February brings much-needed snowfall, but Summit County resorts remain as much as 120 inches behind last year
Ski areas expected to pick up 4-8 inches by Sunday morning
After a slow and dry start to ski season, Mother Nature hasn’t disappointed in February.
Summit County resorts have gotten anywhere from 32 to 50 inches of snow so far this month, and a bit more is on the way this weekend.
The National Weather Service forecast office in Boulder is calling for 2-4 inches in the towns and 6-8 inches on the slopes across Summit County.
“Snow is going to continue at least through late Saturday,” Weather Service meteorologist Paul Schlatter said about the storm, which rolled in late Friday morning with gusty winds up to 50 mph.
Those wind gusts are expected to calm to about 35 mph on Saturday, Schlatter said.
OpenSnow meteorologist Sam Collentine called for “six to eight hours of solid snowfall” Saturday afternoon through night, according to his Interstate 70 forecast blog. He expects 4-8 inches will pile up at the ski areas, falling mostly after lifts close on Saturday.
“This will make first chair Sunday morning quite lovely, so plan to get out and enjoy the goods,” Collentine wrote.
After the storm moves out, temperatures are expected to start climbing Monday, with a high of 40 in the towns. Tuesday is expected to be even warmer with a high of 44 degrees, according to the Weather Service.
“It’s definitely going to be the warmest day in quite a while in Summit County,” Schlatter said.
But the warm weather won’t last long.
“Another storm is coming Wednesday, so that’s good news for more snow,” Schlatter said.
The fresh snow is bringing much-needed help to area resorts, none of which are 100% open despite being about two-thirds of the way through the season.
Here’s where the resorts stand:
- Breckenridge Ski Resort has received the most snow this month at 50 inches, putting its season total at 173. The resort has 80% of its terrain open. Like many other ski areas, Breckenridge has been behind its typical schedule for opening new terrain. For example, Peak 6 opened Jan. 29 despite typically opening in mid to late December. The resort opened Imperial Express on Thursday, Feb. 18, a lift that opened Dec. 20 last season.
- Copper Mountain Resort is leading the way with open terrain at 96%. The resort has tallied 45 inches of snow so far this month for a season total of 136. With the exception of its Celebrity Ridge Poma, which operates on Union Peak, Copper has all of its lifts open.
- Keystone Resort is just behind Copper on terrain with 92% of the mountain open. With the exception of its Argentine double chair, which operates out of the Mountain House base area, Keystone has all of its lifts open. The resort has received 32 inches of snow this month for a total of 144 on the season.
- Arapahoe Basin Ski Area has tallied 41 inches in February for a season total of 153.25. A-Basin doesn’t list the open percentage of terrain on its website, but all of its lifts are open. Yet to open at A-Basin is East Wall, which encompasses a significant amount of expert only terrain. The East Wall terrain opened on Feb. 14 last season.
- Loveland Ski Area, just over the Continental Divide from Summit County, has seen 46 inches of snow this month for a season total of 160. The ski area has 63% of its terrain open.
The delayed opening of terrain has been especially difficult on resorts this season, with capacity limits imposed by the Summit County Public Health Department. The county repeatedly has declined to share specific capacity restrictions at ski areas at the direction of the resorts’ legal teams.
Despite a strong February, the resorts are still well behind last season’s snowfall total at this point in the year, in part because they opened later and because February 2020 saw near record snowfall, tying the all-time snowiest February at Breckenridge with 120 inches for the month.
On Feb. 19 last year, Breckenridge led the way with 292 inches of total season snowfall, followed by Loveland with 259, Keystone with 204, Copper with 197.5 and A-Basin with 182 inches. Keystone and Copper were fully open on that date, and the other resorts had anywhere from four to 10 trails yet to be opened. The season snowfall totals on that date mean Summit’s resorts are anywhere from 29 to 119 inches shy of where they were at the same time in 2020.
The lack of snow this season is also causing concern about the snowpack, which contains 89% of the water that it typically would at this time of year in the Colorado River basin. That figure has improved significantly from early December, when it was at 70%.
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