Summit ski areas rely on dry weather snow cover to expand terrain before the holidays

Skiers and snowboarders ride the American Eagle Lift on Monday, November 22, opening day at Copper Mountain Resort. Resort officials say recent temperatures have made snowmaking difficult.
Curtis DeVore / Copper Mountain Resort

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with additional details about the field openings at Keystone Resort.

As the busy vacation season approaches, Summit County ski areas are struggling to open the way for a growing number of guests. Abnormally hot and dry conditions for the season have resulted in a lack of natural snow and snowmaking capacity, on which ski areas depend to open more runs.

The snow has been dull so far in November. According to the National Weather Service almanac, the Dillon weather station typically sees 10.9 inches of snow by November 23, but this year saw only 5 inches.

Copper Mountain Resort spokesperson Olivia Butrymovich said the unusually warm fall in Summit County has made snowfall difficult and generally limited snowfall to night rather than all hours.

Copper opened on Monday, November 22, with 70 acres of land. The American Eagle lift at the resort is open and the Pitchfork / Gem lift is open in the beginner’s learning area. The Excelerator elevator is currently in delayed opening, starting later today, but is expected to operate on a regular schedule by Thanksgiving, Butrymovich wrote in an email.

“In previous seasons we were able to open more ground on opening day; However, warmer temperatures made snowmaking more difficult and the lack of natural snowfall limited our supply of public land compared to previous seasons, ”Butrymovich wrote.

Despite the setback, Butrymovich said the mountain plans to open more land ahead of Thanksgiving with the Skid Road trail slated to open on Wednesday, November 24.

“We plan to have a larger Woodward pop-up park with up to 15 features available for skiers and runners on the Lower Bouncer Trail by Friday (November 26),” Butrymovich wrote. “Eagle Park will be downsized to accommodate beginners with the opening of the largest pop-up park for advanced skiers and riders.”

Keystone Resort opened on October 22 with two beginner slopes, Schoolmarm and Silverspoon. He has since opened six other tracks: Endeavor, Scout, Dercum’s Dash, River Run, Silvermaster and Spring Dipper, including four intermediates.

Breckenridge Ski Resort opened on November 12 with its 4 O’Clock and Springmeier trails. Three additional tracks have been opened since the day the station opened: Duke’s Run, an advanced track, Lower Duke’s Run, an intermediate track, and Trygve’s, a beginners track. All open slopes are on peak 8.

“Over the past few days we have seen good snow temperatures, and our teams will continue to take advantage of this in the coming days with new terrain and ski lift openings planned in Keystone and Breck,” wrote the spokesperson Sara Lococo in an email.

Lococo said Spring Dipper is the latest addition to Keystone’s land and that the resort plans to open Jaybird and Acapulco Road as well as the Peru Express elevator on Wednesday, providing access to both base areas and more than 130 acres of land. . Keystone is also working to make snow on North Peak.

Breckenridge opened uphill access for the season on Tuesday, November 23, and plans to open the Northstar trail on Wednesday.

“As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we plan to open Peak 9 with the QuickSilver SuperChair and Peak 8 SuperConnect on Thursday, November 25, as well as the Silverthorne and Lower Sundown trails,” Lococo wrote. “That will take us to about 175 acres of vacation land.”

When Breckenridge opened earlier this month, Lococo said more land from Peak 8 was the priority, followed by the opening of Peak 9 and then Peak 7. The new Freedom SuperChair is set to debut on the side. north of Peak 7 when scheduled to open in early December, but that – as always – depends on the weather.

The Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, which was Summit County’s first ski area to open for the season, has four ski lifts, which includes two learning area lifts as well as Black Mountain Express Lift and Lenawee Mountain Lift, which accesses higher terrain. Nine runs are open, the majority – 83% – being beginner runs. A-Basin opened on October 17 with just one round: High Noon.

Overall, the open terrain of the four Summit County ski areas on Tuesday totaled 25 trails, which is actually one more trail than the one that was open for Thanksgiving last year. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many resorts have delayed their opening days. As of Thanksgiving 2020, A-Basin had four runways open, Breckenridge had eight, and Keystone had 12. Copper wasn’t open on Thanksgiving last year.

Although snow has been scarce this year, snow totals for local ski areas are comparable to last season. Keystone has seen 32 inches of snow so far this season and recorded 31 inches around this time last year. A-Basin has registered 34 inches so far this season and only saw 22 inches around this time last year.

Unfortunately, there is nothing to give ski areas a big boost in the forecast. National Weather Service meteorologist David Barjenbruch said a few light flurries are expected to start Tuesday evening and continue through Wednesday, but the build-up will only be dust of up to half an inch of snow. Barjenbruch said it was possible for ski areas to see up to an inch of snow.

“It doesn’t look like a big system anymore – just enough to make your car dirty again, but not much to support the ski industry,” said Barjenbruch.

Longer-term forecasts are just as bleak.

“We are hoping for something to move by December 3 or 4, but there just isn’t much to offer in the snow forecast,” said Barjenbruch.

The graph shows the number of trails open in Summit County ski areas for Thanksgiving over the past three years compared to the number of trails open as of Tuesday, November 23.
Taylor Sienkiewicz / Summit Daily News

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