Ski resorts hope for a snowy winter after a drizzly Summit summer

Copper Mountain Ski Resort is pictured with low hanging clouds and snowy foothills in June 2022. Summit County's rainy summer brings high hopes of a snowy winter for the area's ski resorts.
Copper Mountain Resort/Courtesy photo

Autumn is little more than a month away, and with it comes the anticipation of ski season.

The summer of 2022 has brought monsoonal rains to Summit County nearly every day. So what does that mean for the ski industry? 

“We hope all of the precipitation we’ve received this summer is a good sign for things to come when the snow starts falling,” said Loryn Roberson, senior communications manager at Copper Mountain Resort. 

Meteorologist Scott Entrekin from the National Weather Service in Boulder said the summer of 2022, with its daily monsoonal rains, has looked like an average Colorado summer. Many Colorado locals have had rain on the brain. The weather patterns this summer have reminded many of weather from 10 to 20 years ago.

However, Entrekin said that doesn’t mean an average Colorado winter is guaranteed.

“An ideal winter would be an early opening in mid-October with lots of cold temperatures for our snowmakers and some natural snow from Mother Nature to kick things off,” said John Sellers, the marketing director at Loveland Ski Area. 

He added that this summer has been a wonderful reprieve for Colorado, but it’s hard to bank on snow-producing weather for the upcoming ski season. 

Skier makes first turns through fresh powder at Copper Mountain Resort in 2019. Summit County’s rainy summer brings high hopes of a snowy winter for the area’s ski resorts.
Copper Mountain Resort/Courtesy photo

Each season, Sellers said Loveland starts off with 18 inches of snow with the help of their snowmakers and — if they’re lucky — a mix of natural snowfall. Their base will reach up to 60 inches of snow by the end of the season, given a healthy Colorado mountain winter. 

“We’re lucky that we average over 400 inches of snow every year,” Sellers said. “So on average years, we’re in great shape. And even on a below average year, we are able to get all of our terrain open and stay open for a long season.”

Whether or not there’s natural snow, Sellers said there are runoff reservoirs at the bottom of the mountain. These reservoirs collect water that is used for snowmakers throughout the season.

Entrekin confirmed that a normal Colorado mountain winter would bring some snow starting in September, lasting all the way until April. It has been more rare the past few years, with nearly no snow in September. 

It only snowed 0.6 inches in Breckenridge in September of 2020, and there were 8.8 inches in October of 2021. Therefore, it’s hard not to wonder with this increased rain in Summit County, what the winter of 2022 will look like. 

“I think you may end up starting off another kind of dry, early winter, late fall early winter,” Entrekin said. He predicted a lighter snowfall in October and November, with consistent snow on the ground starting in December. 

In 2021, Breckenridge’s December snowfall was 31.8 inches, and in 2020 it was only 22.3 inches, according to Entrekin. 

Entrekin said the seasonal dryness Summit County has been experiencing can be explained by a weather pattern called La Niña, which he said began in early 2020. La Niña is when the Pacific Ocean lets off cooler temperatures, causing dryness and warmth in southern areas.

This pattern is predicted to last through the end of 2022, and potentially until the end of 2023, Entrekin said.

“We’re snow farmers,” Sellers said. “We try to maintain a positive outlook for the season. … So since there’s not much we can do to control it, we just kind of hope for the best and do the best we can with what we get.”

And in the meantime, Colorado gets to enjoy a beautiful, wet summer.

“The moisture this summer has been great for our mountain environment,” Roberson said. “We love how green everything is, and the wildflowers are in full bloom at Copper.”

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