Mt. Sopris receives first dusting of season

A photo of Mt. Sopris with a fresh dusting of snow on Thursday morning.
Submitted/Troy Hawks

As majestic and welcome as it is, don’t expect an early start to ski season this year. 

Mount Sopris, the 12,965-foot iconic peak piercing Carbondale’s skyline toward the south, received its first dusting of snow overnight Wednesday to Thursday.

Jim Kravitz, Director of Naturalist Programs for Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, said the brisk residuals from this light, mid-September snow shower are a common sight this time of year. Kravitz, since joining ACES in 1995, has kept close watch on the biological makeup and seasonal occurrences for the Elk Range and Sopris. 

He said by no means does this late-summer dusting on Sopris indicate what’s to come this winter season.

“It’s definitely not the groundhog day for winter,” he said. “To me, early snow is just something that gets you excited. It gives you great textures, and it increases the mosaic, with bluebird skies and yellow leaves.”

But, there’s a concerning trend brewing within this natural beautification of the Roaring Fork Valley. Fallen snow from these early-season showers recedes faster and faster.

Kravitz said warmer average temperatures create a warmer earth’s atmosphere and fuel more evaporation, transpiration and sublimation. Evaporation of course is when standing water vaporizes. Transpiration happens when water vaporizes from vegetation. Sublimation is when ice vaporizes into the air.

Because of this, snow melts faster. For instance, September 2021 saw a snow storm hit the Roaring Fork Valley. It wasn’t long before the residuals from that storm were gone.

“Basically, a warmer atmosphere is thirstier,” Kravitz said.

Aspen Highlands also saw its first snow of the season on Thursday, Aspen Snowmass vice president of communications Jeff Hanle said.

SkiCo has already begun their winter preparations in minor ways, such as getting snow machines ready, brushing the slopes and cleaning burn piles. Snow-making typically does not start until Nov. 1 Hanle said.

But, winter warriors out there fiending for “fresh pow” need not worry. Kravitz said at some point toward the end of September, a first major snowfall won’t leave the north face of Sopris until the end of May.

“It’s starting,” he said.

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