A powerful winter storm is expected to spread from the northwest and through the Rockies next week and produce massive snowfall that will be a welcome sight for snow enthusiasts and an early season boon for ski resorts. Snowfall totals could be measured in feet rather than inches.
Some of the largest snow accumulations are expected to be somewhere near the corridors of Wyoming’s US Hwy 25 and US Hwy 26, where 1-2 feet of snow and a 30-inch AccuWeather Local StormMax ™ is possible.
This can turn into a race to see which of Colorado’s ski resorts can open for the ski season first, as snowpack and temperatures low enough to start snowmobiles are expected. In recent years, Arapahoe Basin, Loveland and Keystone ski resorts have generally been among the first to open to the public, and it could still be this year.
There will be adverse weather conditions to deal with in the West before the larger storm system arrives. Mother Nature has apparently flipped a switch in the West, as parts of the region went from a dry state for a long time to several storms in the span of a week.
Daily risks of rain and snow in the mountains will occur in the west until the middle of next week. Las Vegas observed its first measurable precipitation since September 12 on Friday morning, just like Fresno, California. Fresno’s dry spell extended into spring, with Friday’s precipitation being the first measurable rain since April 25.
The volatile weather will move towards the central Rockies by Saturday, bringing more clouds than sun and a chance for rainy weather in places like Salt lake city and Grand Junction, Colorado. A lack of cold air in place should keep snow levels well above the treeline on most of the mountains in these areas, but a picturesque contrast between snow-capped mountain tops and yellow aspens is possible, where the leaves have not yet fallen.
With the exception of a few persistent showers in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, conditions will set in in the Rockies during the day Sunday as the area will be largely between storms. The calm weather won’t last long, however, as the next storm targeting the western United States will focus on the Pacific Northwest early next week.
Wet weather is likely in Seattle and Portland on Sunday as the next storm arrives; however, the main event is expected to occur in the interior parts of the West early next week.
The storm is expected to plunge deep into the Four Corners region between Monday and next Tuesday, routing cold air through the Rocky Mountains. The low pressure system will also be able to draw moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, creating a recipe for a strong winter storm.
Snow levels will likely be the lowest of the season so far, which could prove inconvenient for travelers along mountain pass routes early next week. Some of the most difficult travel spots next Monday will likely be in parts of Idaho, southwestern Montana, and northwestern Wyoming. Traveling along Interstate 15 and 90 will likely face wet conditions in lower valleys and on snow-covered roads in higher areas. Travel in and around Yellowstone National Park can also be difficult.
Winter weather will likely continue in many of these locations until Tuesday as the storm builds up. By Tuesday, Utah’s Wasatch Range, the Colorado Rockies and the mountainous terrain of Wyoming will all line up to see snowfall pile up. It is not excluded that many ski resorts in this general region may receive 3 to 6 inches of snow or more between Tuesday and Wednesday.
AccuWeather meteorologists currently believe the heaviest snow will fall in Wyoming from this storm. Strong wind gusts occurring concurrently with snowfall can also produce blizzard conditions sometimes from Tuesday evening to Wednesday. Travel along US Highway 26 between Casper and Riverton, Wyoming, could be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Further south, the first wet flakes of the season are possible in Fort-Collins, Rock and maybe the western suburbs of Denver Tuesday evening. No significant build-up is expected east of the Colorado Front Range on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The storm is expected to start clearing from the interior of the Rockies by Wednesday, with wet snowflakes forecast for only a few places along the Front Range. Snow conditions along or east of the Front Range are expected to be well north of metro Denver, possibly in Wyoming.
While snow conditions will ease for the most part, the winter cold will continue in the wake of the storm in the west. This can give some ski resorts an extra chance to get rid of rust from snow machines and get them started for their respective opening days.
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