First snowfall for Colorado high country whets winter appetite |

First snowfall for Colorado high country whets winter appetite

Audrey Ryan and John LaConte
Aspen Times and Vail Daily
A view of the Gore Range as seen from Vail on Thursday.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Coloradans woke up to white stuff across the high country on Thursday morning as a low-pressure system followed moisture from Tropical Storm Kay.

It was the first snowfall of the season.

“It’s always exciting to see snow on the high peaks. It gets people psyched up for ski season,” Aspen Snowmass Vice President of Communications Jeff Hanle said on Thursday, adding that while September snow is not uncommon, it rarely lasts.

Aspen Skiing Co. has already begun its winter preparations in minor ways, such as getting snow machines ready, brushing the slopes and cleaning burn piles. Snowmaking typically does not start until Nov. 1, Hanle said.

“We want to make sure that when we do make snow, it’s going to stick around,” he explained. “If we see an extended period where we might have cold temperatures, we will make snow. But, typically, we don’t make snow to try and race out of the gate.”

If there are cold temperatures, he said, SkiCo will likely begin testing out the snowmaking machines.

The Loveland Trail Maintenance crew tests the resort’s snowguns on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022 in advance of the 2022-23 ski and ride season. The ski area is targeting a mid- to late-October opening.
Dustin Schaefer/Loveland Ski Area

Longtime Aspen resident Jim Markalunas recalled one of the earliest snowstorms in his lifetime — the Labor Day snowstorm of 1961.

“The trees knocked down the power lines. The entire upper Roaring Fork Valley was without electricity,” he said. “It was a disaster snowstorm.”

Thunderstorms persist

The National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office said Wednesday night saw the most moisture the area is likely to see in this storm cycle. A flash-flood warning in Glenwood Canyon temporarily closed Interstate 70 around 8 p.m., Wednesday.

“What went through the last couple of days was somewhat unique because the first half of it, Tuesday and some of Wednesday precipitation, was drawing on some very deep tropical moisture from what had been Tropical Storm Kay,” said Meteorologist Brianna Bealo with the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office on Thursday afternoon.

“The low pressure that’s working through now has made it so the temperatures are a lot colder, which has allowed the snow to happen,” she said.

A mountain operations staff member snaps a photo of some early snow that fell at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area on Thursday morning, Sept. 15, 2022.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area/Courtesy photo

The showers could remain in the area for a few days, but those showers aren’t related to Tropical Storm Kay, she said.

“The remaining showers that we’re seeing (Thursday) and (Friday) are more normal for this time of year; they’re associated with what’s known as an upper-level trough — a big area of low pressure higher up in the atmosphere that’s allowing these rain showers to bubble up,” Bealo said.

On Thursday morning, the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office issued a Hazardous Weather Outlook for the area, saying daily thunderstorm development will continue through the end of the week, “particularly along and north of I-70.”

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