10-day snow totals near 3 feet at some Summit County ski areas
More snow (and wind) are on the way starting Tuesday
A snowy holiday period was followed up Sunday with bluebird skies and frigid temperatures before things warmed up Monday, but the snow won’t stay away for long.
The two-day New Year’s Eve storm, which was forecast to drop 8 to 16 inches on Summit County ski areas, under-delivered, with Loveland Ski Area getting 8 inches in 48 hours, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area picking up 7 inches, Breckenridge Ski Resort and Copper Mountain Resort each getting 6 inches, and Keystone Resort reporting 5 inches.
But anyone who skied first chair New Year’s Day knows the mountains skied deeper than the reports, and the snow totals since Christmas Eve are still pretty rosy, with more than 30 inches for almost all Summit County resorts.
Copper and Breckenridge each received 35 inches of snow — just 1 inch shy of 3 feet — during the 10-day holiday period. Loveland, which is on the other side of the Continental Divide from Summit County, picked up 34 inches. A-Basin tallied 31 inches in the same 10-day period, and Keystone got the least, with 26 inches.
Leading the way with a season total of 25 inches is Copper, but Loveland and Breckenridge aren’t far behind with 123 and 115 inches, respectively. A-Basin has totaled 85.25 inches, and Keystone has reported 80 inches this season.
The fresh snow has done what it can to help ski areas open additional terrain, but staffing shortages related to the virus have limited some forward movement.
“This is part of the reason you may see certain lifts or areas of terrain not open yet, retail stores closed or slimmed down options in (food and beverage) outlets,” Vail Resorts spokesperson Sara Lococo wrote in an email.
Despite the staffing troubles during the busy holiday period, the resorts have been able to open significant amounts of terrain over the past 10 days, with 10 lifts and 194 trails opening across all five local ski areas.
Breckenridge has fared the best, opening four lifts and 66 trails since Christmas Eve. Copper has opened four lifts and 34 trails, and A-Basin has opened two lifts and 44 trails. Keystone and Loveland have not opened any new lifts, but Keystone has added 26 trails, while Loveland opened 21.
Following chilly temperatures over the weekend, the snow is expected to return Tuesday with a multiday storm that could drop 5 to 10 inches on Summit County ski areas.
The overnight temperature Saturday night into Sunday morning reached minus 18, but that’s nowhere near the record of minus 30 set on the same day in 1979, according to the National Weather Service.
Snow is expected on and off Tuesday into Wednesday morning before things ramp up Wednesday afternoon, according to forecasting site OpenSnow.com. And the storm is expected to arrive with gusty winds up to 40 mph.
Summit County is under a high wind warning Monday night and Tuesday before a winter storm watch takes effect from 6 a.m. Wednesday through noon Thursday, according to the weather service.
“For skiing, expect denser snow quality this week due to gusty winds,” meteorologist Sam Collentine wrote in his daily Interstate 70 forecast blog. “Thursday morning is my pick to get out for soft turns this week.”
Temperatures throughout the storm are forecast in the teens overnight and in the low to mid-30s during the day.
All the fresh snow and wind have created considerable (3 out of 5) avalanche danger at all elevations in the Vail and Summit County zone, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
“Avalanche conditions are dangerous,” the center’s report states. “There is no clearer evidence than a very large, unsurvivable avalanche running (Sunday) morning in the East Vail area.”
That slide broke near the ground, 6-10 feet deep, on a wind-loaded slope near a ridgetop, but the avalanche forecast cautioned not to underestimate sheltered terrain.
The report recommends staying on slopes less than 30 degrees or planning to conduct a “careful snowpack evaluation.”
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