"Big change’ in the weather in store | VailDaily.com

"Big change’ in the weather in store

Stephen Lloyd Wood
Special to the Daily/National Weather ServiceA cold front is expected to barrel through Colorado today, bringing colder, breezy conditions. Moisture from the Pacific is expected by Friday, with a 30 percent chance of snow through the weekend.

In what’s become a tradition of sorts, at least in the Vail Valley, a cold front is expected to sweep through today, bringing colder temperatures – and maybe even snow – by the time trick-or-treating begins on Friday. Cold temperatures and possible snow showers should continue through the weekend.

“The main weather story will be the wind, especially Wednesday night and Thursday. We’re not quite sure how this front is going to push into Colorado,”Jim Daniels, a general forecaster with the National Weather Forecast in Grand Junction, said Tuesday. “Snow might reach down to Interstate 70 and further south and put the central mountains into some colder air. And it may be staying through Halloween, with a break, then another chance of snow showers coming on Sunday.”

Typical pattern

Daniels said a high-pressure system has been dominating the West for most of October – a typical phenomenon – bringing warm temperatures and dry conditions. Forecasts predict that weather pattern is about to change drastically, however – as it often does this time of year – with colder temperatures coming for the entire Rocky Mountains region. Moisture from the Pacific is expected with it, Daniels said, increasing the chance for snow.

Partly cloudy conditions with winds between 25 and 35 mph and temperatures in the 50s today are expected to give way to gusts of 50 mph or more this evening and temperatures in the 20s with a 20 percent chance of snow showers, according to the service’s four-day forecast.

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The possibility of snow showers continues at 20 percent Thursday, with highs in the 40s and lows in the teens. Friday is expected to be breezy, with the chance for snow showers increasing to 30 percent with highs in the 30s.

Temperatures Friday night, Halloween, are expected to be in the teens and 20s. And cold temperatures, with a 30 percent chance for snow, are forecast for the weekend.

Fire up the snowguns

Of course the local ski resorts, which for weeks have planned to begin snowmaking operations this weekend, see the forecast as very good news. After all, Loveland Ski Area opened for the season Tuesday – albeit with one ski run covered with manmade snow.

“I’m 100 percent sure we’ll begin snowmaking operations late Friday night. You take advantage of cold periods, put the pedal to the metal and go,”

said Bill Jensen, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain. “It’s a historical trend the first snow of the winter season comes on Halloween, and this year is no different.”

A private weather service used by Vail Resorts and other ski areas, Jensen said, is far more aggressive with its forecast than the National Weather Service, predicting “a powerful storm” that could bring “well over a foot of snow” to parts of Utah and Colorado by Sunday, with a longer-range outlook calling for a possible “early start to winter” and “good ski conditions” in parts of the West.

“We’re certainly optimistic about Nov. 21 as our opening date,” Jensen added.

“Ready to go full-blast’

At Beaver Creek, where snowmaking has been underway for several days on lower Strawberry Park and on Haymeadow, operations also are expected to shift into high gear at other locations late Friday night or early Saturday morning. Opening day there is scheduled for Nov. 22, a day later than Vail Mountain.

“We’re ready to go full-blast, it looks like for at least four or five days,” said Jimmy Roberts, Beaver Creek’s director of mountain operations. “We’ll keep going if it stays cold enough.”

Roberts said November is a transitional month for ski resorts, as cold, dry temperatures often give way to warmer air ladened with moisture.

“The rule of thumb for snowmakers is: “When it’s snowing, it’s warm; cold and dry is good snowmaking weather.’

“November is typically a night operation,” he added. “But we’ll never turn anything down.”

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