Visitors and locals wishing Santa or Ullr would bring Summit County's ski slopes some snow this holiday season officially have permission to be hopeful.
"It's finally time to permit yourself to get somewhat excited," Boulder-based meteorologist and weather blogger Joel Gratz posted Monday, as he foretold two more winter storms heading for Colorado in the next week and a possible shift in the weather patterns in mid-December.
The two inches of snow that accumulated at Breckenridge Ski Resort Sunday night were the first the ski area has seen since its opening weekend Oct. 9, but forecasts suggests there may be more to come.
An admittedly weak winter system is set to move into Colorado Wednesday night and into Thursday - possibly favoring the northern half of the state with a few more inches of snow - may be the first storm of a changing weather pattern that could mean more snow and colder conditions for Colorado over the next few weeks.
"It does look like we get more of a northwest flow, which would be more favorable for us," National Weather Service meteorologist Bernie Meier said.
It's no guarantee Summit County will see significant snowstorms through the month of December, but the pattern change can help direct systems moving inland from the West Coast toward Colorado.
"The only thing we can say this far out is that we're going to be in a better position to see stuff," Gratz said. "We can't figure out where the cold air is going to be, but the storm track is definitely changing."
In the short-term, however, there is more certain good news in the forecast for snowsports enthusiasts. The storm expected to move in Wednesday night into Thursday will hit areas north of Summit County hardest, but likely deliver only an inch or two locally. It should be followed over the weekend by another system that may produce more precipitation.
"We're still watching that one," NWS meteorologist David Barjenbruch said. "That's probably our best chance of at least a bit more accumulating snowfall than we've witnessed for most of this winter season. ... It's something we're going to watch for the next few days and hopefully Mother Nature will be on our side here."
Temperatures are expected to stay mild through the first part of the week, but begin to drop Thursday and stay cold through the weekend. Daytime highs will likely hover around freezing, with lows in the teens. The weekend should be even colder.
"That's a wonderful thing," Gratz said. "We've been on the warm side of the storm track for the last month. It's great for mountain biking, but not so good for snowmaking. More importantly, it's not good for keeping snow on the ground."
Long-term models still show this winter trending warmer than average, however.