New Year’s Day storm expected to bring up to 12 inches of snow to Vail, Beaver Creek
Traveling this week?
Here are some tips from the Colorado Department of Transportation:
- Take it slow.
- Be ready for heavy traffic.
- Pack an emergency kit with water, snacks, chains or traction devices, sand, flares, jumper cables and blankets.
- Avoid driving during the height of a storm.
- Don’t trust your GPS for alternate routes.
- Go to www.cotrip.org or call 511 for updated traffic information.
EAGLE COUNTY — We may ring in the new year with some fresh, fairly deep powder.
A multi-day storm is forecast to hit this part of the Colorado mountains on Wednesday afternoon. According to Scott Stearns, a forecaster with the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service, that storm could drop between 12 and 24 inches of snow in higher elevations.
Snow is expected to start falling around 11 a.m. New Years Day, and then continue through late Friday night. Wednesday night is expected to have the most intense snowfall, followed by smaller showers Thursday and Friday. “The snow could be heavy at times,” according to the National Weather Service.
“This storm’s duration and temperatures all point to excellent powder quality (light and fluffy) from Thursday through Saturday.” according to Joel Gratz of OpenSnow.com.
Temperatures will be the warmest on New Years Day in the mid-20s, then will trickle into the teens as the storm continues, with lows reaching the single digits for late nights and early mornings.
Stearns said that jet stream has dropped just south of the Interstate 70 corridor. That’s allowing airflow — and moisture — to drop into Colorado from the Pacific Northwest.
Stearns said that means this area could see some “good, consistent” snowfall over the span of a few days. In fact, the National Weather Service Forecast for Vail predicts a 70% chance of snow on Wednesday, with an 80% chance on Thursday.
The forecast also calls for a “chance” of snow showers through Sunday.
Stearns said the jet stream will keep a favorable location for several days, allowing other disturbances to move through.
Cool temps persisting?
Meteorologists don’t predict the weather with confidence more than about seven days into the future. But the national Climate Prediction Center gives probability forecasts. The most recent of those forecasts, stretching from Jan. 7-13, calls for a chance of below-normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation for most of Colorado.
That’s all good news for skiers and boarders, but the forecast comes during some of the busiest travel days of the season.
The Colorado Department of Transportation Monday issued a warning for travelers, citing a forecast for snow and gusty winds from I-70 north.
That warning stretches to western and southwestern Colorado.
This winter so far has been fairly uneventful for car travel.
Margaret Bowes is the director of the I-70 Coalition, a nonprofit group of local governments and businesses along the corridor. Bowes said from what she’s seen, the main corridor from the Denver area to the mountains has been “working pretty well” so far this winter.
Part of that is due to fortunate timing.
“It seems like the storms we’ve had have come at off-peak times, generally,” Bowes said. A relatively dry spell in the weeks leading up to Christmas also helped keep weather complications to a minimum.
But this week’s storm is expected to hit full-force during some busy travel days. And, Bowes said, it can be hard to predict traffic patterns during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.
Check the conditions
The latter site usually provides updates on weekends, but also provides real-time updates during busy weeks.
Those updates could be valuable both eastbound and westbound over the next several days, Bowes said.
“There will be some powder-starved people heading up,” she said.
In response, the transportation department puts snowplow drivers on 12-hour shifts during forecast storms. In the event of major storms, the department can bring in plows and drivers from other regions.
“It’s a priority for (the department) to do what they can,” Bowes said. “They’re doing what they can with the resources they have.”
Off the highway, Eagle County Aviation Director David Reid wrote in an email that people at the Eagle County Regional Airport are keeping a close watch on the sky.
Monitoring forecasts allows crews to develop a plan and put equipment, material and people in place to handle the snowfall.
“Many times, we will schedule our snow removal teams for an early morning start and not wait for the actual conditions to get bad to start removal operations,” Reid wrote. If the forecast calls for snow over an extended time, crews will rotate in and out.
Reid added that if crews can’t keep up with heavy precipitations, the runway will be closed if conditions are deemed unsafe for takeoffs or landings.
Vail Daily Digital Engagement Editor Sean Naylor contributed to this story. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram @vail_naylzz.Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com or 970-748-2930.