Wednesday night brought intense snow to areas east of the divide with double-digit totals in the Denver area, 6 inches at Eldora, and 1-4 inches for other less favored mountains. On Thursday we'll see dry weather with a few showers over the south. The next storm from Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon will deliver 3-10 inches to the northern and central mountains.
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Short Term Forecast
Wednesday was a dry day across the state.
Then on Wednesday night, snow ramped up quickly east of the divide with intense snow falling in the greater Denver metro area for most of the night. Intense snow also fell in the foothills just west of the city, and then accumulations lightened the farther west you went toward the divide and west of the divide.
Going into this storm, we were thinking 5-10 inches for the foothills, 3-7 inches for Eldora and Rocky Mountain National Park, and 0-3 inches for areas near and west of the divide.
Below are the actual totals as of Thursday morning:
8-15" Denver Metro
4-5" Rocky Mountain National Park
3-4" Beaver Creek
1-2" Most Northern & Central Mountains
The deepest ski area total of 6-7" can be verified by looking at the Eldora snow stake cam.
Overall the Wednesday night forecast worked out rather well. As people that like to slide downhill on snow, we would like to see more snow fall on the mountains compared to the city. But Colorado is an arid state, and getting moisture to fall from the sky is a great thing even if it falls on the flatlands and doesn't produce a mountain powder day at most spots.
Thursday will be mostly dry as the storm from Wednesday night moves away. Snow showers could linger for the southeastern and southern mountains during the day.
The next storm will bring snow from Friday afternoon through Saturday afternoon. We should feel pretty lucky to see snow during this time because just a few days ago it looked like the storm would track around Colorado rather than through Colorado which would have led to less snow.
The latest forecasts now keep a lot of the storm's energy tracking through Colorado and total accumulations should be 3-10 inches between Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon. Snow could start falling on Friday a little earlier than afternoon and snow showers could linger beyond Saturday afternoon into Saturday evening, though I think that the majority of the snow will fall between about Friday lift closing time and Saturday lift closing time.
Most models show that the most snow will fall in the central and northern mountains, roughly from Aspen north to I-70 and north to the Wyoming border. The map above shows precipitation and we can multiply by about 15 to estimate snowfall.
The wind direction during this storm will mostly be from the west and this could favor the Aspen area, Beaver Creek, the higher elevations of Summit County (Copper, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin, Loveland), perhaps along the divide around Berthoud Pass, Eldora, and Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as Steamboat.
The bottomline is that the best powder will likely be on Saturday with at least some fresh snow to start the day and more falling during the day. If snow showers persist into Saturday night, there could be more powder to enjoy on Sunday morning, though I am more uncertain about Sunday morning's powder potential.
February delivered above-average snowfall to the northern 2/3rds of Colorado, but it does not look like the beginning of March will keep the powder streak alive. Instead, the first 1-2 weeks of March looks like it will trend to the drier side.
Even with a drier forecast coming up, there will still be chances for storms. I see a chance around March 3-4 and again around March 8-9. While most models do not show big snowfall associated with these systems, maybe we'll get lucky.
Between about March 10-15, most models show a stormier pattern setting up over the west coast. We'll have to watch if this pattern does develop, and, if it does, if it translates into more moisture and snow heading east into the Rockies and here in Colorado.
Thanks for reading!
NEW: Estimated Snowfall Maps
The data will update daily, around 20z (1 PM Mountain), with the latest available information. The delay in updating to the early afternoon is due to the accuracy of the data being improved each hour after it’s initially available at 14z (7 AM Mountain).
NOAA continues to update the data each hour with the latest available data from SNOTEL sites and local observations and we’ve found that the quality/accuracy improves significantly after about 6 hours.
And to clarify one more time, these new maps are estimates and they will not always match what is reported on OpenSnow, directly from the ski resorts.
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If you've seen pictures of backcountry riding in fresh powder, and it looks appealing, please remember that going into the backcountry is awesome AND requires education if you're going to enjoy it safely and respectfully.
This is a great place to start to find out more about taking educational classes, hiring guides, and in general, to learn how to get into the backcountry and have a ton of fun and do so safely: https://www.colorado.com/WinterBackcountrySafety
Steamboat, Bluebird Backcountry, Granby, Beaver Creek, Vail, Ski Cooper, Copper, Breckenridge, Keystone, Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park, Berthoud Pass, Eldora, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cameron Pass
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Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park, Berthoud Pass
East of the Divide
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