The snowpack in Colorado has taken a hit recently due to the lack of snow through January and early February. The incoming storm should restore snowpack numbers close to average and hopefully prime the mountains as we head into spring.
Current snowpack across the state is close to 80% of normal but when you look at each basin individually, you’ll notice that some are faring better than others. The Arkansas basin has the least snowpack and is currently at 64% of average for the date. This particular basin hasn’t been as directly impacted by storms this season as the other basins have. The Gunnison basin on the other hand has fared very well this season. Although the snowpack has dwindled there just as quickly as neighboring basins, the Gunnison basin started January with a snowpack near 140% of average. So they had a great cushion.
All basins will get a boost in snowpack numbers by the end of this week as the forecast calls for snow to fall at varying intensities for at least three days straight. The overwhelming majority of mountain ski areas should end this week with at least a foot of fresh snow — if not very close to that.
A large trough is sitting over the western U.S. bringing cold and snow to many mountain locations. For Colorado, this trough has already brought snow to the high mountains and more snow will spread throughout the state through Tuesday morning. A big factor of this trough is its location and where it’s going. It’s sitting over the Great Basin of Nevada and it’s not expected to move very much for a few days.
With this type of storm in the location it is, southwest winds will bring a continuous stream of moisture to our state and that means that locations within the San Juans can expect a very hefty snowstorm this week. But all of Colorado will see snow from this storm and even in the central and northern mountains, more than a foot of snow is looking likely. There will be a few embedded pockets of energy that will circle around the parent storm which will bring periods of heavy snow.
Something else to watch with this storm will be the potential for banded snow. Banded snow is areas of intense, heavy snow embedded within areas of light to moderate snow. Areas that are impacted by banded snow could easily pick up several inches of snow in an hour’s time and thanks to the slow movement of this storm, the potential for banded snow lasts from Tuesday to Wednesday night across Colorado.
Overall, there will be two times to watch for impacts from heavy snow. That will be from Monday night to Tuesday morning. Then again from Tuesday night to Wednesday night. Light snow will continue for some mountains Thursday.
Here’s a look at potential snowfall totals through Thursday for mountain locations.
Steamboat Springs: 8-16 inches
Winter Park: 8-16 inches
Breckenridge: 10-18 inches
Aspen: 10-16 inches
Vail: 10-17 inches
Crested Butte: 14-20 inches
Monarch: 7-15 inches
Telluride: 10-20 inches
Purgatory: 12-24+ inches
Wolf Creek: 20-40+ inches
Snow will undoubtedly be heaviest near Wolf Creek but as you can see, lots of snow will fall widespread across the state so road conditions will be tough no matter where you go. This is also a rather cold storm so snow levels will be down to valley floors meaning that no matter whether you’re on a county road or a major interstate, you’re going to run into issues.
Here is the forecast snow potential for several mountain towns by Thursday morning.
Granby: 4-6 inches
Fairplay: 6-8 inches
Estes Park: 6-8 inches
Buena Vista: 6-8 inches
Silverthorne: 6-10 inches
Glenwood Springs: 8-12 inches
Grand Junction: 4-6 inches
Montrose: 4-6 inches
Gunnison: 4-6 inches
Alamosa: 2-3 inches
Durango: 12-18 inches
Pagosa Springs: 12-18 inches
Here’s an idea of road impacts that are expected between now and Thursday. If you have travel plans anywhere highlighted in orange, red or purple, expect notable delays at times.
The forecast calls for I-70 from Denver to Grand Junction to get anywhere between 4 and 20 inches with the highest amounts near the Eisenhower Tunnel and Vail Pass and the lower amounts near Denver and Grand Junction. Make sure you are ready for winter driving conditions statewide this week.
This snow will be very good for our snowpack. Values should rise to near normal numbers by the end of the week which will be a great way to end February. March and April usually deliver big storms to Colorado so starting this period with a healthy snowpack is good news as we approach peak snowpack season.
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