Christmas winter storm comes as a gift for Summit County, Colorado skiers
December 25, 2017
Summit County ski resorts got just what they wanted for Christmas, but the healthy day of snowfall also wreaked havoc on holiday travel plans and sparked warnings for the backcountry.
The overnight snow storm came as AAA was predicting a record number of travelers — almost 110 million people — over the holidays, according to the Associated Press.
In Colorado, traction laws were put into effect early Monday morning on Interstate 70 from Vail to Idaho Springs with a thick blanket of snow falling across the Rocky Mountains.
The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for Summit County and much of the surrounding area, predicting that deep moisture and a strong jet stream would bring heavy snowfall Christmas morning with strong winds throughout the day.
Accumulations of 4 to 8 inches of snow Monday were expected with localized totals up to 10 inches. The heaviest snowfall was forecast for the morning hours, but blowing snow creating poor visibility and hazardous driving conditions, especially on the high mountain passes like the Eisenhower Tunnel and Vail Pass, remained a concern.
The Colorado Department of Transportation's avalanche-reduction efforts also forced closures on Loveland Pass on Monday, and Colorado Avalanche Information Center was warning people to stay away from the backcountry.
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"Recent snow and strong westerly winds have built slabs on top of an extremely weak snowpack," according to the warning. "Dangerous avalanche conditions exist across the Vail and Summit County zone today."
People can trigger avalanches that break at the ground under them on steep slopes or remotely from below or even from adjacent slopes.
"Cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making are essential," to avoid the danger, CAIC said, adding that people, if they do go out, should stick to slopes with angles less than 30 degrees.
"If you trigger an avalanche today, it may be large enough to kill you," according to the experts.
However, the deep snowfall was welcome news at nearby ski resorts, including just down the road from Loveland Pass, where they were doing avalanche-mitigation work, at Arapahoe Basin, where the getting was good on Sunday before, according to the resort, another 6 inches fell overnight into Monday morning.
Naturally, resort officials felt compelled to thank whom else but Santa — via Twitter, of course — for their good fortune.
"We're wishing you all a happy holiday and a happy powder day!" A-Basin tweeted out Monday. "(Six inches of new snow) in the last 24 hours and it's supposed to snow all day. Thanks, Santa!"
And so too did Breckenridge, posting that "Santa brought just what we wanted!"
Both A-Basin and Keystone reported 6 inches of new snow in the last 24 hours. Breckenridge and Copper Mountain both saw 5 inches of fresh snow in the last 24 hours, according to the resorts, and Loveland Ski Area and Vail Mountain were both at 4 inches in the last 24 hours.
According to a spokesman with Vail Resorts, which owns Keystone and Breckenridge ski resorts, Keystone received another 10 inches by 2:30 p.m. Monday on top of the 6 inches it got over night. At the same time, Breckenridge saw another 10 inches Monday. The added snowfall will be a boon for local ski resorts after they've been starved for it so far this season.
Both Keystone and Breckenridge ski resorts opened new terrain and multiple peaks prior to holidays, and the new layer will certainly help fill in those runs.
For today's forecast, the NWS is predicting mostly sunny skies with a high of 33 degrees and lows in the single digits.
For the up-to-date snowfall totals, go to our website at SummitDaily.com.