Summit County starts summer with snow |

Summit County starts summer with snow

Clouds approach Peak 10 and the "Fourth of July Bowl" in the Tenmile Range Friday, June 21, near Breckenridge.
Hugh Carey /

It’s summer. It’s snowing.

To people who don’t live near the mountains, that might seem extraordinary. For those of us who do live at high elevation, summer snow is still a bit of a novelty, especially following a bone-dry, hot and fiery 2018.

But this year, mud season has supplanted wildfire season in June, with flooding a much more real concern as runoff hit its peak this week.

The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook and winter weather advisory for Summit County and much of the central Rockies from Friday night through Sunday morning. The outlook calls for periods of snow that will pose hazards to travel and outdoor activities as a high pressure zone sits above the Rockies through the weekend.

On Friday, the longest day of the year, scattered thunderstorms will move through the area with a 70% chance of precipitation. A low of 33–36 degrees overnight means real snow is not expected to fall below 10,000 feet, but there may be periods of flurries overnight, with little if any snow expected to stick by Saturday morning.

The storm system will move through the High Country on Saturday, with cold showers falling throughout the day into night. Snow may be seen in areas above 10,000 feet, with up to 10 inches projected for some areas.

However, for most of Summit, the white stuff should not be seen until temperatures start dropping in the evening. Daytime temperatures will bottom out in the 40s, meaning there should not be any significant snow accumulation below timberline.

Hazardous conditions will still exist on the roads, meaning anyone hoping to get another weekend of turns in at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is advised to plan ahead and be wary of slippery conditions and low visibility.

Showers will persist through Saturday into the night, when things should get interesting. A low in the high 20s or low 30s means some snowfall is likely, with about half an inch expected to fall by Sunday morning. Winds may be strong at times, and travelers are urged to exercise caution making their way through the I-70 corridor.

Snow will taper off and turn into showers for the rest of Sunday, with a chance of thunderstorms through the day. Don’t expect bluebird conditions, but there may be periods of sun blinking through the clouds in the late morning and afternoon. For the most part, though, the weekend will end cool and wet, consistent with conditions over the past month.

And that’s where the good news finally comes in. As the storm system moves out of the area, moisture isn’t expected to come back for at least a few days. That means Monday through Thursday is expected to be dry, sunny and absolutely perfect for summer activities in the High Country.

Meanwhile, Summit’s waterways have just about crested from the spring runoff, and flooding may have been narrowly avoided this season. Streamflows peaked Thursday and started dipping Friday in Tenmile Creek and the Snake River, two streams that appeared on the cusp of forcing community action to shore up the banks and roll out flood mitigation measures.

As far as standing bodies of water, Dillon Reservoir is right on track to get full by the 4th of July. The reservoir, currently at 90% capacity, has an inflow of 2,255 cubic feet per second of water with 919 cfs draining back into the Blue River. At an elevation of 9,008 feet, there’s less than 9 feet to go before the reservoir is full and both marinas in Dillon and Frisco launch boating season.

With Arapahoe Basin extending its season into the last weekend of June and possibly into the 4th of July, Summit County will be experiencing the best of both seasons by the time America celebrates its 243rd birthday. Residents should finally be able to say goodbye to this long winter and embrace a great summer after the storms pass this weekend.

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