Terrain update: more snow is expected beyond Tuesday’s forecast of 4 to 10 inches for Summit County | SummitDaily.com

Terrain update: more snow is expected beyond Tuesday’s forecast of 4 to 10 inches for Summit County

A skier gets air on a run at Copper Mountain Resort last week after 14 inches of snow fell over a seven-day span. Up to 10 inches of additional snowfall is expected to pad ski areas in Summit County this week.
Copper Mountain Resort/Courtesy photo

Summit County is under a winter weather advisory until midnight Tuesday, Dec. 6, but Summit County ski slopes can expect more snow to accumulate later this week. 

The storms this week elevated Summit County’s avalanche danger from moderate to high, Level 4 on a five-point scale, making backcountry recreation inadvisable, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, since a weak layer of “sugar-powder” snow is lingering underneath thick slabs that are growing in size after the past week’s snowfall. 

For those wishing to ski and ride at ski resorts in Summit County, the additional snowfall brings excitement as resort officials work to open as much terrain ahead of the December holiday season. 

“In addition to the powder potential this week, the good news is that a storm like this, with widespread significant snow totals and potentially thicker snow quality due to warmer temperatures, can help in building our base for the season,” OpenSnow meteorologist Joel Gratz said.

As of deadline Monday, Keystone Resort has 15% of its trails and 14 of its 20 lifts open, while Breckenridge Ski Resort is reporting 22% of its terrain and 25 of its 35 lifts open. Over the next seven days, Keystone officials say up to a foot of snow could fall, which would help Vail Resorts continue to expand its terrain offerings at its resorts. 

Nearby Keystone, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area has five of its 145 runs open, served by three of its nine lifts, according to its website. A-Basin has received 56 inches of snow so far this season. Loveland Ski Area is reporting even higher snow totals so far this year, topping out at 64 inches so far this season. Half of its 10 lifts are currently open, and guests can ski 12 of its 94 trails, which is about 188 acres out of a possible 1,800 acres. 

Copper Mountain Resort, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary this past weekend, says 73 inches have fallen so far this fall according to its website Monday, and it expects to accumulate 8 inches of new snow over the coming days to help boost its 595.3 acres of skiable terrain on 55 of 155 trails that are open. 

Early week

Tuesday’s storm system is forecast to drop 4 to 10 inches across Summit County, all the way from Hoosier Pass south of Breckenridge to the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels between sunrise and midnight Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service. 

The banded snow is expected to bring moderate to heavy snowfall for a couple of hours around sunrise Tuesday, bringing the worst conditions for travel around that time frame. Light snow will remain throughout the day, according to the advisory issued by the National Weather Service.

OpenSnow meteorologists are more optimistic about Tuesdays storm, however, since their forecasts are saying the cold front holds a lot of moisture and they predict it will stall over the central mountains and Interstate 70 corridor this week. 

Gratz says some mountains could see totals reach the 10- to 20-inch range by Thursday morning since the system could see “an extended period of winds from the west-southwest which can favor some central mountains as well as the higher elevations of Summit County.”

A snow forecast map from OpenSnow shows potential snow totals for the state between Tuesday, Dec. 6, and Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022. Snow bands are expected to sporadically create intense snowfall across Summit County this week.
OpenSnow/Courtesy image

However, since the snow bands of intense snow could propagate in unlucky areas, snow totals could be lower than expected, Gratz wrote in a report Monday. 

The system is predicted to begin near Steamboat Spings and shift toward Summit County Tuesday morning and across the I-70 corridor before bringing the intense snow to the southern mountains. 

Wednesday could see snow return to Summit County in the morning, but another system is expected to develop Wednesday night, bringing a few more inches ahead of Thursday morning. 

Extended forecast

The next possible storm could roll into town Sunday and last until Tuesday, followed by a chance for another snow-producing system to follow it around Dec. 14, but Gratz said it’s “too far away to make it worthwhile for us to discuss any details.”

Historically, areas to the east of the Continental Divide are showing snowpack levels above the snow water equivalent when compared to the 30-year median. Summit Ranch in the Gore Range is reporting totals 135% above the 30-year median, while Copper Mountain sits around 113%. Hoosier Pass, however, is lagging behind the median at 68%. 

As for the long-term forecast from the National Weather Service, La Nina is expected to end in February and result in a return to a neutral weather pattern until April. The three-month outlook calls for a 50-50 chance of average conditions, but the six- to 10-day outlook says Summit County will see above-average precipitation and below-average temperatures.

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