Summit County ski areas could rack up double-digit snow totals by the end of the week |

Summit County ski areas could rack up double-digit snow totals by the end of the week

Machine-made snow drifts across a ski run at Copper Mountain Resort in late November.
Hugh Carey/For The Colorado Sun

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include information about snowmaking at area ski resorts.

Summit County’s 11-day stretch with no snow and unseasonably high temperatures is about to end: Snow is on the way.

A winter storm is expected to roll into the area Monday evening, with a 30% chance of snow after 4 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

Once the storm arrives, it should bring moderate snowfall through Tuesday afternoon, according to Weather Service meteorologist Paul Schlatter. The storm is expected to drop about 2-5 inches at the ski areas and 1-3 inches in the towns.

The forecasting site is calling for the same 2-5 inches at ski areas, saying first chair Tuesday should provide some fun turns on groomers.

The next chance for snow, which is expected to arrive as early as Wednesday night, looks more promising. That system is expected to drop 3-6 inches at the ski areas and 1-3 inches in the towns, according to Schlatter.

“Summit County should do well no matter what,” said Schlatter, who added that the Denver area is eagerly awaiting its first measurable snowfall of the season.

Open Snow meteorologist Sam Collentine has an even rosier forecast for the end-of-week storm, calling for 5-10 inches — or more — at the ski areas along the Interstate 70 mountain corridor by the time the storm rolls out of the area Friday.

“We have healthy moisture, a strong cold front moving from north to south, and the jet stream directly overhead,” Collentine wrote in his daily I-70 blog. “These will all work together to deliver very heavy snowfall, especially on Thursday night and into Friday morning.”

The change in weather comes after a nearly two-week stretch without any snow and high temperatures that neared or set records.

The high temperature of 55 degrees Nov. 30 broke a record for the day, besting a three-way tie for the previous high temperature record for the date: 53 degrees set in 1950, 1986 and 1999.

Saturday, Dec. 4, also set a record high temperature with 55 degrees. That narrowly beat the previous record of 54 degrees set in 1998.

Schlatter said Summit County is experiencing such warm weather partly because there’s no snow on the ground.

“Part of the reason that you’re seeing such warm temps, especially in the towns, is because there isn’t much of a snowpack,” said Schlatter, adding that it aids in overnight cooling.

Until some snow covers the valley floor — and sticks around — he said the area is likely to continue to experience unseasonably high temperatures.

“It’s very rare to be in December and not have much snow on the ground in the town of Breckenridge, the town of Silverthorne, those areas,” he said.

Despite the warm daytime temperatures, lows consistently have been forecast in the teens or 20s, aiding snowmaking efforts at ski areas.

According to reporting by The Colorado Sun, “26 degrees is the sweet spot at which pressurized water — blasted through nozzles that break it down to the tiniest of particles — turns into cold, dry snow. The longer temperatures can hover around 26 degrees, the longer resorts can blow and the more terrain they can open.”

Since the last time it snowed in Summit County, the four local ski areas have opened a combined total of 13 additional trails. And while it’s still early in the season, Breckenridge Ski Resort and Copper Mountain Resort have only 6% of their total terrain open. Keystone Resort is faring a bit better with 10% of total terrain open.

The resorts will have to boost those figures significantly before holiday visitors start arriving in earnest the weekend of Dec. 18, and snowmaking crews are doing all they can.

Breckenridge and Keystone officials said the lower temperatures will help them make snow around the clock.

“We’ve had some really productive windows of snowmaking recently at Breck, and our snow guns have been firing nonstop here since Saturday evening,” resort spokesperson Sara Lococo wrote in an email. “With the temperatures forecasted for the week ahead, we should have favorable temps to continue snowmaking around the clock throughout the week.”

Snowmaking crews at Breckenridge are focusing their efforts on Peak 9. Lococo said they hope to open new terrain, along with the Beaver Run SuperChair and Mercury SuperChair, soon.

Over at Keystone, crews are working to expand terrain to North Peak.

“We’re looking forward to ramping up snowmaking production over the next few days thanks to the forecasted lower temps,” Keystone Director of Mountain Operations Chris Ingham wrote in an email.

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