Winter storms blanket Summit County before Keystone Resort’s opening | SummitDaily.com

Winter storms blanket Summit County before Keystone Resort’s opening

Greg Ellison
gellison@summitdaily.com

Snowfall sputtered like an old motor on Wednesday afternoon, only to shift into high gear later that night. With precipitation continuing through the following day, it appeared winter might be taking up residence in the Rockies.

Although storm totals varied, the big winners appeared to be Keystone Resort, Arapahoe Basin and Beaver Creek. Russ Carlton, senior communication coordinator with Keystone, said the timing couldn't have been scripted any better.

"With 6 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours providing excellent mountaintop conditions, Keystone Resort will open for the 2015-16 winter season this Friday, Nov. 6."

A-Basin, which opened last week, was also blessed with a half foot of snow, according to Adrienne Saia Isaac, A-Basin marketing and communications manager.

"Snowmaking has been good this week, and this natural snowfall will help us to open more terrain," she said.

She said the next run to open would be the intermediate trail Ramrod (adjacent to High Noon) sometime on Friday, Nov. 6.

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"The next step for us will be working on opening the upper mountain terrain accessed from the Lenawee Mountain lift," she said. "How soon we can get that open will depend on the combination of snowmaking and natural snowfall."

Rachael Woods, Beaver Creek senior communications manager, reported even more impressive totals.

"We received 13 inches of snow overnight," she said. "Within the last two weeks, we've gotten close to two feet of snow, and it's still snowing."

Despite Beaver Creek not opening until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Wood said snow prior to Opening Day always brings an air of excitement.

"Today at Beaver Creek is so gorgeous," she said. "It's visually stunning."

While snowcapped mountain peaks provided a compelling visual, those behind the wheel did their best to keep at least one eye on the road as crews worked to maintain safe conditions.

Rick Speer, interim director of Summit County Road and Bridge, said preparation for the winter season begins at the start of October.

"As usual for early season snowfall, when the prediction is high and we receive low, the moisture content and temperature make for very slick roads," he said. "We have a morning and night shift crew seven days a week with plowing sand trucks for this storm and heavy equipment for the bigger storms."

How much snow will Mother Nature provide this winter is certainly open to conjecture, but some experts sound less than overwhelmed.

Bob Kleyla, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said El Niño weather patterns may lead to underwhelming snowfall totals this winter.

"In Summit County, snowfall might be average or slightly below," he said.

El Niño typically involves a severe weakening of trade winds, while Pacific Ocean surface water levels warm in the Eastern and Central equatorial regions.

"The jet stream cuts across the south Rockies as opposed to the north," he said. "The northern mountains are not favored with an El Nino pattern."

Although November may bring above normal levels of precipitation for Summit County, Kleya said the forecast for the next three months doesn't look as favorable, but that could yet change.

"A couple of strong systems in the spring could alter everything," he said.

Despite the predictions, Kleya said not every El Nino follows the same script, and Summit's location may be advantageous.

"In the central Rockies, sometimes you do good," he noted.