SUMMARY: If you want a sure bet slam dunk decent powder day, head to the Cascades tonight for Tuesday morning powder (Good quality). Otherwise, the week ahead looks very deep for the San Juan mountains of Colorado, northern New Mexico and central to northern Arizona. If there was a perfect set up for blizzard conditions for the eastern plains of Colorado it’s going to happen Wednesday. The Central and northern Mountains of Colorado also get into play Wednesday and Thursday with some wind shifts. Utah is a solid wildcard for Wednesday/Thursday.
FORECAST: The Cascades of Washington nab snowfall Monday night with the perfect balance of temps starting out slightly warm and finishing cold. Precipitation will be falling most of the day Tuesday favoring the I-90 resorts (Alpental, Snoqualmie) with a Puget Sound convergence zone forming during the morning hours Tuesday. All ranges of the Cascades should play well with 8-14 inches for Baker, 7-11 for Stevens and Alptental, and 5-10 for Crystal. SW winds initially favor Baker Monday night with direction veering NW Tuesday pushing higher daytime totals towards I-90. Depending on where convergence zones set up (West or NW flow pushing colder air into the mountain ranges that create good lift over the mountain ranges forming precip) some mountains such as Stevens could end up with higher amounts. The same goes for the southern Cascades near Crystal (Wildcard). The I-90 corridor is the most likely zone to see the benefits.
The northern Oregon Cascades will also do well with this storm system through Tuesday (6-12). If you are in the NW plan on riding Tuesday and perhaps Wednesday.
The Tricky Forecast for the Rockies:
Plenty of moisture is pulling up from the south that will outperform the north initially. Temps are warm with moist SW flow pushing mountain snow levels to 9,000 feet early this week. Dense snow will be falling from Silverton (Better quality due to high elevations) through to Wolf Creek, Purgatory and to some extend Telluride. There will be a few breaks here and there but for the most part no 6 hour period without precipitation.
Snow is currently falling at Wolf Creek with 2 inches on the snow report. Kendall Mountain in Silverton is reporting 4 inches (Base elevation is 9600 feet). Has anyone reading this post skied Kendall?
For the San Juan Mountains snow will continue light to moderate Monday (4-7) with a break early evening. Snow increases late Monday night and Tuesday for an additional 5-10 inches likely. Unfortunately, temps will be rising through the period so you may experience variable dense snow or cream at lower elevations or mid-density at the summits. SW and S winds are unlikely to push too much further than Telluride (Wildcard- Moderate snow possible but unfavorable wind direction).
Taos is also into the action zones during this period with light to moderate snow falling through Tuesday.
Action Time: The northern branch of moisture and cold air from the PNW combine with the warmer moist jet from the south during the Wednesday AM to Thursday time period. This will create significant snowfall for many areas of Colorado and New Mexico. Arizona is also in the mix for heavy snow by Wednesday morning, especially in the central mountain ranges. Areas north toward Flagstaff may only see moderate amounts (Still good for late Tuesday and early Wednesday). Higher amounts may fall further south.
Snow increases significantly over the San Juan range late Tuesday to Wednesday morning including Taos. Winds shift to the NW Wednesday morning increasing snowfall for Telluride and areas north. The mountain corridor including Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, Copper will see an increase of moderate snowfall during Wednesday with the wind shifts. The winds eventually veer more northerly Wednesday late AM or early PM pushing the highest totals towards the Continental Divide with Winter Park, Loveland and Eldora favored. Very strong northerly winds will create blizzard conditions over the northern plains of Colorado (My gut tells me Fort Collins north or east). The mountain ranges near Denver will continue to see snowfall through Thursday morning (Some opportunity for Thursday powder).
Bottom Line: Its a very tricky chase. The San Juan range is a sure bet but I don’t like the temperatures Monday or Tuesday. Wednesday morning may be your best bet for quality but Tuesday looks deep also. Taos looks deep on the models for late Tuesday into Wednesday but I don’t like the wind speeds (Very gusty winds could keep upper lifts closed). The models differ on the I-70 corridor (including Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek, Sunlight) with one currently showing decent powder for Wednesday (Storm ski) into Thursday. NW wind direction Wednesday may crank out significant snow for these areas into the evening. My gut here tells me that Summit County especially south of I-70 (Breckenridge) may score the highest amounts west of the Divide but Vail Pass also squeeze out a foot or more snow. Snow will be falling over most of Colorado on Wednesday/Thursday, but it’s going to take later model runs to pinpoint the deepest amounts. Winds initially NW Wednesday switch more northerly behind the cold front. North winds will favor resorts closest to the Divide. You could potentially chase from the San Juans Tuesday to the I-70 corridor (Telluride included due to the favorable wind direction) Wednesday and stick to the Continental Divide for Thursday. If you’re looking to experience Blizzard conditions head to Greeley or points east for Thursday (Bring your Cross Country skis and wind gear). Utah is also an option for Wednesday and Thursday (See below post).
Below: Total snowfall through Wednesday evening for Colorado and New Mexico. Most of the precipitation falls steadily from Monday-Wednesday in the southern mountains with Telluride and areas north catching up by Wednesday morning. While amounts along I-70 don’t look impressive some models are kicking out pretty decent amounts Wednesday/Thursday with NW winds initially before shifting to the North. There will be surprises for late Wednesday and perhaps Thursday.
For Utah, the bulk of precipitation falls in the southern Mountains through Tuesday night. A good push of cold air and NW winds will ramp up snow intensities for Wednesday morning in the Wasatch. The models are pushing out 1/2″ of liquid precip to slightly higher amounts for the Cottonwoods. That’s around 6-10 inches of snow (Colder temps and good snow ratios). Lake effect is possible late Wednesday into Thursday so the wildcard is another 3-7 inches of snow. My early guestimate is 9-17 inches for the Cottonwoods by Thursday morning with 5-10 inches in the Park City range (Canyons side favored) Higher amounts may also be found near Powder Mountain who likes the NW wind direction. You can storm ski moderate snow Wednesday and kick up the additional pow for Thursday.
Snow showers continue in Colorado on Thursday. Beyond that point, most of the west will experience high pressure into much of next week. The Pacific Northwest may see a system edge into the northern areas of Washington this weekend. Otherwise, its break time for the western mountains. Modelshint at a possible return of moisture late next week? Get the pow while you can! Unfortunately, I will not be able to chase this week.