What will be the most powder-tastic resort this week in the Roaring Fork Valley? Forecasts point to Sunlight

Andrew Maciejewski
Summit Daily
A Sunlight Mountain ski patroller rides down the mountain on Friday.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

While the past two major storm systems dropped significant amounts of snow in a relatively uniform fashion across Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the storm that is currently approaching isn’t as cut and dry.

In the Roaring Fork Valley, Sunlight Mountain Resort earned the most snow badge with 18 inches over the weekend. The snow is likely to get even deeper at Sunlight, with 17 inches possible Wednesday through Saturday. Snowmass is next in line with a forecast 12 inches followed by Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain with 10 inches each and Buttermilk with 8 inches.

Intense snow should fall in the southern mountains from Tuesday night into Wednesday evening, with snow totals expected to range from 1 to 2 feet. 

“For the central and northern mountains, some snow showers will make it to this area with some snow accumulation possible on Tuesday and Wednesday,” OpenSnow founder and lead meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote in his daily blog on Monday. “The wind direction from the south and southwest is not favorable for these mountains, but moisture and storm energy should stream over the area and fuel some accumulating snow.”

Things should pick up Thursday, however, according to OpenSnow reports. The National Weather Service (NWS) says snow should pick up Wednesday night and last through Sunday, according to a hazardous weather outlook published Monday. 

NWS meteorologists say Wednesday night and Saturday bring the best chance of snow for areas in the central and northern regions of the Rocky Mountains. 

“For the central and northern mountains, there will be a decent chance for 2-8+ inches of snow from later on Wednesday through Thursday as the flow of wind switches to a somewhat more favorable west-southwest or west direction,” Gratz wrote.

There isn’t much confidence in the forecasts beyond Thursday, but he said the trends seem to favor the southern mountains, although snow will fall in other areas of the state. 

As far as the long range forecast, things are expected to be relatively dry once this next storm cycles moves through. 

After a one-day reprieve from flurries on Monday, major water basins in the state finally hit average after a below-average start to the season. At one point, the state was in the 8th percentile for the snowpack’s snow-water equivalent, which is how much water content is currently being held in pockets of snow across the state. 

The Upper Colorado Headwaters basin, which includes most of Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, and Grand counties, is currently at 100% of the 30-year median for snowpack. Other areas, like the Yampa and White basin are currently sitting at 96% of the 30-year-median. 

Statewide data shows snowpack levels hovering around 91% of the 30-year median with about 62 days until the state’s snow reserves hit their highest point historically. 

According to the NWS’ long-range forecasts, Colorado’s mountains can expect above-average precipitation, but long-range temperatures will fluctuate between above-average and below-average depending on the week. The only long-range forecast that says Colorado won’t see above-average precipitation is the three-month outlook. 

While things are expected to dry out a bit after Sunday, Gratz said there’s still a potential for flurries to surprise mountain residents. 

“The longer-range forecast models show hints of storms now and again, with perhaps lesser snow amounts with any storms between Feb. 12-17, and the potential for a lot of moisture and greater snow amounts targeting the southern mountains sometime around or just after the President’s Day weekend/holiday,” he wrote. 

A graph shows how this year’s snow water equivalent, which is the amount of water trapped in the snowpack, compares to the 30-year median.
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