The snow continued to fall intermittently Thursday evening in Summit County, priming the region for what it’s been impatiently awaiting for weeks on end.
Both Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort reported 11 inches each in the prior 48 hours, and predictions from OpenSnow.com suggested between 17 and 23 more for the two Vail Resorts ski areas through the weekend, with the same for nearby Copper Mountain Resort. Summit seems to have hit a much-needed sweet spot in the forecast, and for winter sports enthusiasts it couldn’t have come soon enough.
With uncharacteristically limited natural flurries to this point in the season, however, no local ski area has been able to open more than 10 percent of its terrain just yet. That appears likely to change with the ongoing storm front.
Copper, presently with seven of its 23 lifts and about 10 percent of its trails open by Thursday’s close, expects to start spinning chairs at the Timberline Express lift and three trails off it on Friday. The area where the U.S. Ski Team has been training the past few weeks opens to the public each afternoon after the pros get their morning turns through Saturday, but the Upper Encore, Oh No Bowl and Rosi’s Run each opens fully to guests on Sunday.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, which last reported 5 inches on Tuesday but could see as many as 10 more through Friday, has been moving as quickly as possible to pull more ropes and make additional terrain available. But much still remains reliant on the weather.
“We’re ready when Mother Nature is,” said Adrienne Saia Isaac, A-Basin spokeswoman. “The more natural snow we get, the more terrain we can get open.”
A-Basin ski patrol was able to get green runs Sundance and the Lower Chisholm Loop off the Black Mountain Express lift open by Thursday afternoon, and snowmakers have also been focused on Wrangler for the meantime. The Pallavicini lift won’t be flipped on until a base of about 30 inches, though, with the ski area currently reporting about 19-inch depth.
Keystone was able to get its A51 terrain park open on Dec. 5, and plans for the debut of the popular Flying Dutchman, central Schoolmarm, Last Chance and upper I70 trails Saturday. And the timing of the Dew Tour’s arrival for its 10th anniversary, Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 11, at Breckenridge is just about perfect with the snow. (Look for plenty of Dew Tour coverage this weekend.)
Arapahoe Basin may have taken the title as North America’s first opening on Oct. 21, but Copper now owns the continent’s first superpipe — all 22 feet of it — in preparation of its U.S. Revolution Tour competition stop through Saturday. The U.S. Grand Prix starts the day after on Sunday, Dec. 11, and spectators can come see the finals free of charge on Dec. 16 and 17.
Wednesday’s overnight snow had no impacts on the Summit School District, before or after the school day. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) lifted its traction law for passenger vehicles on Interstate 70 by about 10 a.m. Thursday between Eisenhower Tunnel and Silverthorne. It was later pulled between Copper Mountain and Vail Pass around noon.
As the snow persisted Thursday night, the transportation safety decree went back into effect around 4 p.m. from Georgetown all the way to Vail. No doubt, commuters can anticipate it — and commercial chain laws — throughout the weekend, with forecasts for Summit County calling for mild winter temperatures, but consistent snow showers and the biggest potential dump coming Sunday.
Skiers and riders rejoice — winter may have been delayed this season, but has now arrived in more than just a ceremonial gesture. Keep your tips up.