Massive snowfall dumps several feet on some Colorado ski areas, with more to come

Colorado hill stations have received prodigious snowfall since last Friday, with more forecast for each day this week, with some stations adding two to three feet.

Crested Butte has received 50 inches since the storm system landed on Friday while Wolf Creek picked up 43 and Aspen Snowmass received 42 inches. Several areas received 23 inches or more, including Breckenridge, Cooper, Copper Mountain, Loveland, Sunlight and Purgatory, according to OnTheSnow, a site that aggregates snow reports from resorts around the world.

An additional five to 10 inches is coming in a storm that’s expected to arrive in most mountain locations Monday evening, and snow will continue to arrive, forecasters say. Wolf Creek could get nearly six more feet of snow through Saturday, according to OpenSnow, which tracks snowfall and compiles detailed weather forecasts for the mountains. Other areas that should get an extra 23 inches or more include Monarch, Powderhorn, Purgatory, Steamboat, Telluride, Beaver Creek, and Crested Butte. Crested Butte can look 52 inches.

While skiers and snowboarders may be concerned about powder turns and the impact of so much snow on mountain travel, the storm trend has also been a boon to Colorado’s snowpack.

“As of Sunday morning, we have a statewide snowpack that is 95% of the median,” OpenSnow founding meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote in his Monday snow report for Colorado. “This is quite an improvement from our situation at the beginning of December when we were in danger of setting a record low snowfall. I expect us to be above the median by the end of this week, if not sooner.

All of this new snow after minimal rainfall early in the season means the avalanche threat in the backcountry is considerable. Almost all of the state’s mountain ranges are currently under avalanche watch, Vail Pass was closed Monday morning for avalanche mitigation and there is a special avalanche advisory for the Front Range. Colorado reported its first avalanche death of the season on Friday when a backcountry skier was buried and killed in a slide near Cameron Pass in the mountains west of Fort Collins.

“Continued snowfall and strong winds have created dangerous avalanche conditions that will last through Wednesday,” according to the Front Range advisory issued by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. “It will be very easy for you to trigger large, distant avalanches, and some may occur naturally. You can trigger avalanches large enough to bury you from flat areas and low angle slopes below and adjacent to steeper slopes.

While snowfall is expected every day this week, the big dump arrives on Friday, according to OpenSnow. In other words, it should make for a happy New Year’s Day.

“I expect heavy snow for all mountains beginning Friday noon, afternoon or evening and continuing through Saturday morning or noon,” Gratz wrote. “The best powder will probably be Saturday morning. With a soft base after a week of snowfall and cold temperatures, the powder and ski/ride quality of this storm could be excellent later Friday and most likely Saturday morning.

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