Weekend storm could bring Colorado ski resorts a powder day

Some of Colorado’s ski resorts could see as much as a foot of snow this week as a storm moves across the Rocky Mountains. 

The storm is slated to kick off late Thursday night and extend into Saturday morning. While Summit County’s mountains will receive moderate snow, the mountains in the north and south of the state will really reap the benefits of the storm.

The meteorologist-run blog OpenSnow reports that Copper Mountain Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort could take the majority of the snow in the mountains surrounding Summit County. Copper Mountain could see anywhere from 4-8 inches and Breckenridge Resort could see 3-6 inches. Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Keystone Ski Resort could get 1-4 inches over the weekend. 

North of Frisco and north of Vail Pass should see more snow than Summit County. The prediction from the National Weather Service calls for 10-11 inches in those areas. 

“Looks like the higher amounts of snow could be applied towards Steamboat,” Jim Kalina with the National Weather Service said. 

Kalina said Steamboat could have as much as a foot of snow over the weekend. He noted that the National Weather Service expects both Vail Mountain and Winter Park Resort to get around 6-10 inches of snow. 

The ski resorts in the Aspen area are expected to get 8-10 inches of snow out of the storm, according to the National Weather Service.

This storm is going to produce snow with a 15:1 snow water equivalent ratio.

“It’s not going to be the light powdery stuff, but it’s not going to be super wet either. It’s kind of in the middle,” Kalina said.

OpenSnow reports that the Rockies could snag a few extra inches of fluffy snow if light winds out of the northwest can crank up the orographic snow machine. 

The blog explained that when forecasting snow for mountains, the biggest forecasting secret is to find the wind direction that favors rising air. It explained that wind flowing freely hitting a mountain head-on and being forced to rise will create the heaviest snowfall. If the winds hit just right in the Rockies, it could lead to more snow.

While the weekend will start off with average temperatures, things will cool down significantly by Saturday in Summit County. Kalina said temperatures will start off in the 40s and plummet from there. 

“Saturday night is one below, so it’s gonna be really chilly … Sunday morning. It’s going to be a big cool down starting tonight,” Kalina said. 

Vail, Aspen, and Winter Park will see a similar pattern with temperatures dropping to 0 degrees or below on the weekend nights. 

According to OpenSnow, Steamboat’s temperature will stay fairly consistently in the teens throughout the weekend. 

Winter Park will have the most intense winds, with OpenSnow reporting they will reach 60 miles per hour on Thursday. From Friday on, they will be in the 20-30 mile per hour range. 

Winds in Summit, Vail, and Aspen are predicted to be in the 20-30 mile per hour range throughout the weekend. 

This story is from SummitDaily.com

What Colorado ski resort saw the most snow from this weekend’s storm?

December and winter arrived with a bang in Colorado.

The fluffy stuff just kept coming all weekend long, shutting down Vail Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass near Steamboat Springs, causing accidents on roadways across the mountains, and canceling all three days of World Cup competitions at Beaver Creek.

The powder also piled up at ski resorts, drawing crowds despite poor visibility.

Here’s how the snow stacked up at mountains across the state as of Monday morning, according to OpenSnow.com.

Storm totals

Steamboat Resort – 33″
Winter Park Resort – 26″
Copper Mountain Resort – 23″
Vail Mountain – 22″
Breckenridge Ski Resort – 21″
Keystone Resort – 15″
Loveland Ski Area – 14″
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area – 12″
Beaver Creek – 11″
Aspen Highlands – 11″
Aspen Mountain – 11″
Buttermilk – 11″
Snowmass – 11″

The most “intense snow” on Sunday targeted Eldora and Winter Park, according to OpenSnow, which recorded 12 inches at each ski area during the day.

Some snow is still expected to fall through Monday, potentially adding to the storm totals.

Multipart storm front brews, bringing promise of fresh snow to Colorado’s mountains

November has been mild in terms of natural snowfall in Summit County. With only a few snow storms moving through the area, snow coverage has remained scarce in the backcountry with ski areas relying heavily on blown snow to open up early-season terrain.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday a storm moved across much of Colorado, but Summit County saw minimal snow totals, despite the Front Range seeing significant snow. Vail Ski Resort led the way over the weekend with 8 inches, Keystone Resort reporting 3 inches and Breckenridge Ski Resort following with an inch, according to the Vail Resorts snow report on Sunday morning, Nov. 26.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area reported 2 inches in the 72 hours before Tuesday morning, Nov. 28. Copper saw zero inches in the 48 hours before Tuesday morning and Loveland Ski Area reported an inch in the 48 hours before Tuesday morning.

The minimal snowfall has stymied further openings at Summit County ski areas, but below-freezing temperatures have helped in blowing human-made snow. 

With a new month beginning on Friday, Dec. 1, the National Weather Service has issued several forecast maps for the next month and the foreseeable future. The month of December looks to have equal chances for above-normal and below-normal precipitation, with equal chances for above normal and below normal temperatures according to the maps.  

Looking at the eight- to 14-day outlook maps gives hope of at least a few powder days before the start of the new year. From Dec. 7-13 the National Weather Service has forecast a 40% to 50% chance of temperatures leaning above normal paired with a 33% to 50% chance that precipitation will be above average. 

The prediction maps back Open Snow founding meteorologist Joel Gratz and his weather forecast for Colorado’s Western Slope over the weekend. 

According to Gratz, a multipart storm will follow the dry conditions observed at the beginning of the week. The storm will begin on Thursday and is expected to deliver scattered snow showers through the weekend until Monday.

Gratz is predicting that the storm has the power to deliver 7-16 inches or more of snow across most of the High Country. With many forecast models showing at least 10 inches of snow in multiple places, Gratz’s confidence is high that the storm has the potential to give skiers and riders a taste of early season powder.

The National Weather Service sketches out the precipitation probability outlook over the next eight to 14 days.
National Weather Service/Courtesy photo

“Even with limited terrain, there will be the potential to enjoy some powder, with powder possible/likely on Friday and Saturday, probably favoring the central and southern mountains, and then more powder possible/likely on Sunday and Monday, probably favoring the northern and central mountains,” Gratz wrote in his report.

With all of Summit County’s ski areas in the northern mountain range — alongside Clear Creek County’s Loveland Ski Area — ski areas could see 10-plus inches in a five-day span, with snowfall helping to drastically improve ski areas’ terrain footprint. 

Once the storm leaves the area on Monday, the next chance for a snow storm will occur in the date frame of Dec. 8-11 — with a 50/50 chance of seeing decent snowfall.

This story is from SummitDaily.com

With more snow on the way, Colorado officials warn of ‘worrisome’ trend of people getting caught in avalanches

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is warning that backcountry travelers can easily trigger avalanches at this point in the season if they venture into the wrong terrain.

There have been three separate incidents where people have been caught in avalanches since the last winter storm, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said in a Facebook post on Thursday, Nov. 23. No one was injured, but the center called the trend “especially worrisome” as more snow is expected over the weekend.

“More snow will equal larger, more consequential avalanches,” the Colorado Avalanche Information Center wrote.

In one recent case, a skier wrote in a Tuesday, Nov. 21, field report that he was on the south side of James Peak on the Front Range when he remotely triggered a small persistent slab avalanche about 50 feet above him. The slide reportedly carried him about 100 feet before he was able to stop his slide.

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center’s social media post included a photo of a small avalanche that was intentionally triggered near Red Buffalo Pass in the Gore Range on Wednesday, Nov. 22.

Andrew McWilliams, a forecaster for the information center, wrote a field report Wednesday after skinning on the west side of Hoosier Pass, near the border of the Mosquito and Tenmile ranges. McWilliams described the snowpack as being thin in the “traditionally windy and scoured” location.

“The most problematic areas now, and moving forward, are high elevation northwest to east-facing slopes,” McWilliams wrote. “The snowpack has a weak structure, and the danger will increase if this area sees more than 6-8 inches of snow over the weekend.”

In Thursday’s Facebook post, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center enoucraged backcountry travelers to find out about the conditions for where they are going and avoid steep northerly and easterly facing slopes, where avalanches can be more easily triggered.

This story is from SummitDaily.com

Warm spell could end with 2 chances for snow for Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, ski areas by next week

Fire danger will be elevated up until Thursday as dry weather, gusty winds and above average temperatures are expected to persist until Thursday evening, according to National Weather Service reports.

Recent weather has pretty much zapped the impact of Colorado’s first major snowstorm, and the melting is expected to continue.

“We are below average for snowpack across the state,” National Weather Service meteorologist Bruno Rodriguez said “… With that event at the event at the end of the month, we did get to right around average as far as our snowpack, but since then we have pretty much flattened out, remained stagnant and have remained below average since then.”

High temperatures are forecast to hover between the in the 50s until Thursday for higher elevation areas like Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Granby, Steamboat Springs, Aspen, and Vail, with lows between the mid- to high-20s. Areas with slightly lower elevations like Glenwood Springs will see highs hover around 60 with lows hovering around freezing, 32 degrees.

Sunny skies and warm temperatures won’t bode well for the ski areas trying to open and join the list of open resorts like Arapahoe Basin Ski AreaKeystone ResortVail MountainWinter ParkBreckenridge Ski Resort and Loveland Ski Area, but a few possible snowstorms heading toward Colorado later this week could have the potential to stanch some of the melting.

Steamboat Springs has the highest potential for snow accumulation on Thursday as a storm tracks across the state, but its impact is expected to be minimal.

“As far as that first system on Thursday, it really does look weak,” Rodriguez said. “We are not expecting any substantial snow. If anything the Park Range would be favored up there around Steamboat Springs … but most areas aren’t going to pick up more than an inch, mostly the higher elevations.”

All of the towns and cities mentioned above could see flurries, but a storm that is forecast to hit this weekend will bring a higher potential for snowfall to stick around.

“Thursday will bring a change in the weather with gusty winds and possible snow showers. A few models show a few inches of snow falling due to moisture and storm energy that will quickly push through Colorado in advance of the possible weekend storm,” OpenSnow founder and chief meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote in his daily blog that covers weather in Colorado. “Other models show just a few flakes and no real accumulation.”

A graph shows the state of Colorado’s snowpack levels, in black, compared to the 30-year-median, in green. Since the state’s first major storm around Oct. 29, 2023, the snowpack melted slightly before rebounding.
U.S. Department of Agriculture/Courtesy photo

The second storm system moving into the state should span Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and it should be a more significant weather event. Snowfall could reach into the double digits, but Gratz says there is uncertainty currently since the storm is still five days out.

“This weekend it’s really up in the air,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty, I’m not going to lie to you.”

The National Weather Service shows chances for snow from Saturday through Monday, but no snow totals are available yet.

A forecast shows the snowfall potential that areas in Colorado could see between Saturday to Monday.
Open Snow/Courtesy photo

Late Saturday and into Sunday should expend a bulk of the storm’s snow-dropping abilities, but forecasts show a wide range of possibilities — from possible weather-advisory level snowfall to just an inch or two for the highest elevations, Rodriguez said.

“The storm will move through in two parts, with the first part on Saturday bringing warm temperatures and snowfall favoring the southern half of Colorado, and the second part on Sunday into Monday bringing colder temperatures and snowfall favoring the northern half of Colorado,” Gratz wrote.

Gratz says the forecast will likely change as the weekend approaches, but he said the system’s current track shows potential for flurries to fly across the state.

“Thursday and Friday would be good days to check back,” Rodriguez said. “We should have a lot more confidence about what’s going to happen over the weekend by then.”

This story is from SummitDaily.com

Vail, Beaver Creek and Keystone resorts begin snowmaking

As the first semblance of a snowstorm swirled over the Gore Range this week, Eagle County ski areas took advantage.

Vail Ski Resort turned on the guns Wednesday night, and Beaver Creek was not far behind, hitting the switches Thursday afternoon, according to a release from Vail Resorts.

Mother Nature provided an assist with some natural snow, although that isn’t a requirement. Cold temperatures, however, are a necessity, as well as compressed air and compressed water.

Vail’s snowmaking fleet has a compressed air capacity that can fill the Goodyear blimp in just 12 minutes. At Keystone Resort, which began snowmaking Wednesday evening as well, the snow guns have their own weather stations, which allow conditions to be tracked in real time.

Keystone aims to open as soon as possible, while Vail and Breckenridge Ski Resort have Nov. 10 circled on the calendar as Opening Day. Beaver Creek is expected to open later in the month on Nov. 22.

Vail area sees first snow of the season

Snow sits in the crags of the jagged Gore Range Tuesday, Sept. 19, the area’s first snow of the season.
Vail Ski Resort/Courtesy photo

Those living in the Vail area woke up to snow on Tuesday, Sept. 19, on the highest points of the jagged peaks of the Gore Range, according to a social media post from Vail Ski Resort.

Summit County saw its first snow on Sept. 11, as resorts from Arapahoe Basin Ski Area to Breckenridge Ski Resort saw a layer of white in the morning.

Breckenridge did experience a slight dusting on Aug. 14 that some thought to be hail rather than snow.

There is a chance the Colorado Rocky Mountains could see more snow later this week as well.

More snow on the way? Forecaster predicts multiple chances for high-elevation snow over the next week.

After Summit County saw its first dusting of snow earlier this week, OpenSnow founding meteorologist Joel Gratz is forecasting two more chances for high-elevation snow in the next seven to eight days.

According to Gratz’s forecast, the first storm will bring both rain and snow from Thursday, Sept. 14, through Sept. 15 with snowflakes falling as low as 10,000-11,000 feet.

The second chance of snow will likely occur around Thursday, Sept. 21, and is predicted to bring colder temperatures and maybe enough moisture for snow.

In between the two weather patterns, Gratz predicts a mix of sunny skies and intermittent rain showers in the region.

This story is from SummitDaily.com.

‘It’s that time of year’: Ski season on the horizon as September brings snow to Colorado peaks

Summit County residents were among the Coloradans who awoke to snow-covered peaks Monday, Sept. 11, as overnight lows brought the first sampling of winter to the region’s ski resorts.

From Arapahoe Basin to Breckenridge, it got cold enough overnight that a small storm system dropped snow throughout the high peaks of Summit County, as well as various other parts of Colorado, National Weather Service Forecaster Robert Koopmeiners said.

“It’s getting late enough in the season, you get up to a high enough elevation and you’re going to get snow,” Koopmeiners said. “It’s that time of year. It’s September, right? One would expect that.”

Breckenridge Ski Resort on Monday posted photos of snow on Peak 10, while throughout the Colorado High Country others on social media rejoiced that the tidings of winter were at the state’s doorstep.

“Okay, this time it’s definitely snow!” Breckenridge posted, harkening back to an Aug. 14 dusting that some claimed was hail, not snow. “We love frosted tips in September.”

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area also posted photos of snow on the rocky ridgeline of East Wall. This is one of the first signs of winter for the ski resort, Arapahoe Basin communications manager Shayna Silverman said in an email.

Last year, Arapahoe Basin was the first ski resort in Summit County and Colorado to open on Oct. 23. Historically, the earliest Arapahoe Basin has opened is Oct. 9, Silverman said. The nearby Keystone Resort often competes to be the first in the state to open.

Arapahoe Basin plans to open as soon as possible, depending on conditions, Silverman said. Snow-making activities are expected to start on High Noon as soon as there are consistent cold temperatures, she said.

With another system of precipitation moving into the mountains Thursday and Friday, Summit County residents can expect more dustings of snow in the mountains in the coming days, Koopmeiners said.

“We don’t have a big organized snowstorm coming just yet but it’s just a matter of time,” he said. “You’ve got to look at the calendar — it’s mid-September.”

This story is from SummitDaily.com.

Meteorologists release early predictions for 2023-24 ski season in Colorado’s mountains based on historic El Niño data

Meteorologists have released early predictions for what the 2023-24 ski season could look like in Summit County and across Colorado. 

While experts maintain that nothing is certain and that their tools for predicting snowfall this early remain limited, one atmospheric weather pattern is providing some clues.

“For the upcoming winter season, an El Niño looks to be in store, and better yet, current sea surface temperatures are showing a strengthening El Niño event,” wrote OpenSnow meteorologist Sam Collentine in an Aug. 30 post.

El Niño patterns form when surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, off the coast of South America, rise above average by 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit for three consecutive months. This pushes the jet stream south and can bring more precipitation and cooler temperatures to southern regions with dryer conditions in the north. 

For the past three ski seasons, Colorado has seen a La Niña pattern, which can have the inverse effect. 

But the relationship between El Niño and the state’s snowfall tends to be a mixed bag, Collentine wrote. For example, data shows the 30-year median for snow water equivalent (the amount of water held in snow) for Copper Mountain Resort on March 31 is 14.6 inches, according to Collentine. When comparing Copper’s median for each of the past seven significant El Niño years dating back to 1982, just three were above normal. The high was 16.5 inches in 2002-03, Collentine wrote.

The most recent El Niño season was 2015-16, which saw below-normal snowfall of 93% of the 30-year median. 

At Copper, “It tends to be that the shoulder seasons are above normal, while the winter months are below normal,” Collentine wrote.

“Overall, history tells us that Copper Mountain tends to be right around normal for snowfall during El Niño events, with the potential for a stronger start and end to the season,” he wrote.

While El Niño patterns may not have a strong correlation to snowfall in Colorado’s central mountains, it can in other parts of the state. For example, Wolf Creek Ski Area, tucked away in the southern San Juan mountains, saw above-average snowfall during five out of the past seven El Niño seasons, according to an analysis by Collentine. In the north, Steamboat Ski Resort saw above-average snowfall during three of the seven El Nino seasons, which aligns with the pattern’s influence on the jet stream. 

Still, experts said such patterns do not cement a season’s snowfall. While last year’s La Nina pattern should have been characterized by heavy snowfall in the north and less in the south, Purgatory Resort, a southern ski area, reported one of its best ski seasons in years

The pattern “kind of broke the rule of what you’d expect last year,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Bernie Meier.

OpenSnow founder Joel Gratz, in a previous interview with the Summit Daily News, said La Niña and El Niño patterns are “one of the few things that we have any shred of ability to forecast six months in advance.”

But even with a correlation of above- or below-average snowfall, “It doesn’t mean that every year is guaranteed to be that way,” he said.

This story is from SummitDaily.com.