Wednesday morning’s snow totals are DEEP (10-30 dense inches) in the southern mountains and the snow will continue there on Wednesday. Other mountains saw snow start on Tuesday night and snow will continue through Wednesday night. Snow totals from Wednesday morning through Thursday morning will be 5-20 inches, there will be times of strong winds, and the snow quality should get lighter and fluffier through the day. Enjoy the powder on Wednesday, and Thursday morning could be deep in spots where lifts do not open on Wednesday or where additional snow falls Wednesday night. Following the storm, we’ll see about a one week break in the snow, then expect light snow late next week and perhaps a stormy final 7 days of March.
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Short Term Forecast
Recap from Monday & Tuesday
The southern mountains received a LOT of snow from Sunday night through Wednesday morning. This was dense, thicker snow due to warm temperatures, but that doesn’t take away from the impressive totals!
Below, the first number is the 24 hour total from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning. The second number is the 48 hour total going back to Monday morning.
Silverton: 30” / 42”
Wolf Creek: 19” / 41”
Telluride: 19” (includes snow from Tue 400am-800am) / 26”
Purgatory: 14” / 27”
This is a going to be a stormy day across the state.
To start, morning totals are deep in the southern mountains (see above) and most other central and northern mountains received 2-6 inches on Tuesday night with an exception at Powderhorn (far western Colorado) where they picked up 12 inches due to a north-south band of snow that set up on the backside of the storm.
During the early morning around sunrise, snow is continuing or filling in so there will be more snow to ski during first chair than what you see on the 500am snow report. Also, the snow that you’ll find this morning will be thick due to the warm temperatures.
The big story of the day is the near record-strength storm that will form over eastern Colorado and western Kansas.
Below is the NAM-WRF 3km model forecast radar from Wednesday morning through Thursday morning. This nicely shows how the storm spins up (winds rotating counter-clockwise) over eastern Colorado, wrapping snow around into Colorado, and then the storm tracks to the northeast with snow waning here in Colorado by Thursday morning.
This will be when we’ll see the most snow and times of strongest winds.
While the wind direction often matters the most when we think about what mountains will get the most snow, in this case, the storm energy will be the driver to lift the air and create snow, and since the storm will start in Colorado, most mountains should see plenty of energy, which will result in plenty of snow.
Most models show 8-12+ inches through the day on Wednesday. Expect conditions to get deeper through the day, and the snow should become fluffier by afternoon as cold air moves in. The only wrinkles in the day are that winds will increase which could result in lift closures, and some roads could close due accidents that take place in low-visibility conditions and also as avalanche danger increases.
The snow forecast maps below are from the CAIC WRF 2km model.
The storm will quickly move east of Colorado, but snow will continue as moisture and energy linger.
A north and northwest wind should favor areas near the northern divide, near I-70, and the northern San Juans (Telluride and Silverton).
I think an additional 3-6 inches is a good bet for many areas on Wednesday night after lifts close.
The upside potential is that as temperatures cool, a little moisture can turn into fluffy snowflakes and this can increase snow amounts.
The downside potential is that moisture will be decreasing quickly, and this could limit snow totals.
Light snow should linger in the morning, though accumulations likely be light, just a few additional inches before noon, if that.
Thursday morning has a chance to be fantastic IF some lifts do not open on Wednesday and/or if at least 3-6 inches of fluffy snow falls on Wednesday evening after lifts close.
Amounts from Wednesday morning through Thursday morning should be 10-20 inches for most mountains with a few less favored spots in the 5-10 inch range.
Overall, a great storm for snow in the mountains, an amazing storm to watch scientifically due to the rapid formation and eventual strength of the system, and I hope that folks on Colorado's eastern plains stay safe during the 5-10 hours of blizzard conditions on Wednesday including snow and wind gusts over 60mph.
Friday through next Monday should be dry.
There will be a chance for a few showers during the middle of next week, and then we might see a weak southern storm later next week, around Thursday, March 21 – Friday, March 22.
After that, there is a good chance for multiple storms starting sometime during the weekend of March 23-24 or early the following week. This means that the final 7 days of March could trend back to snowy/stormy weather.
Yesterday via email, I received a touching tribute to Hans Berg, the frequent OpenSnow commenter who died in an avalanche last week.
"He was valedictorian of our high school. Full ride scholarship to the University of Michigan Engineering. Great job with a bright future, but he was like a caged animal when he was trapped in an office for a few years back in Detroit. In his late 20's he left it all behind for a simple life in the mountains. Living life the way it should be lived.
He was truly one of a kind. They broke the mold when this guy was born. As you know, a total weather nut. The only person I know that literally planned their life around a forecast. In fact, I would often text him to confirm that my ski plans were optimal.
Berg's energy and sense of adventure were contagious. The kid will be missed by many."
- Scott Miller, a friend of Hans since grade school in Ann Arbor, Michigan
Thanks for reading.
My next update will be on Thursday morning.
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