Wind, that four-letter weather word, has been the primary weather component the past week, and that’s expected to continue. On the good side, temperatures were well above normal the past few days, but expect changes today. Temperatures will be drastically colder, while breezes continue, although possibly easing slightly. Precipitation is scarce, and there may be a few flurries in the mountains Friday and into the weekend, but nothing of real significance.
Looking ahead to the Thanksgiving holiday, the forecast is hard to nail down this far out. It could be great weather – or not. There appears to be a trend toward colder temperatures and possible flurries late next week, but fairly mild at the start of the week.
While the Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area remains closed until Dec. 3, its snowmaking guns are going. Opening day is just around the corner.
Grand Targhee welcomes skiers and snowboarders starting this Friday. It is the first Wyoming ski area to turn on its lifts this season. While its snow depths are lagging compared to average, snow is in the forecast to greet skiers out for their first runs of the season.
Opening day at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is not far behind, opening Thanksgiving Day. Conditions there also lag behind average, but there’s still a chance for some Thanksgiving snow to kick off the season.
Numerous Colorado ski resorts are up and running, although snow making has been the key to additional acreage and increased snowpack on the slopes. Arapahoe Basin reports the best snow base at 25 inches. It is at 147% of average, so its season is starting off quite well. Winter Park kicks off its season today with a base at 124% of average. Eldora, along the Colorado Front Range, opens its slopes Friday with a base that is 128% of average.
One sign the winter season has arrived, at least in the high country, is the closing of U.S. Highway 130 over Snowy Range Pass. The gate closed last Thursday, but, as of the start of this week, Highway 70 over Bridger Pass in the Sierra Madre Mountains remains open.
At Keystone, near Rob Roy Reservoir, there has been a total of 28 inches of snow so far this season, according to Don Day Jr. at www.dayweather.com. This is an increase of 5 inches from last week, but behind the 37 inches reported by this time last year.
Backcountry ski reports for the Medicine Bow Mountains are skimpy, but expect enough snow to get the skis out. Make it the old rock skis; keep the good ones in the closet for a while yet. Conditions are expected to be poor from the Green Rock trailhead, with reports of minimal snow, and on the Upper Libby Creek Trail. There’s snow up higher, but, with the gate closed on the highway, hiking might be needed to get to where there’s skiable snow.
For snowmobilers, riding areas are open, but there must be a solid 12-inch depth to minimize environmental damage. There are no reports of snowpack depths “up top” in the Snowy Range. There are likely areas that reach the 12-inch threshold, except where the wind makes the hillsides more of a snow patchwork, rather than a blanket.
The snow is minimal on the trails at Chimney Park, off of Highway 230. Another option is the Medicine Bow Rail Trail that tends to hold snow early.
Personnel at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center report the avalanche danger for the southern Wyoming and northern Colorado mountains is rated “moderate” above and near treeline and “low” below treeline. Avoid wind-drifted terrain features where triggering a small avalanche is possible. Heed the warning signs of unstable snow, such as sounds of collapsing and deep shooting cracks.
Packing and grooming on the Nordic ski trails at the Happy Jack Recreation Area begins once there’s enough snow to create a base. Based on current snow levels, that could be a ways off yet. The same goes with the multi-use trails, where snow depths are patchy, but snowbikers report decent conditions on the upper trails.
The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service snow measuring stations report 11 inches of snow at Cinnabar Park, an increase of 3 inches from last week. There is 8 inches at Brooklyn Lake, an increase of 5 inches from last week. The report at Sand Lake on the north end of the Medicine Bow Mountains is 19 inches, the same as last week. The measuring station at Medicine Bow Peak at an elevation of 10,500 feet reports 25 inches, an increase of 5 inches from last week. At North French Creek, on the western side of the Medicine Bow Mountains, the reported snow depth is 22 inches, a 4-inch increase from last week. The Crow Creek station on Pole Mountain shows 0 inches of snow, a decrease of 1 inch from last week.
Pole Mountain/Happy Jack Recreation Area Nordic ski trails: Snow is patchy, with grooming a good ways off yet.
Pole Mountain/Happy Jack Recreation Area multi-use trails: Snow is minimal on the lower trails, but users report decent conditions on the upper trails for those on snowbikes.
Chimney Park Nordic ski trails: Expect marginal and patchy conditions.
Snowy Range backcountry conditions: There is skiable snow, but getting there could require some hiking first.
Snowy Range: Since it is past Nov. 15, the riding areas are open, as long as there is a solid 12 inches of snow on the ground.
Wyoming downhill areas projected opening dates
Snowy Range Ski Area: Opens Dec. 3
Antelope Butte: TBA
Grand Targhee: Opens Nov. 19
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: Opens Nov. 25
Sleeping Giant: Opens Dec. 4
Snow King: Opens Dec. 8
White Pine: TBA
Colorado downhill areas
Arapahoe Basin: 25-inch base; 2 lifts, 5 trails and 3% of terrain open.
Breckenridge: 18-inch base; 3 lifts, 2 trails and 1% of terrain open.
Copper Mountain: Opens Nov. 22.
Eldora: Opens Nov. 19.
Keystone: 18-inch base; 5 lifts, 6 trails and 5% of terrain open.
Loveland: 20-inch base; 2 lifts, 5 trails and 5% of terrain open.
Steamboat: Opens Nov. 27.
Vail: 18-inch base; 2 lifts, 4 trails and 2% of terrain open.
Winter Park: Opens Nov. 17.