Want to feel like a Breck local? Read this quick overview about Breckenridge’s geography and weather patterns and you’ll be on your way.
The resort is located in the Ten Mile mountain range of central Colorado with Quandary Peak standing as the tallest mountain at 14,265 feet. The mountains start at I-70’s Frisco exit and extend south to Breckenridge and five miles beyond to Quandary. While you’re skiing, look for two other fourteen thousand foot peaks to the east: Grays Peak (14,270 feet) and the nearby pointier Torreys Peak (14,267 feet).
Understanding the location of mountain ranges is important because big mountains create their own weather. Air is forced to rise over these masses of rock, and as the air rises it cools and moisture condenses into snow. This is called orographic lift and it’s the most important factor when forecasting powder.
If you’re looking at a weather map searching for the next storm heading toward Breckenridge, keep your eyes out for storms that bring winds from the west, northwest or the north. Any of these wind directions can bring good snow to the resort since it sticks up higher into the sky than many surrounding mountains in the west, northwest and north directions.
On the flip side, don’t be fooled by storms with winds from the southwest. While they might sling lots of moisture and clouds toward Vail, southwest winds actually descend from the tall mountains around Mt. Holy Cross and the Sawatch range. Descending air dries the atmosphere and leads to much less snow.
When favorable winds combine with good moisture and cold temperatures, massive snows can pile up. The most snow ever reported by Breckenridge in a 24 hourr period is 26 inches and the biggest season recorded in the last 30 years was 2010/2011 when 513 inches fell.
These are big numbers, but where do they come from? Where does Breckenridge measure snow?
The location of the snow stake is on Peak 8 near mid mountain and measurements are taken at about 5 a.m. and reported shortly after.
Now that you know the local weather patterns at Breckenridge and how snow is measured there, the only thing left to do is enjoy your powder day!
Joel Gratz is a meteorologist & the founder of OpenSnow.com.