Vail Valley could see a lot of weekend snow
The storm is predicted to hit hardest on the Front Range
Snow is predicted for much of the state over the weekend, and transportation officials are urging travelers to be at their destinations by Friday evening.
Weather forecasters for the past few days have been watching a large system roll into the U.S. from the Pacific Ocean. That system, packing low pressure, is expected to hit the mountains with a good bit of snow. But the Front Range, particularly areas west of Interstate 25, could receive the most moisture from the storm.
Forecasters predict that areas in the foothills and mountains east of the Continental Divide could receive feet of snow, depending on the location.
Norv Larson, a forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, said Thursday it was still a bit early to see exactly where the storm is tracking. But, he added, this system “has all the earmarks of what could be a quite interesting storm,” with “significant” snowfall.
Larson said while the storm could bring substantial snowfall to higher elevations in the western part of the state, the valleys may only see 3 to 6 inches.
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The potential for a big storm, particularly east of the divide, has Colorado Department of Transportation crews either already deployed or ready for action.
Department spokeswoman Elise Thatcher said there are no plow drivers under COVID-19 quarantine in either Eagle or Summit counties. That means crews can plow highways locally, with enough personnel on hand to move into areas east of the Eisenhower Johnson tunnels if needed.
The department is “prepared to have an emergency response system in place so we can quickly and easily deploy people to the right places,” Thatcher said.
The storm has also boosted reservations at some local hotels. Kristen Pryor, general manager of the Westin Riverfront Resort in Avon, said people have been calling to book rooms, of course. Some are cutting short their stays, while others are booking extra nights if possible.
“We expect to be full this weekend — and into next week,” Pryor said.
As the storm subsides — probably by Monday or so, Thatcher said department crews will work on avalanche mitigation along highways. Motorists need to be prepared for possible delays, she said.
In addition, Thatcher urges those who plan to head into the backcountry to be careful where they park.
Motorists will sometimes park in snowplow turnaround areas, or in snow storage zones, Thatcher said.
“If there isn’t room for you to park, it’s probably a little crowded” in that backcountry area, Thatcher said, advising people to have a plan B available.
Spencer Logan, a forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said avalanche conditions will change around the state over the next several days, depending on how much snow falls in different locations.
If the forecasts hold up, “We’re going to see pretty significant snow across most of our mountains,” Logan said.
Those planning to head into the backcountry this weekend need to anticipate and plan in advance, he added.
Logan said the region’s past few snowfalls have varied in how fresh snow bonds with existing snowpack. Some areas have bonded well, while others haven’t, creating potentially dangerous conditions.
“It’s a good time to understand, or understand the limitations of your (backcountry) knowledge,” Logan said. “This may not be a great weekend to head into the backcountry.”
Here’s the National Weather Service forecast for Vail:
Friday: A 50% to 60% chance of rain/snow showers. High temperature, 42 degrees.
Saturday: 100% chance of rain, then snow. High, 38.
Sunday: 90% chance of snow showers. High, 33.
Monday: Slight chance of snow showers. High, 39.