Winter storm warning issued for Vail, Eagle County
10-16 inches of snow in the forecast, with more storms on the way
It’s beginning to look a lot like (a white) Christmas, as the National Weather Service will issue a Winter Storm Watch at 11 a.m. Thursday to mark the first of five storms forecast to hit Eagle County before the new year. Locals and visitors can expect snowy conditions on the mountain Christmas morning, while those who haven’t made it here yet should anticipate hazardous road conditions, low visibility and I-70 closures (especially in high-mountain areas like Vail Pass and the Eisenhower Tunnel).
“Snow is likely to begin Thursday afternoon in the High Country, though much of it may melt on roadways before sunset,” The National Weather Service in Grand Junction announced via its Facebook page. “Snow lingers through Christmas morning with more storms lined up beyond this.”
OpenSnow.com currently forecasts 9 inches to fall on both Beaver Creek and Vail on Christmas Eve, another 5 inches on Christmas Day, and then various amounts of snow accumulation throughout the following six days. Overall, the app estimates 19-20 inches of accumulation at both mountains over the next five days and an additional 14-15 inches to fall by New Year’s Eve.
“Wednesday will be the last fully dry day in Colorado for a while,” founding meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote on his blog.
More snow means more terrain
While both of our local resorts have less than 50% of their terrain currently open, all signs point towards that changing in the coming days.
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“I would be shocked if most mountains weren’t mostly open in the next week or two,” Gratz wrote. “This is an exciting storm cycle. We need the snow to open more terrain and to add to our water supply, and the next 7-10 days are going to deliver.”
Earlier this week, Vail Mountain announced the opening of the Riva Bahn Express (Lift No. 6), Gopher Hill chair (Lift No. 12) and Cascade Village chair (Lift No. 20). Beaver Creek announced that the Bachelor Gulch and Strawberry Park areas are now open. Those coming in from the town of Avon can now access the mountain via the Westin Gondola, though they will still need to exit the mountain via shuttle as Leave the Beav’ has not opened and the Lower Beaver Creek Express is not downloadable.
Furthermore, should Vail Pass close westbound, as it did during the last big snowstorm that hit Eagle County, the ones already here may benefit from reduced crowds and more space to play on the slopes.
Be careful in the backcountry
For those getting their powder turns outside of resort boundaries, officials are urging extra caution for avalanche hazards in the backcountry. With all the new snow accumulating atop a weak fall snowpack, avalanches will be easier to trigger and breaking wider.
“New snow and the holiday weekend will provide a much needed outlet for all sorts of powderhounds, but we also expect high (Level 4 of 5) avalanche danger on Friday,” said Ethan Greene, director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, in an announcement on Wednesday.
“We recommend people avoid traveling on or under steep snow-covered slopes during periods of high avalanche danger. We want to make sure people get out, have some fun, but get home safe to spend time with their families.”
CAIC urges backcountry skiers to check the avalanche forecast before their trip by visiting Colorado.gov/avalanche.