Summit Daily News

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify that Colorado’s Blue River Basin includes all of Summit County.

A midweek snowstorm expected to begin Wednesday night could bring between 3 and 6 inches of snowfall to Summit County, with a second storm “hot on its heels,” according to one meteorologist. 

That will likely add to the slightly better-than-expected snowpack forecasts for much of Summit County as it weathers an unpredictable weather pattern known as La Niña — which can have dramatically different effects on Colorado’s northern and southern regions. 

“The north is pretty much just right at or a little above normal (snowpack), while the south is below normal,” said David Barjenbruch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Boulder. 

Colorado’s Blue River Basin, which includes all of Summit County, sits in an area that can see equal chances of above- or below-normal precipitation during a La Niña year, according to projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Snowpack data for the Blue River illustrates how the county sits on a dividing line for those forecasts. 

According to Dec. 26 data from the Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS), the basin’s overall snowpack is at 107% of the 30-year-media. But a closer look at levels within the basin shows a mixed bag. 

For areas on the north side of the county — such as Summit Ranch northwest of the town of Silverthorne and Copper — levels are above average, at 117% and 103% respectively. But for those on the south end of the county, such as Fremont Pass and Hoosier Pass, levels are well below average, at 79% and 68% respectively.

Barjenbruch said this La Niña year is likely to bring a “very active weather pattern for the western U.S. which is much-needed precipitation after some persistent drought for the last few years.”

But Barjenbruch also said “we got a long way to go” being about only a third of the way into the snow season. There are 117 days until the Blue River’s median peak for snowpack, according to NRCS data from Dec. 26.

Following Wednesday’s storm, Barjenbruch said another system could bring snow to Summit County Friday, Dec. 30 and into Monday, Jan. 2. 

A weather prediction from Boulder-based meteorologist Joel Gratz on the website OpenSnow shows total snow accumulation could reach between 11 and 15 inches for the county’s ski resorts by Jan. 2.

Specifically, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Copper Mountain Resort could see 15 inches, Breckenridge Ski Resort could see 12 inches and Keystone resort could see 11 inches, according to Gratz’s report.

“For timing, Wednesday will be a storm skiing day for the southern and west-central mountains with somewhat dense powder (due to warm-ish temperatures) that will get deeper through the day,” Gratz wrote. “Then on Wednesday night into Thursday midday, temperatures will cool, the powder will become fluffier, and Thursday morning should offer excellent powder quality in the southern and west-central mountains with the northern mountains being a wildcard if the northwest flow can kick in and crank out at least a few inches of new snow.”

As the year continues, Barjenbruch said “we’re going to see more frequent storms move across north-central Colorado.” And though the state’s southern region is seeing lagging snowfall compared to past years, Barjenbruch said it’s a matter of “just one or two storms through the year that can make all the difference.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.