This article was originally posted on OpenSnow.com by Meteorologist Joel Gratz.
As of Wednesday morning, snow is falling in the southern mountains and the rest of Colorado will see snow developing through Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday evening. Last chair Wednesday and first chair Thursday should be fun. Then after a break of dry weather on Thursday, more snow will arrive late Thursday night through Friday, targeting the northern mountains. This weekend should be dry, then we’ll see chances for light snow next week with a good chance of a significant storm around Saturday, January 20th.
Short Term Forecast
On Wednesday morning, the water vapor satellite image shows the center of the storm swirling over Arizona, and the winds from the south are bringing snow to our southern mountains. Also, there is a west-to-east flow of moisture in the middle-left of the image, and this will help to bring snow to all mountains later on Wednesday.
The radar over western Colorado on Wednesday morning shows most of the precipitation in the southern and far western parts of Colorado. Again, this will fill in over all of Colorado by Wednesday midday and afternoon.
At 5 am Wednesday, all of the snow has fallen in the southern mountains and just north of Steamboat. Multiply the numbers below by about 10 to estimate snowfall. Temperatures are warm so the snow level is rather high, around 8,000 feet.
Here is the snow in the southern mountains.
Purgatory – 5 inches
Telluride – 3-4 inches
During the day on Wednesday, snow will fill in across the state as the initial winds blowing from the southwest will swing to blow from the west and eventually northwest by Wednesday night. While the southern mountains will have fresh snow to ski all day Wednesday, you’ll find the best powder at other mountains between about noon and last chair.
Then on Wednesday night, moisture will continue to flow over Colorado, and this will combine with storm energy (vorticity, which helps to lift the air and create precipitation) plus a wind from the northwest. This combination will bring additional snow to the northern mountains, perhaps around Aspen, Irwin and Monarch in the central mountains, and around Telluride and Silverton in the southern mountains.
This means that you should find plenty of powder on Thursday morning, especially for the areas I mentioned above. Also, this should be a right-side-up storm, meaning the denser, thicker snow will fall first during the time of warmer temperatures, then lighter and fluffier snow will fall on top of that during the colder temperatures on Wednesday night.
During the day on Thursday, snow should taper to flurries or likely stop altogether.
Then from late Thursday night through Friday night, another storm will bring snow, mostly to the northern and parts of the central mountains. Expect Friday morning’s snow report to show perhaps a few inches in the northern mountains, and then more snow will fall during the day, so you’ll ski more snow on Friday than what you see on the Friday morning report (and this snow will be cold and fluffy). Many people will claim that this is due to the ski resorts “under-reporting”. Nope, it’s a timing issue, not a reporting accuracy issue. Resorts generally report at 5 am, so if it snows after 5 am, then you’ll ski more snow than the report, simple as that.
There is a chance that some snow may linger in the northern mountains on Friday night, and if that happens, you’ll find soft turns on Saturday morning as well.
Total snowfall from Tuesday night through Saturday morning will be at least 6-10 inches across the state and I expect 1/3 to 1/2 of our ski areas to have multi-day totals over 10 inches.
While the map below likely underestimates the forecast for areas favored by northwest flow, it does do a good job showing that this storm will bring snow to all mountains rather than favor just one area. Good stuff.
Remember, you can find my specific snow forecasts for each mountain by clicking on that mountain’s page here on OpenSnow.com or on our mobile apps.
The unsung hero of powder skiing is consistent snow over many days. Yes, a big dump of snow overnight is a wonderful thing, but conditions can be even softer and deeper when we see snow each day and night for two or three days, even if totals each day and night are not that impressive.
Saturday and Sunday should be dry.
On Monday and Tuesday, we might see a weak storm to the north sneak into Colorado and bring light snow. I have low confidence in this.
On Wednesday, we might see a storm from the west sneak into Colorado, bringing light to moderate snow. Again, I have low confidence in this.
On Thursday and perhaps Friday, we might be between storms.
Starting sometime on Friday into Saturday (January 19-20), I am gaining more confidence that we’ll see a significant storm.
The 8-14 day precipitation outlook for January 17-23 is favorable (green = above average precipitation).
It looks likely that our snowpack will trend nicely upward this week and later next week, with storms potentially continuing into late January. That makes me smile!
See Joel Gratz’s original post on OpenSnow.com