Temperatures take a significant drop today, and the cooler conditions should linger into Thanksgiving Day. There’s a chance of snow today, but it’s limited to the high country. For travelers, unless a route goes over a mountain pass, conditions should be fine for hitting the road.
The cool temperatures will be short-lived, as they tick back up by Friday. Breezes come and go, but can be gusty at times. Temperatures should remain slightly above normal on through the weekend and into the start of next week. It looks like November goes out like a lamb this year.
It might be time to pick up the tempo for those snow dances. The trails at the lower elevations look very brown, while those at the higher elevations have skimpy snow cover. While the snow guns are going, warm temperatures don’t help with snowmaking. Mother Nature has been stingy with natural fluff, and the result is a slow start to the ski and snowboard season.
Due to that dearth of snow and warm temperatures since October, the Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area postponed its opening day a week. Plan now to hit the slopes Dec. 10.
Grand Targhee was in the same boat. Its planned opening last week got delayed until today. Its website states it will open with its Dreamcatcher and Shoshone trails.
Opening day at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort is Thanksgiving Day. Conditions there also lag well behind normal, at just 54% of average for the season.
Numerous Colorado ski resorts are up and running, with snow base levels remaining similar to a week ago. Not much has changed.
Steamboat postponed its opening day for a week, but reports its snow guns are going full blast now. It opens this Saturday. Winter Park opened its slopes last week, with snow levels at 107% of average for the season. They have minimal terrain open, but that is the case across the region and is normal this early in the season.
In the Medicine Bow Mountains, while Highway 130 over Snowy Range Pass is closed for the season, getting to the snow from the closure gate can take some hiking to get to skiable snow. Highway 70 over Bridger Pass in the Sierra Madre Mountains remains open.
On the plus side, the low snow makes Christmas tree hunting easier. Permits for $10 per tree can even be purchased online via a link on the Medicine Bow National Forest website.
At Keystone, near Rob Roy Reservoir, there has been a total of 31 inches of snow so far this season, according to Don Day Jr. at www.dayweather.com. This is an increase of 3 inches from last week, but slightly behind the 37 inches reported by this time last year.
Backcountry ski reports for the Medicine Bow Mountains are skimpy, but snow levels remain similar to a week ago. Wind has been significant, so expect bare ground in exposed areas and drifting in protected areas.
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, except the 26 inches reported at the measuring station near Medicine Bow Peak.
The snow is minimal on the trails at Chimney Park, off of Highway 230 and on the Medicine Bow Rail Trail. Skiers might want to wait for more snow before heading out on these routes.
Personnel at the Colorado Avalanche Information Center report the avalanche danger for the southern Wyoming and northern Colorado mountains is rated “low” at all elevations. Most slopes are safe from avalanches, but keep your guard up, since shallow avalanches are still possible in areas with fresh drifts near ridgetops.
Grooming on the Nordic ski trails at the Happy Jack Recreation Area is quite a ways off. The same goes with the multi-use trails. Hikers report snow levels are such that going on foot is the best mode of travel on most of the trails across Pole Mountain.
The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service snow measuring stations report 13 inches of snow at Cinnabar Park, an increase of 2 inches from last week. There are 10 inches at Brooklyn Lake, an increase of 2 inches from last week. The report at Sand Lake on the north end of the Medicine Bow Mountains is 18 inches, a decrease of 1 inch from last week. The measuring station at Medicine Bow Peak at an elevation of 10,500 feet reports 26 inches, an increase of 1 inch from last week. At North French Creek, on the western side of the Medicine Bow Mountains, the reported snow depth is 23 inches, a 1-inch increase from last week. The Crow Creek station on Pole Mountain shows 1 inch of snow, an increase of 1 inch from last week.
Pole Mountain/Happy Jack Recreation Area Nordic ski trails: Snow is minimal, with grooming a good ways off yet.
Pole Mountain/Happy Jack Recreation Area Multi-use trails: Snow is minimal on the lower trails. Users report fair conditions on the upper trails for those on snowbikes.
Chimney Park Nordic ski trails: Expect marginal and patchy snow 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. 10
Antelope Butte: TBA
Grand Targhee: Opens today
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: Opens Thursday
Sleeping Giant: Opens in December
Snow King: Opens Dec. 8
White Pine: TBA
Colorado downhill areas
Arapahoe Basin: 24-inch base; 4 lifts, 11 trails and 8% of terrain open.
Breckenridge: 18-inch base; 4 lifts, 4 trails and 3% of terrain open.
Copper Mountain: 21-inch base; 3 lifts, 6 trails and 4% of terrain open.
Eldora: 18-inch base; 1 lift, 3 trails and 5% of terrain open.
Keystone: 18-inch base; 6 lifts, 7 trails and 5% of terrain open.
Loveland: 18-inch base; 2 lifts, 5 trails and 5% of terrain open.
Steamboat: Opens Nov. 27.
Vail: 18-inch base; 4 lifts, 4 trails and 2% of terrain open.
Winter Park: 20-inch base; 3 lifts, 3 trails and 2% of terrain open.