Sorely needed dump of fresh snow headed for Colorado ski areas

A storm system that has been tracked anxiously by powder-starved skiers and snowboarders for days is shaping up with the potential to deliver “significant” mountain snowfall across the high country, according to the OpenSnow mountain forecasting and tracking service.

Most resorts can expect 6-12 inches overnight Thursday into Friday morning, according to OpenSnow founding meteorologist Joel Gratz, and some areas could see more than 20 inches.

“This storm will help our snowpack and more terrain should open,” Gratz wrote in his daily forecast on Wednesday. “This storm by itself won’t get our snowpack back to average (we’re currently around 50% of average), but at least it’ll keep us from setting a low-snowpack record (for now).”

Wolf Creek could be the big winner with OpenSnow forecasting 26 inches there. Other big dumps are forecast for Powderhorn and Steamboat (22 inches), Crested Butte (21 inches), Telluride (19 inches), Purgatory (18 inches), Beaver Creek (17 inches) Snowmass (16 inches) and Vail (14 inches). Summit County resorts — Loveland, Winter Park and Eldora — can expect 5-8 inches.

“While the timing is still in flux, the most intense snow should be between about Thursday at midnight through Friday between sunrise and noon,” Gratz wrote. “During some of this time, we’ll see snowfall rates of 1-2 inches per hour thanks to a combination of a lot of moisture, a cold front at the ground, and the jet stream overhead. The cold front and the jet stream act to lift the moist air and turn the moisture into snow. On Thursday night into Friday morning, the cold front will help all mountains see intense snow and temperatures will rapidly drop into the single digits on Friday morning.”

Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Cooper have confirmed they will open for the season on Saturday.

Just in time for the fresh snow this weekend, CDOT resumes its weekend Snowstang bus service to Loveland, Arapahoe Basin and Steamboat Springs on Saturday. New this year, Snowstang also will serve Copper Mountain. Buses to Steamboat leave Saturday morning and return Sunday, requiring an overnight stay. Service to Loveland, Arapahoe Basin and Copper runs Saturdays and Sundays.

The roundtrip cost is $25 to Loveland, Arapahoe Basin and Copper Mountain. The roundtrip cost for Steamboat is $40. Snowstang was inaugurated the winter of 2019-2020 but was suspended last winter because of COVID.

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