Snow report

It is officially winter with the arrival of the Winter Solstice on Tuesday. That means minute by minute the days get longer as we head towards the Summer Solstice in June.

Mild and windy is the weather forecast for the next couple days. Conditions change Friday, heralding a good chance for a White Christmas. Most of the fresh snow stays west of the Continental Divide, but also gets into the high country east of the Divide. There could be some travel issues even on the lower elevations for Friday, but skies are expected to clear for Christmas Day. The change into a much colder and snowy period is a slow one, but is expected to arrive through next week and bring a very nippy and white start to the New Year.

At the Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area the snow guns are running, but Mother Nature is helping out, too. The ski area received 12 inches of snow heading into last weekend, and the forecast calls for another 8 inches by Saturday. Then daily snowfall brings in another 13 inches by the middle of next week. Additional terrain opens as conditions allow, but the ski area currently has nearly half of the terrain available for skiing.

Grand Targhee, on the west side of Teton Pass, continues its powder glory with 30 inches of snow in the forecast by Saturday and another 35 inches by the middle of next week. It is 100% open with all trails covered with snow and beckoning skiers and snowboarders.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will see the same snowy blast, with 23 inches of powder forecast for the next few days, and then another 32 inches by the middle of next week. The amount of terrain open is 23%, but that includes 32 trails and 10 lifts. Big Red, the tram, opened Monday, so the opening of more terrain is expected, especially with all the snow in the forecast.

Four small Wyoming ski areas postponed openings last week: Hogadon, White Pine, Sleeping Giant and Antelope Butte. All but Antelope Butte are slated to open before Christmas, if snow conditions allow.

Colorado ski areas and resorts also reaped the benefits of the storm late last week. Steamboat came out a top winner with 14 inches since last Thursday and another 23 inches in the forecast by this Friday. Steady daily snowfall could blanket the slopes with another 22 inches of fluff by the middle of next week. It still has limited terrain, with 39% of the terrain open, but that’s a vast improvement to the 4% open a week earlier.

Winter Park also saw more than a foot of new snow by the start of last weekend. The forecast there calls for 8 inches by Friday, and another 9 inches by the middle of next week.

In the Medicine Bow Mountains snow depths increased only slightly this past week. According to the Open Snow website, snow depths are now at 88% of average for this time of year, a 1% increase from last week.

At Keystone, near Rob Roy Reservoir, as of Tuesday there have been a total of 56 inches of snow so far this season according to Don Day Jr. at www.dayweather.com. This is a 9-inch increase from last week, and is nearly at the 54 inches reported by this time last year.

Conditions “up top” in the Snowy Range improved considerably, but significant winds likely decreased the enjoyment factor. After a couple days of blue skies, snow returns late on Thursday, continuing through the weekend. Total snowfall starting Thursday night through Christmas Day is for 16 inches at the highest elevations and 14 inches at the lower elevations.

Personnel at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center report the avalanche danger for the southern Wyoming and northern Colorado mountains is rated “moderate” at all elevations. The snowpack generally has a very poor structure, resulting in avalanches getting triggered from the bottom of slopes, from adjacent slopes, and sometimes from a long distance away. Safer conditions are on lower-angled, wind-sheltered slopes.

New snow is a coveted commodity on the trails at Chimney Park, off of Highway 230, and up the road on the Medicine Bow Rail Trail from the Woods Creek Trailhead. Skiing in both areas is poor to fair, but with more snow in the forecast it could improve starting late this week.

There’s been little new snow, but a lot of wind at the Happy Jack Recreation Area this past week. Grooming of the Nordic trails remains on hold until more snow arrives. Snowbikers and hikers are enjoying the multi-use trails, but there was a plague of downed trees by the end of last weekend. Those will likely be cleared in the next couple days.

As of Tuesday morning, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service snow measuring station reports 25 inches at Brooklyn Lake, a 4-inch increase from last week. The report showed 24 inches of snow at Cinnabar Park, a 2-inch increase from last week. The report at Sand Lake on the north end of the Medicine Bow Mountains is 38 inches, an increase of 2 inches from last week. The measuring station at Medicine Bow Peak, at an elevation of 10,500 feet, reports 49 inches, a 7-inch increase from last week. At North French Creek, on the western side of the Medicine Bow Mountains, the reported snow depth is 41 inches, a 3-inch increase from last week. The Crow Creek station on Pole Mountain shows 3 inches of snow, a 1-inch decrease from last week.

Cross-country skiing

Pole Mountain/Happy Jack Recreation Area Nordic ski trails: Snow is very thin and patchy; grooming is delayed until there is more snow.

Pole Mountain/Happy Jack Recreation Area Multi-use trails: Riders are getting out on snowbikes and on foot; snow depth is minimal but just fine for non-skiing options.

Chimney Park Nordic ski trails: Marginal to poor conditions with 2 inches of snow last week.

Snowy Range backcountry conditions: Conditions are good, and more snow is in the forecast; winds could be significant.

Snowmobile conditions

Snowy Range: Wind and snow is in the forecast for the high country; avoid steep terrain due to potential avalanche hazard.

Quick Numbers

Wyoming Downhill Areas

Snowy Range Ski Area: 40-inch base; 4 lifts, 14 trails and 42% of terrain open.

Antelope Butte: Opening TBA

Grand Targhee: 62-inch base; 5 lifts, 95 trails and 100% of terrain open.

Hogadon: Opens Dec. 22

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: 43-inch base; 9 lifts, 30 trails and 23% of terrain open.

Meadowlark Ski Lodge: 24-inch base; 2 lifts, 8 trails and 57% of terrain open.

Sleeping Giant: Opens Dec. 23

Snow King: 13-inch base; 1 lift, 1 trail and 3% of terrain open.

White Pine: Opens Dec. 23

Colorado Downhill Areas

Arapahoe Basin: 29-inch base; 5 lifts, 18 trails and 12% of terrain open.

Breckenridge: 24-inch base; 14 lifts, 30 trails and 21% of terrain open.

Copper Mountain: 29-inch base; 16 lifts, 73 trails and 46% of terrain open.

Eldora: 18-inch base; 8 lifts, 16 trails and 25% of terrain open.

Keystone: 19-inch base; 15 lifts, 19 trails and 15% of terrain open.

Loveland: 23-inch base; 6 lifts, 20 trails and 21% of terrain open.

Steamboat: 49-inch base; 12 lifts, 79 trails and 39% of terrain open.

Vail: 31-inch base; 16 lifts, 78 trails and 40% of terrain open.

Winter Park: 33-inch base; 16 lifts, 44 trails and 26% of terrain open.

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