Winter weather alerts are posted for many mountain regions of Colorado as a potent storm is forecast to move across the state. This storm could drop upwards of three feet of snow and will pack winds of 50 mph.

First off, if you have travel plans in the mountains between now and Saturday morning, prepare for intense winter driving conditions with possible closures in numerous areas across the state. Some good travel advice can be found below.

There are two waves of snow coming towards Colorado. One will push through by Thursday morning bringing mountain locations light snow. Another will begin to move through Thursday afternoon and last through Friday and this second pulse of snow is the one that will really pack a punch.

A deepening area of low pressure is forecast to move over Colorado and as it approaches, moisture will be picked up from the Pacific ocean. What the National Weather Service in Grand Junction is calling an Atmospheric river, an anomalous amount of moisture is supposed to funnel towards Colorado. This is arguably the most important factor of this storm – that several inches of liquid precipitation are going to stack up across the mountains bringing some much-needed drought relief. The current snowpack across Colorado is sitting at 52-percent of normal and this storm is likely to give a great boost to the numbers statewide.

From Denver to Colorado Springs, this will be a much different storm as less than a quarter of an inch of moisture is expected – if that.

With moisture levels as high as they will be in the mountains, snowfall rates may exceed 2 inches per hour at times. The heaviest of snows will begin Thursday afternoon and last through Friday morning beginning initially in the northern mountains and then pushing south. Winds will be very high with the storm, gusting up to 50 mph at times. This will further exacerbate driving conditions as snow-packed roads are going to be very common anywhere you travel.

When talking snow totals, wind direction plays a huge role in producing big snows. The way this storm is approaching and how it will flow across our area will bring beneficial winds to just about all mountain ranges. From the San Juans near Wolf Creek and Telluride all the way to the Park Range near Steamboat, this storm is likely to deliver so much snow that we will measure it in feet. That means that major to extreme impacts on roads are possible.

Winter Storm Severity Index

Forecast Snow Totals

The Northern Mountains (including the Gore Range, Park Range, Flat Tops and the Gore Range)
1 – 2 feet of snow is expected. This includes areas like Steamboat and Vail.

The Central Mountains (including the Sawatch Mountains and the Elk and West Elk Mountains)
1- 2 feet of snow is expected. This includes areas like Crested Butte, Aspen, Sunlight and Monarch
There could be a few higher totals in these areas.

The Southern Mountains (including all of the San Juans and the La Garita Mountains)
1- 3 feet of snow is expected. This includes areas like Telluride, Silverton, Wolf Creek and Purgatory.

Areas around Rocky Mountain National Park are expecting between 15 and 30-inches of snow with this storm.

Summit County areas are expecting 4-8 inches of snow. This would include areas like Winter Park, Breckenridge and Loveland. There is the possibility of some of the locations getting up to a foot of snow but the possibility isn’t as good as in other areas of the state.

With widespread snow coming and winter weather alerts posted, prepare for extremely tough driving conditions. You should make sure your car is ready to handle the snow.

  • Check your tires. Make sure to check the air pressure in all tires, including your spare, and that your tires have good tread — at least 3/16”.
  • Perform a safety check. Ensure you have a full tank of gas, and lastly, check your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and interior lights.
  • Know the laws. When weather conditions warrant, CDOT implements Passenger Vehicle Traction and Chain Laws.

Ski areas should be rejoicing at this forecast since the beginning of this season has been less than stellar. As crowds head up to catch the first good powder days of the season, don’t forget to bow to the plow. Enjoy the snow!

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