Snow expected during first week of October as summer turns to ski season in Summit County

A snow-making test turned into the first official day of snow making at Arapahoe Basin on Sept. 23, 2023.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area/Courtesy photo

As Colorado ski resorts prepare for the upcoming winter season, a small amount of snowfall is expected in the first week of October, just as snow-making operations are getting off the ground.

The weekend will remain dry and rainy with highs in the 60s during the day, but by Tuesday, temperatures will begin to drop, and a storm system is expected to brush past northwest Colorado during the day, according to National Weather Service Forecaster Frank Cooper.

“If (the storm system) was sticking around longer, we’d probably get some of that snow to stick around a little longer,” Cooper said. “You’ll probably get some of that snow sticking around through Tuesday evening and then melting away. But it’s getting there.”

Monday and Tuesday night temperatures could drop to the mid-to-upper 20s overnight with highs ranging from 45-50 degrees during the day, Cooper said. Most areas in the northwestern Rocky Mountains — including much of Summit County — around 10,000 feet can expect a trace to 1 inch or 2 inches of snow, he said.

For ski resorts preparing their slopes for skiers, the colder temperatures present good news.

A dusting of snow covers the mountain tops near Copper Mountain as more snow is expected Oct. 2, 2023.
Copper Mountain/Courtesy photo

Weather permitting, Copper Mountain Resort plans to fire up the snow-making guns at 6 a.m. Monday morning, and snow later in the week could help cool ground temperatures, according to Mike Looney, the ski resort’s senior manager of slopes and snowmaking.

Ski resorts look for consistent cold temperatures to begin snowmaking and calculate conditions based on the “wet-bulb temperature,” which is the combination of the temperature outside and the humidity in the air, Looney said in an email. Copper targets a 28-degree wet-bulb temperature.

This summer, Copper installed brand new snowmaking on the Soliloquy Trail, Looney noted. With 27 new snowmaking hydrants, that area of the mountain should open sooner this year, he said.

While the past week has been too warm for snowmaking, the blue skies and yellowing aspen leaves has brought plenty of bikers and hikers through the Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trail, Senior Communications Manager Loryn Roberson said.

Those trails pass straight through the heart of Copper, which closed for the summer season Sept. 24, Roberson said.

“We were happy to soak in the last bits of this gorgeous weather and see so many people hiking and biking around the village,” Roberson said. “The crisp mornings and yellow aspens remind us that winter is just around the corner, and we’re excited to welcome some colder temps next week!”

A light dusting of snow is visible at Breckenridge behind yellow aspen leaves. More snow is expected the first week of October 2023.
Sarah McLear/Breckenridge Ski Resort

At Keystone Resort, leaf-peeping season is also in full bloom as the ski resort busily prepares for winter, which will feature expanded terrain, Communications Manager Maxwell Winter said in an email. Keystone has been prepping its snowmaking equipment as it prepares to open as soon as possible, Winter said.

“A major point of emphasis for our team is that these cold weather windows aren’t just suitable to make snow, but that these windows last long enough for the snow to last and develop a strong base,” Winter said. “As we look ahead to the coming weeks, we’re starting to see the type of sustained cold temperatures that allow us to build a lasting base, and we’re thrilled to get started!”

Like Copper, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area closed last week for the summer season, but plenty of visitors continue to enjoy the warm autumn weather hiking, biking and playing disc golf at the ski area for free, Communications Manager Shayna Silverman said.

Last week, Arapahoe Basin tested its snowmaking system to ensure everything was up and running smoothly, Silverman said. 

“As you could see from the amount of snow that stuck around after the test, conditions were primed that day, and our test really became the first official day of snowmaking,” Silverman said.

Temperatures then rose, so the ski area is now awaiting conditions to again reach the target 26-degree wet-bulb temperature, Silverman said. The cold front next week should provide a larger window of the right conditions to work with, she said.

“Heading into October, we’re all thinking about snow and getting excited for opening day. The snow guns are prepped to fire as soon as those colder temperatures hit,” Silverman said. “We focus most of our snowmaking on High Noon, which will be served by Black Mountain Express for opening day.”

Meanwhile, at Breckenridge Ski Resort, the snowmaking team has been pushing water through the lines and putting the snow guns in place with a planned Nov. 10 opening date, Senior Communications Manager Sara Lococo said in an email.

“I love this time of year, when you can see, smell and feel the change of the seasons in the air,” Lococo said. “Here at the resort and around town, there is definitely an energy buzzing with the excitement for the upcoming ski and ride season.”

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