Colorado Ski Resorts See First Snowfall of the Season (More To Come)

by Simon Naylor | Published: September 12th, 2023 |  Ski News

Arapahoe Basin, Colorado woke up on Monday, September 11 to a light dusting of snow, marking the first snowfall of the 2023-2024 ski season in the state. Located in Summit County, Arapahoe Basin sits at an elevation of over 10,500 feet, allowing it to get snow this early in the season.

The snowfall, while light, is exciting for skiers and snowboarders eager for the official start of ski season. Most Colorado resorts open in mid-to-late November, but Arapahoe Basin has a history of opening in October thanks to its high elevation and advanced snowmaking capabilities.

person walking on snow road facing mountain at daytime

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Arapahoe Basin Vies to Open First in Colorado

Last year, Arapahoe Basin was the first ski area to open in Colorado when it started operations on October 23. The earliest the resort has opened was October 9. This year, Arapahoe Basin is aiming to open as soon as possible, likely sometime in October again.

"Arapahoe Basin plans to open as soon as possible," said Shayna Silverman, communications manager for Arapahoe Basin. "Snow-making activities are expected to start on the High Noon trail as soon as there are consistent cold temperatures."

Nearby Keystone Resort also got a dusting of snow Monday at the top of Bergman Bowl. Keystone is known for battling Arapahoe Basin to open first, with plans to start their season "as early as possible in October," according to communications manager Max Winter.

More Snow Expected This Week

While Monday's snow was limited to the highest elevations, meteorologists say more snow could arrive later this week as a new weather system moves into the Colorado high country.

"We don't have a big organized snowstorm coming just yet but it’s just a matter of time," said Robert Koopmeiners, a forecaster with the National Weather Service. "You've got to look at the calendar — it's mid-September."

Koopmeiners said temperatures have started dropping in Colorado after a warmer than average start to September. Precipitation forecasted for Thursday and Friday could bring more snow above 11,000 feet.

Snow Dusts Other Ski Areas

In addition to Arapahoe Basin, other ski resorts in Summit County received a taste of winter on Monday morning. Breckenridge Ski Resort posted photos of snow topping Peak 8, 9 and 10. While light, the snow stoked excitement for the upcoming ski season.

Breckenridge is scheduled to open November 10 this year. The resort plans to begin making snow around mid-October after completing construction of their new Five SuperChair lift.

Copper Mountain also got a light dusting of snow Monday morning. The resort counted down opening day announcing they are now just 63 days away from the start of the 2023-2024 ski and snowboard season.

Copper is set to open on November 13 this season.

Snow Helps Morale But No Sign of Season Forecast

While welcomed by anxious skiers, the early season snow is no indication of how the rest of the ski season could shape up across Colorado. Even with advanced forecasting tools, predicting snowfall months in advance is challenging.

Last year, despite hype early in the season, Colorado ended up with a below average year for snowfall. Arapahoe Basin recorded only 79% of their average seasonal snowfall during the 2022-2023 ski season according to Greenwood.

"It's all about timing. To have the best chance of enjoying the deepest powder ... book a trip seven to 10 days in advance," advised Sam Collentine, a Colorado-based meteorologist, on the unpredictability of snow patterns through the season.

Resorts Bank on Long Seasons

Colorado ski

Regardless of totals, Colorado resorts are confident they can have long and successful seasons thanks to investments in snowmaking and high elevation terrain. While more snow is always better, these factors allow them to open early and stay open late.

Last season, Arapahoe Basin stayed open into June and boasted 225 days of skiing despite lower than average snowfall. So even if this week's snow does not portend a powder-filled season, skiers and riders are hopeful for another long season on the slopes.

For now, the sight of white-capped peaks and frosted trees is enough to stoke excitement for winter as resorts start the countdown to opening day and the first chair.

Key Takeaways

  • Arapahoe Basin in Colorado saw the first snowfall of the ski season on September 11.
  • The resort aims to open in October, vying with Keystone to be the first to open in Colorado.
  • More snow is expected later this week as temperatures drop across the state.
  • Other ski areas like Breckenridge and Copper Mountain also got a light dusting of snow.
  • While exciting, early-season snow is not an indicator of total snowfall for the upcoming winter.
  • Last year was below average for snow despite a promising start to the season.
  • Regardless of snow totals, high-elevation terrain helps Colorado resorts open early and have long seasons.