A dusting of early September snow on Summit County's high peaks set the hearts of skiers beating just a little bit faster last weekend.
About two inches of snow fell above 12,000 feet, as a late summer cold front swept down from Canada Friday night into Saturday, dropping daytime high temperatures into the 50s and nighttime lows into the 20s.
While most of the dusting melted away by early afternoon, many locals recalled a ferocious storm that rolled across Colorado in September 1995, dropping several feet of snow in the mountains and even along the Front Range. September snow is not unusual in Summit County, according to Breckenridge weather observer Rick Bly, who measures precipitation for the National Weather Service. Bly says that during the past 30 years, the average snowfall for the month is 1.4 inches. "The snow won't last long, but will start to cool things off, helping to prepare the ground for the real thing," said Bly.
Meanwhile, local ski areas are doing maintenance on their snowmaking systems in preparation for their annual battle to be the first to open. If temperatures permit, Keystone, Loveland, Breckenridge and Copper try to start their guns by early October, aiming to open by the middle of the month. Together, local ski areas can make snow on about 2,000 acres of terrain. Keystone alone has the capability to cover more than 800 acres with manmade snow, while Breckenridge, Copper and Loveland also boast several hundred acres each.
Keystone and Loveland generally vie for opening day honors, with Keystone often using its night-skiing lights to get a jump on its competitors. Last year, however, Loveland took its larger neighbor by surprise and opened a few days before Keystone.