EAGLE COUNTY - Vail Mountain opens in less than two weeks, and so far the weather forecasts have shown the likelihood for mostly man-made snow on Opening Day to be pretty high.
But a shift in the pattern could change that, with one storm in sight that is expected to bring snow to the area, according to Meteorologist Joel Gratz, who runs the site opensnow.com.
Gratz, who follows the weather mostly for the purpose of forecasting powder days, is watching several weather models and knows a storm will hit Colorado Friday through Sunday, but there's no certainty yet on how the storm will evolve.
"What I do know is that after another week of warm temperatures and dry skies, it's going to get much colder starting on Friday night, and most of the state will see snow on-and-off from Friday night through Sunday," Gratz wrote in his latest forecast update on Sunday.
What he doesn't know, however, is whether the most snow will fall in the southern San Juan Mountains or further north.
And, more importantly for powder enthusiasts, the weather models aren't certain in determining if this storm is the beginning of a changed weather pattern.
"... The models are split concerning if this storm is an isolated event or if the weather pattern will stay snowy through next week. A more southern storm-track this weekend might produce more snow, but it also might signal a one-and-done type of storm," Gratz wrote. "On the flip side, a more northern storm-track might produce less total snow from this weekends storm, but it could also allow a more consistent flow of colder air and snow to continue next week."
The National Weather Service shows the cold front pushing through central Utah on Friday and then through western Colorado on Friday night and into Saturday morning.
The National Weather Service forecast shows most of the moisture over the northern two-thirds of the forecast area, which includes Vail. Another model shows a broader forecast area for moisture, covering southwest Colorado and southeast Utah.
The National Weather Service forecast for the month of November shows Colorado in a zone likely for above-average temperatures. The southern part of the state is in a zone with below-average precipitation forecasted, but the northern part of the state - including Vail - shows equal chances for either above-average precipitation or below-average precipitation.
Gratz likes to forecast specific storms as they near rather than try to predict weather too far in advance - weather models just aren't reliable when talking about weather events a couple of weeks or more away.
On Friday, Gratz said it's too early to say if next weekend's storm signals a pattern change "to snowier times or if this is just a one-dump event."
"Hopefully we'll see a few more storms heading toward Colorado from the Pacific Northwest, but the models are oscillating back and forth whether this will happen or not, so I'd rather not speculate and instead take it one storm at a time," Gratz wrote in his forecast.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.