Colorado ski areas rewarded with above-average snowfall so far | SummitDaily.com

Colorado ski areas rewarded with above-average snowfall so far

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@summitdaily.com

The Colorado ski season may have started slow. Loveland Ski Area saw its latest opening in more than 20 years, Nov. 1, and both Breckenridge and Keystone resorts each had to delay their opening day by a week. But Summit and neighboring counties are firmly back on track headed into the new year with some area locations now reporting the snowpack at 140 percent of the average for this time of year.

But then that information probably came as little surprise to Loveland COO Rob Goodell. Back on his ski area's opening day, he told the Daily that some of the mountain's biggest snow years followed late openings.

While there is no way to predict what the rest of the season will bring, it's clear that Summit County is off to a good start due to December storms that dumped more than 30 inches on the area.

"I think people are really excited. It keeps snowing," Copper Mountain Resort spokeswoman Stephanie Sweeney said. "We've had a great season so far after a slow start."

Copper reported that 2,088 of its 2,465 acres are now open.

Colorado's statewide snowpack is currently at 103 percent, with areas in the southwest reporting in at around 70 percent.

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"Summit County area has done pretty well," OpenSnow.com meteorologist Joel Gratz said, crediting early season weather patterns. "We're above average. It's been interesting."

Gratz said that typically in an El Nino year — like this one — storm systems have a tendency to stay farther south, but this year it's been the opposite.

"We've been lucky this year. They've been well organized," he said of the weather fronts that have come through the Interstate 70 corridor.

But while there has been a bounty of fresh snow for holiday guests in the area, he said there's no way to predict whether Summit's good fortune will continue.

"Long-term forecasts are fun to look at," he said, but that's about it as far as reliability.

Colorado Avalanche Information Association deputy director Brian Lazaar added that the numbers, which are great for our region, are not yet cause for alarm in southern Colorado.

"I don't get overly concerned or excited if it's 20 percent above or below average. It's easier to be above or below average earlier in the year," he said, explaining that a single storm system like the one in December can a significantly impact early-season averages.

Regardless, for local ski areas, it's led to a boom in early-season terrain offerings. Officials at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area said last Saturday's Montezuma Bowl opening was the second-earliest since the back bowl terrain was added in 2007.

As of Wednesday, Breckenridge was reporting that 90 percent of its terrain was open, with the potential to reach 95 percent by the weekend.

"To be 90 percent open during the holiday season is great," resort spokeswoman Kristin Petitt Stewart said. "It really sets us up well for the rest of the season."

She added that the resort had already received 45 percent of its average snowfall, which indicates that it might be well on the way to an above-average snow year.

Last year the resort was unable to open its above-timberline Imperial Chair until some time in late January.

This year the chair was running in time for the holiday week.

Also open for the holidays was the resort's Peak 6 area, which was added last winter.