Christmas storm brings more than 2 feet of snow to some Summit County ski areas

A winter weather advisory is in effect until 8 a.m. Tuesday, and snow is in the forecast all week

Skiers ride Lenawee Mountain Lift on Friday, Dec. 25, at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. The ski area tallied 20 inches of snow throughout the four-day storm, putting its season total at 68.25 inches.
Ian Zinner/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

It’s not the kind of gift you’ll find under the Christmas tree, but Summit County got exactly what it wanted for the holiday weekend: snow — and lots of it.

Copper Mountain Resort and Loveland Ski Area, just over the Continental Divide from Summit County, each picked up 27 inches throughout the four-day storm that rolled into the area Thursday.

Breckenridge Ski Resort picked up 23 inches, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area tallied 20 inches, and Keystone Resort reported 18 inches from the multiday storm.

The fresh snow boosted ski areas’ season snowfall totals well ahead of where they were on the same day last year and helped resorts open additional terrain during the holiday weekend.

Copper is leading the way with 108 inches so far this season, and the ski area opened two additional lifts and 34 trails over the four-day period. Loveland’s season total is now 106 inches, and six additional trails have been opened.

Breckenridge is just shy of the 100-inch milestone at 96 inches, and the resort opened 13 lifts and 33 trails over the long holiday weekend.

A-Basin is reporting 68.25 inches of total season snowfall and opened two lifts and 28 trails in the past four days. Keystone has tallied 66 inches of snow this seasons, and the resort opened only one new trail throughout the storm.

And the flakes aren’t done falling. A winter weather advisory is in effect in Summit County through 8 a.m. Tuesday, and snow is in the forecast through New Year’s Day on Saturday.

A snowboarder rides through the trees Friday at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. The ski area tallied 20 inches throughout the four-day storm, putting its season total at 68.25 inches.
Ian Zinner/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Highs are expected to be in the low to mid-20s throughout the week with overnight lows in the single digits and teens, according to the National Weather Service.

Another 2-4 inches of snow is expected to accumulate in the towns, with the ski areas getting 3-6 inches.

The lower daytime temperatures mean the snow will be lighter than the last round of storms, but gusty winds of up to 50 mph above timberline will create a dense snow quality, according to forecasting site

This storm will feature much colder temps and a wind shifting to blow out of the west,” meteorologist Sam Collentine wrote in his daily Interstate 70 forecast blog. “Once again, the jet stream will be directly overhead on Monday night, so expect very heavy snow at times and gusty winds.”

The wind will create hazardous driving conditions on mountain roads with blowing snow, according to the weather service. This follows a weekend with multiple closures throughout the I-70 mountain corridor, including closures at Vail Pass, Loveland Pass and the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnels.

The snow and wind are also spelling danger for backcountry recreation. The avalanche danger was rated as considerable (3 out of 5) Monday in the Summit County zone, but an avalanche watch is in effect through 8 a.m. Tuesday, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Danger is expected to increase to high (4 out of 5) on Tuesday near and above treeline, according to the report.

“Near and above treeline, any avalanche … will probably break deeply and may wrap around terrain features,” the report states. “Where you see the wind drifting snow, don’t rule out the chance of a natural avalanche.”

The report also warned about the possibility of triggering an avalanche in steep overhead terrain from a distance and suggested “a wide buffer of lower-angled terrain” to avoid getting caught.

Colorado had its first avalanche death of the season Friday on Cameron Pass in a “steep, below-treeline area,” according to the avalanche center. The same day, two snowboarders escaped unharmed from an in-bounds slide in open terrain at Aspen Highlands.

The snow is forecast to continue on and off throughout the week. Snowfall is expected to be light Wednesday and Thursday before a stronger storm system brings 5-10 inches to the I-70 mountain corridor Friday and Saturday to ring in the new year.

The fresh snow has brought much-needed moisture to the Colorado Rockies, increasing the snow-water equivalent — or the amount of water held in the snowpack — to 98% of median in the upper Colorado River basin, where Summit is located.

At Copper Mountain, the percentage is slightly lower at 92% of median, with 5.6 inches of water held in the snowpack. Freemont Pass is at 104% with 7 inches of water, and Hoosier Pass sits at 80% with 4.8 inches of water, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Drought in Summit County has been reduced to moderate (1 out of 4) or severe (2 out of 4), according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Natural Resources Conservation Service/Courtesy map


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