DENVER (KDVR) — The first dusting of snow appeared on several peaks Monday. While winter hasn’t arrived for those below 13,500 feet, the cooler weather affects hikers who plan on trekking through the potentially snow-covered mountains.
Pinpoint Weather Meteorologist Chris Tomer said the newly fallen snow is known as “termination dust” which signifies the end of hiking season for summer hikers who prefer snow-free conditions.
For other hikers, the snow only means packing more equipment.
For now, the snowfall is light above 13,500 feet, which includes most 14ers. While the lower altitude hikes are still snow-free, it’s never “too late” to hike higher elevation peaks. If the trail is open, you can technically hike any time of the year, but it all depends on your experience.
“There are different types of hikers. Some only hike in the summer, and some hike year-round. The key is gear and experience,” said Tomer.
For example, Longs Peak is a challenging 14er in the summer. With snow, it turns into a more technical climb requiring additional safety gear. In shaded areas, the ledges hold snow and ice. Overnight re-freezes keep the process going above treeline, said Tomer.
Tomer expects the temperature to warm up and some of the snow will melt, but the process will start back up in a few weeks and then become entrenched by mid-October.
While there are still a few weeks before the mountains get heavy snow, Tomer recommends packing additional gear like spikes, waterproof footwear, additional layers, an ice axe and crampons for big peaks.
Hikers normally run into problems after the first snow when summer routes turn icy, said Tomer. Having the right gear and experience is key.