A major blast of winter will bring frigid cold and significant snowfall to the northern mountains from late Sunday through Wednesday. We return to a dry pattern Thursday through at least the first week of November.
Short Term Forecast
Finally, after a brutal extended period without measurable precipitation, a major winter storm from the north will combine with abundant moisture from the south to deliver the goods to New Mexico from late Sunday through Wednesday. Here is what to expect.
Saturday through Sunday afternoon: warm, dry, and windy ahead of approaching storm.
Sunday evening through Monday morning: cold front drops temperatures by 20 to 30 degrees and first bands of heavy snow set up over northern mountains. Expect to wake up to snow-covered mountains on Monday.
Monday through Wednesday: the storm is expected to stall allowing for continued snow accumulation across northern mountains.
Thursday and Friday: the storm exits state and we return to a dry pattern. Temperatures remain cool the last few days of October but return to above normal temperatures the first week of November.
Both the GFS and Euro Ensembles (more conservative model made up of 20+ forecasts) show significant liquid precipitation of 1+ inches for a large swath of New Mexico, especially the north-central mountain chain. Here is the GFS Ensemble through Wednesday afternoon.
Here is the Euro Ensemble through midday Wednesday with a bullseye of 1.5 inches of liquid water in the northern mountains.
The University of Utah Ensemble forecast for Taos Ski Valley is aligned with both the GFS and Euro Ensembles showing about 1.5 inches of liquid water through Wednesday.
What does this mean for snowfall totals?
With temperatures in the teens and 20's for much of this storm at the higher elevations, we can expect snow-to-liquid ratios of between 10 and 15 to 1. So 1 inch of liquid precipitation would equal 10 to 15 inches of snow and 1.5 inches of liquid water would equal 15 to 22 inches.
However, we could see more melting than normal of snow early on in the storm due to the ground being relatively warm from a mild October so far, so this could impact the total accumulation that we see and measure when it is all said and done.
As is often the case, we have one big caveat to this storm in terms of snowfall totals. The main driver producing snow will be an intense jet stream overhead. The jet stream energy creates the necessary lift in the atmosphere, aided additionally by the orographic lifting of our central mountain chain, to produce snow. However, this type of jet stream induced snow tends to happen in very intense localized snow bands, rather than widespread coverage. Pinpointing the exact location of the greatest jet stream energy and snow bands is impossible. It is a little like trying to predict rainfall amounts during a thunderstorm. Locations where the thunderstorm lines up can get torrential rains, but others even just a mile away can remain dry.
The NAM 3km predictive precipitation radar for Monday afternoon shows this banding. The dark blues lined up diagonally from the southwest to the northeast represent heavy snow whereas the whites in between the bands would see no snow at this time.
So it will be luck of the draw which mountains happen to be under the strongest snow bands. There are other secondary factors, such as wind direction and terrain, that will also impact snowfall with this storm, though not as much. But I think Taos Ski Valley will be the best positioned due to its very high elevations and also that Taos has an uncanny ability to produce snow from a wide spectrum of wind directions. And we will see every wind direction as this storm approaches, stalls, and then slowly exits. Look for Angel Fire and Red River to perform well as winds shift to east and northeasterly direction.
Here are my snowfall predictions through Wednesday (with most of this falling Sunday night through Tuesday morning):
- 12-24": Taos Ski Valley
- 10-15": Red River, Angel Fire, Ski Santa Fe
- 6-12": Pajarito, Sipapu
- 2-6": Sandia Peak
- 1-3": Ski Apache
After our storm exits the state on late Wednesday into Thursday, we will slowly warm back up and return to a dry pattern. This European Ensemble shows a ridge of high pressure (dry and above normal temperatures) dominating the western half of the country through at least November 8th.
Hopefully, overnight temperatures during this mild and dry period the first half of November will allow for snowmaking but it could be a close call. We hope and expect the storm track to return closer to New Mexico at some point during the second half of November. I will be closely monitoring and keep you posted!
Thanks so much for reading the New Mexico Daily Snow.
¡Viva la nieve, viva Nuevo Mexico!
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New Mexico Resorts Tentative Opening Dates and Season Details
It is incredibly hopeful to see that the majority of New Mexico resorts have announced opening dates that are fairly normal for any year. Click on your favorite mountain(s) below to check out season details, including some new season pass and ticket structures that take into account the reality this year with COVID-19. Please note that opening dates are tentative so please follow mountain websites and social media for the latest information.
Sipapu: November 13
Red River: November 25
Taos Ski Valley: November 26
Ski Santa Fe: November 26
Pajarito: December 11
Angel Fire: December 11
Ski Apache: TBD
Sandia Peak: TBD
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