A storm system with colder air from the PNW races over the Rockies and merges with some moisture in the San Juan Range Friday night/Saturday. Snow will push north on Sunday into the main core of Colorado with colder temps. Colorado, New Mexico, and Alaska are our top picks. The PNW could deliver up north including Whistler.
The PNW is still on track for 4-8 inches on Friday, favoring areas north of I-90 in Washington (Baker might see slightly higher totals). Areas south will grab lighter amounts, including the northern areas of Oregon (Timberline). Snow quality will be good as temps drop throughout Friday. I think Stevens Pass, Baker, and Whistler will all have the best turns on the last chair on Friday. "Fresh Pow, moderate deepness, good quality" Baker might see the highest totals.
Below: Total snowfall for the PNW through late Friday favoring northern areas including western BC. 4-10 inches with the higher amounts furthest north. Northern Oregon will also have some light snow.
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The Rockies grab leftovers this weekend with very little moisture to work with until the low currently over southern CA advances east. There are not going to be any deep numbers aside from Colorado or New Mexico. Models are trending slightly deeper in the Tetons, as opposed to Utah for Saturday. Unfortunately, even the Tetons will grab just 2-5 inches primarily early Saturday through the afternoon (Storm Ski). Snow levels (Temps) will be on the high side initially Friday night and drop with the cold front Saturday morning. Utah seems to downtrend with every model run and my optimism is low for anything aside from a light tease. "Not a great long-range chase, decent for locals to see snow again, maybe we get lucky and higher totals land in the Tetons"
Below: Scraps for the northern Rockies with a glimmer of hope for something measurable in the Tetons. Light snow for Utah at best. Big Sky or Bridger could also surprise us with the colder air and N NW winds that sometimes deliver, but that delivery won't be huge.
Alaska is in the spotlight for a good chase Friday night Saturday with 5-13 inches of snow for Alyeska (Warming trend Saturday late AM to Sunday). Ride Saturday. Thompson Pass and the backcountry zones near Valdez will be deeper. Increasing avalanche danger is likely with the warming trend into Sunday. Our partner Alaska Backcountry Guides still has some Heli seats this season (Mention Powderchasers and get a free concierge package from Powderchasers).
Colorado/New Mexico Focus
Colorado and New Mexico grab the benefits of the southern low tracking over the 4 corners. Arizona Snowbowl is just north of the highest moisture but should eke out 2-5 inches for Saturday morning. Warm temps over Colorado will land dense surf snow for the southern San Juan Range (Silverton, Purg, Wolf, Telluride-wildcard) for Saturday.
The timing is good with overnight snow into Saturday morning. Amounts for the first chair are in the 4-9 inch range building slowly on Saturday. Due to warmer temps and low snow ratios (water to snow), we are going a bit conservative on totals by late Saturday 5-10 at upper elevations north of Durango, and perhaps 7-14 further east towards Pagosa.
It's hard to forecast when the low is spinning overhead with winds initially from the south (could favor Durango resorts), then SW (Wolf and Silverton) SE (I have no idea who scores with SE), and eventually west or NW (Telluride likes NW). Most of the higher totals will be above 8500 feet. You can chase this storm Friday night but at the same time, you have opportunities in the north for Sunday. Taos is also in the card deck for Saturday with moderate snow showing up on the models for the first chair. Additional snow will be falling for New Mexico Saturday-Sunday.
The cold front due late Saturday night or early Sunday will bring in a more north, NW flow into the core of the central and northern Colorado mountains. As we have forecasted for the past few days expect widespread 5-10 inches for many ski areas in Colorado.
There are significant differences in snow totals on the models currently. A few show higher totals for the Front Range Divide (AB, Loveland, Berthoud Pass, Eldora, WP). One of the short-term models shows a bullseye over Hosier Pass (South of Breckenridge) extending towards Salida and perhaps Monarch. Our confidence is also decent for the Aspen area mountains.
Below: Total snowfall as of early Saturday is confined to the southern mountains of Colorado and northern New Mexico. Aim to chase from Taos to the southern resorts in Colorado. Amounts might not be super deep by the first chair as warm aim could keep totals lower than some models are advertising. We are going with 4-9 initially on the snow report with more during the day Saturday.
Below: 10K foot temps as of Saturday morning are warm at 24-26 degrees F or -3-4 C. This will produce good base covering surf (Force it hard enough and you might get a face shot).10K foot temps are near freezing near the Divide and Denver. Bring the fat boards to stay afloat.
Below: A cold front approaches Colorado late Saturday night kicking off snow showers for the northern and central mountains (Some snow continues in the south albeit lighter). 5-10 inches are likely for the I-70 corridor and Front Range for Sunday morning.
The PNW will be active again next week with 2 storms (Monday night to Tuesday, December 25-26) and another midweek (December 27). In looking at temps each storm will be accompanied by some cooler air followed by warming. These storms appear to be on the moderate side (Totals could be decent at upper elevations by midweek). One caveat is very warm air is likely by Tuesday/Wednesday, especially in Oregon and areas around the Seattle Metro areas.
The models are hinting that some cooler easterly flow pushing up against the western Cascades might keep areas cold enough in Washington to see mainly snow next week. This will be the big question as snow levels might stay around 4-4500 feet. Even Crystal shows a possibility of staying just cool enough. These systems early to midweek could deliver some good totals to upper elevations, and depending on the cooler air trapped near the passes be okay for lower elevations.
Canada will also see decent moisture with snow levels likely above the bases. We need to watch this! If temps warm up like what I am seeing closer to the metro areas it's going to be mixed snow and rain even at upper elevations (Washington might skirt that phase).
The Rockies and Sierra show a glimmer of hope beginning on New Year's to January 4th. Models that far out have low confidence. Currently, it appears that colder temps will finally reach the Sierra during this period. A fetch of moisture is possible from the Sierra into the Rockies during this period.
Below: Fantasy Map (I don't normally share data this far out) for the January 1-4th period. Low confidence this far out but we can only hope that Ullr is returning.
Below: Models are showing a trend for low pressure to start off January 2024 from the Sierra to the Rockies. Let's hope this holds up! Map is January 1-4
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