A mild, warmer than average winter is expected in Summit County, despite good early snowfall
November 3, 2018
Summit County is in the midst of a pleasantly white early winter, with several storms passing through the area on the first weekend of November. Breckenridge saw up to 7 inches fall overnight, with another storm expected to pass over the area Sunday through Monday.
However, long-term forecasts suggest that the heart of winter, between December and February, will probably be a bit milder and warmer than average. While that doesn't necessarily mean another bad snow season, there isn't much to hope this year will be a lot better than last year's powder bust.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in its latest temperature and precipitation forecast, predicted warmer temperatures across most of the western U.S., with temperatures expected to be particularly warmer in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. Summit County has about a 50 percent chance of being warmer than average. No part of the U.S. is expected to be colder than average this winter.
As far as moisture, the weak El Nino pattern expected this year puts Summit County right on the borderline between average and drier conditions. Again, that does not tell us much about how much snow we'll get compared to last year, as snow is a product of a number of different factors that combine within a short time frame.
But what is more concerning is NOAA's prediction that drought will continue in Summit County and across the West into next year. At the moment, Summit County is still in an "extreme drought" stage, which is the second worst drought level. While snowpack might be better than the 2017-18 season, it's probably not going to be enough to overcome last year's water deficit.
On the bright side for the state, southern Colorado is expected to see drought conditions improve after one of the driest years in living memory. New Mexico is also expected to see more moisture than last year. And, of course, a bit more snow is better than no snow.
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For those who put stock into Farmer's Almanac predictions, the almanac generally agrees with the prediction of warmer and wetter in spots, but predicts more moisture than the NOAA prediction and more snowfall in the northern part of the intermountain region. That still makes it unclear how things will fall in Summit County, which is right on the edge of the higher moisture pattern.
Focusing on the short-term, OpenSnow.com meteorologist Joel Gratz predicts periods of snow Sunday through Monday, with possible light snow and flurries going into Wednesday. He predicts 5 to 10 inches falling in the northern mountains by Monday morning. Gratz said that if it was mid-winter and all the runs were open, Monday would have been a great powder day. As it is, the only runs open at the moment are the two at Arapahoe Basin (4 inches overnight) and one at Loveland (3 inches).
Looking further out, Gratz says there's "something" that is showing up for the middle of November, but it isn't clear if it will be another winter storm system as conditions are changing in real-time.
Because there isn't any crystal ball for snow, it is definitely suggested that folks take advantage of good powder if and when it lands this season. Summit County still has the altitude to promise better snow than most other resort areas, even if it isn't what most of us remember.