The snow spigots finally turned on, bringing a white Christmas to southeast Wyoming. The snow arrived with wind and a drop in temperatures, too. In other words, it feels like winter now, and those conditions are expected to continue. Those opting to get out on New Year’s Day need to bundle up in many layers. An Arctic air mass arrives to welcome the New Year, with temperatures near zero to negative single digits. Wind chills will make it feel even colder. A break in the weather doesn’t arrive until the end of the weekend. The pause is short, with a return to snow and very cold by the middle of next week.
The Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area reaped the benefits of the latest storm. In the past five days, it saw more than 46 inches of new snow. That allowed all runs to open, with 100% of terrain available for skiers and snowboarders. While it was a delayed start to the season, it is off and running in all the powder glory now.
Grand Targhee, on the west side of Teton Pass, is another big snow winner. It has seen 41 inches of snow the last six days, and it just keeps coming. The forecast is for another whopping 46 inches in the next 10 days.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort gets the same snow dump to herald in the New Year, with 35 inches of powder forecast for the 10 days. More terrain opens there daily as conditions continue to improve.
Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area in the Bighorn Mountains opens today, which means all ski areas in Wyoming are open for the season.
Snow is also blanketing the many Colorado ski areas and resorts, with more snow on the way. Steamboat got 20 inches of snow the past five days, and is expected to see a dump of 50 inches in the next 10 days. Winter Park fared well, too, with 23 inches the past five days and another 17 inches in the forecast through the middle of next week.
In the Medicine Bow Mountains snow depths increased considerably. According to the Open Snow website, snow depths are now at 113% of average for this time of year, a 25% increase from last week.
At Keystone, near Rob Roy Reservoir, as of yesterday there is a total of 86 inches of snow so far this season, according to Don Day Jr. at www.dayweather.com. This is a 30-inch increase from last week, and zooming past the 69 inches reported by this time last year.
Conditions “up top” in the Snowy Range are outstanding, especially compared to just 10 days ago. But temperatures are forecast to be exceedingly cold, especially Friday through the weekend. The mercury won’t even crack above zero, and then add in some wind chill, and it could feel in the minus 20 to 30 degree range.
Personnel at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center report the avalanche danger for the southern Wyoming and northern Colorado mountains is rated “considerable” at all elevations. The deep snow is atop a weak bottom layer, making conditions especially hazardous. Northerly to east-facing slopes pose the most danger, along with dense wind-drifted slabs resting atop old, weak snow. Look for safer conditions on wind-sheltered slopes less than 30 degrees, with no steep terrain above.
The recent dump of snow turned things around at Chimney Park, off of Highway 230 and nine miles west of Woods Landing. Reports are skimpy, but expect plenty of snow that is user-packed. No grooming has started on those trails this season.
The trails off of Highway 130, including the lower-elevation routes at Corner Mountain and Barber Lake, should also have plenty of snow, but lacking a consolidated base yet. The higher-elevation trails going out of Green Rock should be excellent. Go prepared for extremely cold temperatures on through the New Year.
While snow depths are not as impressive, enough snow blanketed the Happy Jack Recreation Area as of Christmas Day to allow grooming to start. The Nordic trails, groomed by the Medicine Bow Nordic Association, are packed, and conditions are good, although the base is quite thin. Packing of the multi-use trails also kicked off, and conditions there are outstanding for snowbikers and snowshoers. There’s no report on the status of the sledding hill out of the Happy Jack Trailhead, but likely it could use some more snow yet before offering a safe sledding experience.
As of Tuesday morning, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service snow measuring station reports 56 inches at Brooklyn Lake, a 31-inch increase from last week. The report showed 48 inches of snow at Cinnabar Park, a 24-inch increase from last week. The report at Sand Lake on the north end of the Medicine Bow Mountains is 62 inches, an increase of 24 inches from last week. The measuring station at Medicine Bow Peak, at an elevation of 10,500 feet, reports 80 inches, a 31-inch increase from last week. At North French Creek, on the western side of the Medicine Bow Mountains, the reported snow depth is 66 inches, a 24-inch increase from last week. The Crow Creek station on Pole Mountain shows 12 inches of snow, a 9-inch increase from last week.
Pole Mountain/Happy Jack Recreation Area Nordic ski trails: Grooming started, with packing of the snow to form a good, but thin, base; classic tracks must wait for more snow.
Pole Mountain/Happy Jack Recreation Area Multi-use trails: Grooming for snowshoers, fat bikes and all non-motorized forms of travel began. Conditions are very good.
Chimney Park Nordic ski trails: Good conditions on trails that are user-packed.
Snowy Range backcountry conditions: Conditions are excellent, and more snow is in the forecast. Winds and very cold temperatures are in the forecast.
Snowy Range: There’s lots of new powder, but avalanche danger is considerable. Go prepared for extreme cold and possible white-out conditions.
Wyoming downhill areas
Snowy Range Ski Area: 40-inch base; 4 lifts, 33 trails and 100% of terrain open.
Antelope Butte: Opens Dec. 29
Grand Targhee: 63-inch base; 5 lifts, 95 trails and 100% of terrain open.
Hogadon: 20-inch base; 1 lift, 3 trails and 11% of terrain open.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: 66-inch base; 13 lifts, 63 trails and 48% of terrain open.
Meadowlark Ski Lodge: 24-inch base; 2 lifts, 8 trails and 57% of terrain open.
Sleeping Giant: 6-inch base; 2 lifts, 6 trails and 12% of terrain open.
Snow King: 13-inch base; 3 lifts, 6 trails and 18% of terrain open.
White Pine: 4-inch base; 2 lifts, 4 trails and 10% of terrain open.
Colorado downhill areas
Arapahoe Basin: 46-inch base; 7 lifts, 40 trails and 28% of terrain open.
Breckenridge: 38-inch base; 19 lifts, 74 trails and 40% of terrain open.
Copper Mountain: 42-inch base; 17 lifts, 110 trails and 70% of terrain open.
Eldora: 20-inch base; 9 lifts, 23 trails and 35% of terrain open.
Keystone: 29-inch base; 15 lifts, 20 trails and 16% of terrain open.
Loveland: 40-inch base; 7 lifts, 27 trails and 29% of terrain open.
Steamboat: 62-inch base; 13 lifts, 123 trails and 68% of terrain open.
Vail: 41-inch base; 16 lifts, 89 trails and 28% of terrain open.
Winter Park: 46-inch base; 20 lifts, 79 trails and 47% of terrain open.