It's time to wax your skis and snowboards and get them ready for a weekend of fantastic skiing and riding across Colorado. But remember, with fresh snow comes a higher risk of avalanches.
This weekend, February 7-9, will be an AMAZING time to get out in Colorado Ski Country. A major snowstorm is expected to drop a ton of snow in most areas, including the mountains, as well as Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins. Let's talk about specifics, so you can plan your weekend accordingly.
Travel will be near impossible at certain times over the next few days. Thursday and Friday are looking to be the worst travel days, as heavy snow will be occurring almost consistently. Mountain passes are also expected to see wind gusts up to 60 mph, creating white-out and blizzard-like conditions. I'm assuming some mountain passes will be closing due to the nature of this storm.
It's recommended that you carpool or use public transportation as much as possible to get to and from the mountains this weekend. Most ski areas offer shuttles from towns close by and the benefit there is that the towns normally sit at lower elevations where the snow may not be as bad. Look into the Winter Park Express train that brings you to and from Winter Park Resort from Downtown Denver. You can also use the new Bustang service, which provides daily weekend trips to Arapahoe Basin, Steamboat Resort, and Loveland Ski Area.
Please plan ahead for tough travel. Remember the new traction law that is in place this year. Use the Colorado Department of Transportation's website to check road conditions ahead of time. You can also follow and accidents and road closures that may be occurring.
- The National Weather Service in Boulder will provide you with updated forecasts for areas like Denver, Steamboat, Winter Park, and Loveland Ski Area.
- The National Weather Service in Grand Junction will provide you with updated forecasts for areas like Grand Junction, Aspen, Telluride, and Powderhorn Ski Resort.
- The National Weather Service in Pueblo will provide you with updated forecasts for areas like Colorado Springs, Wold Creek, and Monarch Mountain.
Forecast Into the Weekend: Mountain Areas
Now Through Friday
Thanks to a screaming Jet Stream above us, ample amounts of Pacific moisture are funneling into Colorado. The Jet Stream provides energy and carries along moisture, and those two combined create snowfall. Also, the mountains of Colorado are so tall that they impact snow. Orographic lifting is when you get lift in the atmosphere due to the topography. All of these together will provide the mountains with a very big snowstorm.
We are expecting a ton of snow in Colorado over the next 48 hours. Why?— Andy Stein (@AndySteinWx) February 6, 2020
Our moisture source is coming all the way from Hawaii!
Look at that plume of moisture! #Colorado #PineappleExpress #WaterVapor #Weather #Satellite pic.twitter.com/ggnNeK6tOL
Steamboat, Howelsen Hill, Winter Park, Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Copper, Cooper, Aspen (All Mountains), Sunlight, and Monarch
All ski areas listed are under a Winter Storm Warning for 1-3 feet of snow. This will start overnight into Thursday morning and continue through Saturday morning. Northwest facing slopes may see significantly more snowfall than forecast due to the trajectory of the winds and that orographic lifting that was aforementioned.
Echo, Eldora, Powderhorn, Silverton, Wolf Creek, Telluride, Purgatory, Hesperus, Granby Ranch, and Kendall Mountain
All ski areas listed will be receiving snow in this period as well, but not advisory or warning criteria. Most areas can expect 2-8 inches of fresh snow over the next few days. Travel will be difficult, though it may not be as severe as areas in the Winter Storm Warning.
Early Next Week
There's a possible trough that will move into Colorado from the southwest. This means that snowfall totals will be more impressive in the southern mountains as compared to the northern mountains. Since there will be a decent amount of energy and moisture to contend with, snowfall totals are roughly looking to be in the 5- to 15-inch range for the southern mountains. Around 4-10 inches of additional accumulation could fall in the northern mountains during this time.
This will produce another round of slow travel conditions in the High Country. Plan accordingly.
Late Next Week
Long-range models are showing minor storm after minor storm continue almost day after day during this period. Most of these storms do not dump huge snow totals, but the consistency is what will allow for hefty snow totals to be present. This is rather far out to forecast specific totals, however, just anticipate winter driving conditions and fantastic skiing and riding conditions across the state.
Forecast Into the Weekend: Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins
Now Through Friday
Some snow may trickle into the Front Range by Thursday, but the majority of us won't see snow falling until after the evening commute. Snow will become widespread during the nighttime, and by the time we wake on Friday, it's likely we will have 1-3 inches of fresh snow on the ground. This will impact Friday morning's commute. Throughout the day on Friday, snow will vary in intensity, with most areas seeing some more minor accumulation on Friday. There's a high chance of seeing 1-3 inches, but a lower chance of seeing more than 6 inches of snow; the difference of 30 miles may make a huge difference in snow totals.
Heavy snow will continue in mountains thru Friday night. For the I-25 corridor & nearby plains, most areas will see 3-6" this evening, but narrow bands of intense snow could produce up to 10". Roadways will quickly become icy & snowpacked under these heavy snow bands. #cowx pic.twitter.com/0O0tz2zRBU— NWS Boulder (@NWSBoulder) February 6, 2020
Winter Weather Advisory
The National Weather Service in Boulder has issued a winter weather advisory for Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins for accumulating snow through Friday, so be ready for another slow commuting day. We have another chance of snow on Sunday and then a possible chance of snow in the middle of next week. Whoever did their snow dances, it's working!
Snowpack and Avalanche Risk
All of this will add to our above-average snowpack, but will also lead to an increased risk for avalanche danger for a prolonged period of time. Snowpack as of January 31, 2020, is sitting at 109 percent of average on a statewide level. Snowpack will likely go up, which is great news for those in the water industry, but bad news for those that are backcountry skiers.
Avalanche danger will be very high at certain times throughout the next few weeks. So far this season, there have been 12 people that have been caught in avalanches—four of those 12 people were fully buried in the avalanche and, unfortunately, two people have died as a result.
So when the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) issues an "avalanche watch," it needs to be taken seriously. An avalanche watch has been issued for the mountains near Steamboat to Gunnison and along the Continental Divide.
Watch this means is that you should "watch" out for avalanche conditions to increase in severity. With the heavy snow that's anticipated, the chance of an avalanche being triggered is higher.
The CAIC issued a statement warning those who may be out skiing or backcountry skiing that the additional snowfall will put stress on the snow:
"Many slopes will become dangerous today (Thursday) as a powerful winter storm impacts the region. Expect intense snowfall and high winds to form dangerous slabs many feet thick. Avoid steeper slopes as snowfall accumulates."
If you are planning on going out this week or this weekend, be sure to tell family and friends of your plans and try to get them as exact of a location as you can.
Enjoy the upcoming snow that we are about to see here in Colorado. If you want to stay updated on the snow report that's updated DAILY from the ski resorts themselves, sign up to receive the snow report email that you can modify to get sent to you when you'd like. You can find our resident meteorologist, Andy, on Facebook and Twitter for more weather and ski information across Colorado.
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