Snowstorm to hit Summit County ski areas throughout Wednesday, but with it comes elevated avalanche warnings |

Snowstorm to hit Summit County ski areas throughout Wednesday, but with it comes elevated avalanche warnings

Ian Zinner/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
Skier Tanner Rainville does a trick while shredding Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in mid-March 2023.
Ian Zinner/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Six to 12 inches of snow expected to fall by Wednesday night, prompting the National Weather Service of Denver to issue a winter weather advisory. 

High winds will accompany the storm system, making travel hazardous, especially on mountain passes, National Weather Service meteorologists say. Their reports call for blowing snow that could lead to limited visibility and icy conditions. 

“It looks like mostly a ‘brute force’ wind event,” meteorologists wrote in their forecast discussion released Tuesday afternoon. founder and head meteorologist Joel Gratz issued a similar prediction for snow totals in the area, but he said the high winds could disrupt some mountains’ operations. 

“On Wednesday, the wind will be strong with gusts hitting 40-60 mph,” Gratz wrote in his daily blog. “This could impact lift operations and also cause difficult driving conditions due to low visibility during the more intense snow squalls.”

Thursday forecasts call for partly sunny skies in the evening before light snow could return after noon. Then the snow is expected to stick around the High Country all the way until Tuesday, according to long-range National Weather Service reports. 

Ski resort forecasts

Most ski areas in Summit County should see 5 inches of snow on their slopes Wednesday, according to Resorts in Eagle County like Beaver Creek Resort and Vail Mountain are expecting higher totals near 7 inches. Aspen’s Snowmass Resort could see the highest snow totals in the region as most reports show it receiving 11 inches Wednesday. 

“The steadiest and most intense snow should fall during the day on Wednesday, so Wednesday should be fun with snow getting deeper throughout the day and snow that (ends) up deeper than what we see on the Wednesday morning reports,” Gratz explained. 

For Friday and Saturday’s storm systems, Gratz said the weather models are still inconsistent. He says it’s possible for there to be steadier snow from late Friday into early Saturday. 

Another storm is hot on its heels. The current forecast from OpenSnow says it is increasingly likely for more powder to fall Sunday evening, lasting into Monday morning. 

Avalanche warnings

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center says Summit County’s current level of danger, Level 3, is when most fatal avalanche accidents occur. Though reports categorize a Level 3 danger as considerable, and a Level 2 danger as Moderate, large avalanches that can kill and severely injure backcountry recreationists are likely, according to reports issued Tuesday. 

“The most dangerous slopes are where strong winds deposit fresh snow into a stiff, cohesive slab resting on top of weak layers buried one to three feet deep,” an avalanche forecaster wrote in a Tuesday report. “Even a small avalanche could create enough mass to step down into the buried weak layers, creating a much wider and far-running avalanche than anticipated.”

The snowstorm caused the National Weather Service to issue a “very dangerous” Level 4 avalanche warning for areas of the San Juan Mountains, and an “extreme” danger Level 5 warning for the southern parts of that range. 

Elevated avalanche warnings are expected to last into Thursday with possibilities for danger to persist into the weekend.

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