Thanksgiving storm surprises with up to 7 inches of snow at Summit County ski areas

The new six-passenger Peru Express opened Wednesday, Nov. 24, under snowy skies at Keystone Resort, which picked up 3 inches out of the storm.
Katie Young/Keystone Resort

National Weather Service meteorologists predicted the Wednesday storm would drop just 1 inch of snow on Summit County ski areas, but the resorts got a holiday surprise with up to 7 inches.

Breckenridge Ski Resort was the winner with 7 inches on the 5 a.m. snow report, which tallies snow that fell in the past 24 hours.

Copper Mountain Resort came in second with 6 fresh inches falling throughout the day Wednesday. Keystone Resort reported 3 inches, and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Loveland Ski Area each reported 2 inches in the past 24 hours as of 5 a.m. Thursday.

Most, if not all, of the snow fell while the lifts were spinning Wednesday, meaning those who arrived early for the holiday weekend likely got the best turns — provided they enjoy storm skiing.

That soft snow was freshly groomed for Thanksgiving Day.

The snow — and corresponding cold temps — are desperately needed as the resorts try to open additional terrain to spread crowds out on the mountains. On Wednesday, Keystone opened its new six-passenger Peru Express, providing access to more than 130 total acres of terrain and opening its second base area.

And on Thursday, Breckenridge opened Peak 9 with access via the QuickSilver SuperChair and Peak 8 SuperConnect.

“This will bring us to approximately 175 acres of terrain for the holiday,” resort spokesperson Sara Lococo wrote in an email Tuesday.

Despite the warm and dry start to the season, total snowfall at the ski areas is on par with last year. At this time in 2020, Breckenridge had tallied just 2 additional inches of snow, and Keystone had 14 inches more by the same time in 2020. Loveland is the outlier with 23 inches more snow this year than last.

The biggest barrier to opening additional terrain has been the unseasonably warm temperatures, which have prevented the resorts from making as much snow as they typically would have by this time in the season.

“The warmer temps have made snowmaking more difficult, and a lack of natural snowfall has limited our public terrain offering in comparison to previous seasons,” Copper spokesperson Olivia Butrymovich wrote in an email earlier this week.

The lack of cold temperatures is also hurting Summit’s Nordic ski areas.

Frisco Adventure Park officials announced on Facebook that the tubing hill would not open as planed on Thanksgiving Day because of warm temperatures.

In Breckenridge, the Breckenridge Nordic Center on Ski Hill Road below Peak 8 is open with limited terrain, and the Gold Run Nordic Center at Breckenridge Golf Club aims to open Dec. 3.

Lower temperatures are in the forecast over the holiday weekend, which could provide some relief. Overnight lows are expected to dip into the teens or low 20s throughout the seven-day forecast, according to the National Weather Service.

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