Winter storm warning Saturday through noon Sunday
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – There’s a winter storm warning that reads more like a dream come true for local skiers and snowboarders – “significant snow,” it says.
“We’ve been enjoying flurries of snow throughout the day here in Vail,” wrote Vail Mountain on its Facebook fan page. “Hoping it’s just a taste of things to come!”
Unfortunately, the forecast also calls for high winds and blowing snow, but powder forecaster Joel Gratz, a meteorologist based in Boulder who runs the website opensnow.com, said most of the wind will blow through Saturday evening and should slow down after midnight and into Sunday.
The new storm track that kicked into gear earlier this week is showing a lot of potential for powder in Vail and Beaver Creek’s future. The storm heading in later Saturday could bring up to a foot of fresh snow to the area.
Warmer temperatures during the day might mean rain for the lower elevations, but a cold front should move in by the night and turn everything to snow, Gratz said.
“I am finally excited because it’s actually going to snow, for real,” Gratz said of Saturday night’s storm.
Vail Mountain reported 10 inches Tuesday morning, while Beaver Creek reported 9 inches. Tuesday’s powder day, however, was followed by high winds on Wednesday that did some damage to the new snow. By Thursday, there was a light rain/snow coming down that didn’t do much for conditions, but by Friday morning a softer layer had formed due to light snow Thursday night.
The National Weather Service’s winter storm warning calls for 8 to 16 inches, with drifts as high as 4 feet.
Southwest winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 70 miles per hour, are possible this afternoon and into the evening. The winds should diminish Saturday night into Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
“Snow and blowing snow may be heavy at times as the cold front passes late Saturday afternoon and through the evening,” the warning reads. “Periods of white-out conditions will be possible. In addition, valley areas will see rain develop during the afternoon, changing over to snow as the front passes.”
Gratz said to get really good powder conditions at the ski resorts and in the backcountry, you need the right temperatures combined with a lot of moisture and low winds.
“Saturday night we’ll have a ton of moisture, and will eventually have the right temperatures – two really good things,” he said.
Gratz expects the snow to start out heavy and dense, but as it gets cooler and the wind abates, the snow should get lighter and fluffier, he said.
There’s another system moving into the area Monday night and maybe into Tuesday, Gratz said, but he’s not confident it will produce much accumulation. Later next week and into next week look dry.
“But models are hinting that toward the end of January we could be back into a little snowier time,” Gratz said, adding that he doesn’t trust long-range models nearly as much as models for just a few days out.
“After the snow this weekend, even a couple of fresh inches on top should make it ski well,” he said. “… At least the (storm) pattern is better.”
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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