Five Colorado resorts expecting at least 20 inches of snow over Presidents Day weekend

Five Colorado resorts are expecting to receive 20 inches or more of new snow over the Presidents Day weekend, the second weekend in a row that powder has been plentiful in the high country.

Skiers and riders beware, though: Traffic is bound to be extremely heavy on Interstate 70 because of the holiday, and some areas are going to be bitterly cold on Sunday.

The Presidents Day weekend is typically the second-busiest traffic weekend of the year, as measured by vehicles traveling through the Eisenhower-Johnson tunnels, behind only the Fourth of July weekend. By comparison, the Martin Luther King Day weekend typically ranks fifth or sixth.

Wolf Creek can expect 31 inches of snow over the next five days, according to the OpenSnow reporting and forecasting service, with Steamboat right behind at 30. Purgatory, Powderhorn and Silverton are predicted to receive 20 inches. Other big winners will be Crested Butte (19), Telluride (18) and Snowmass (16).

Totals will be lower at Front Range areas but still significant. Summit County areas are expecting 8-9 inches, Vail and Beaver Creek 11-12, Winter Park 10 and Eldora 13.

Related: Lots of snow led to lift lines last weekend that were “the worst I’ve ever seen.”

The polar air mass that is expected to bring frigid temperatures to metro Denver will affect some resorts. High temperatures of 10 degrees or colder are predicted for Sunday at Arapahoe Basin, Ski Cooper, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Keystone, Loveland, Monarch, Steamboat and Winter Park.

Last year more than 182,000 vehicles traveled through the Eisenhower-Johnson Tunnels over the Presidents Day weekend. On four-day holiday weekends like this one, traffic typically begins to build Friday afternoon because some people work half days before heading to the hills, and it can run heavy well into Friday evening. Based on patterns in previous years, traffic should be lighter Friday morning.

CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson suggests getting through Golden by 6:30 a.m. the other three days of the weekend to miss the worst of traffic backups. Here are some other figures to consider:

Vehicle traffic at the Eisenhower-Johnson tunnels, Presidents Day Weekend 2020

Friday: westbound 23,543, eastbound 12,812

Saturday: westbound 28,388, eastbound 21,716

Sunday: westbound 19,557, eastbound 24,213

Monday: westbound 16,482, eastbound 28,006

Wilson also provided January comparison figures for 2021 and 2020 at the tunnels. Traffic was down 7.8% this year in January. In December, it was down 8.9%. The declines likely reflect ski area pandemic restrictions, including the requirement for reservations at some areas, and poor early season snow.

The long-range forecast looks good for more snow after the weekend.

“Following a short break in the snow on Monday, the next storm should bring snow to all mountains from later on Monday through Tuesday, and the flakes may continue to fall into Wednesday and Thursday,” OpenSnow meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote in his forecast issues Thursday morning. “After that, we could see another storm around February 21-22. In the longer-range, most models show a pretty active storm track over the northwest and the northern Rockies through the end of February.”

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