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Vail, Beaver Creek back in snow mode but state snowpack still lagging badly

January 22, 2021, 11:41 am
Fresh snow near Ski Cooper on a recent Friday.

After a very slow start to the snow-riding season, Colorado is finally back in snow mode over the weekend and into next week, although with a southwest weather flow that generally favors the southern part of the state. Local ski areas are considered to be in the northern region.

Still, Vail and Beaver Creek should see softer snow conditions over the next week or so, and hopefully the snowpack totals in the Colorado River Basin will start to climb closer to average.

As of Friday, Jan. 22, state data indicate the snowpack in the upper Colorado River Basin is 66.9% of the average annual amount. That means more than 30% below average, which is scary on a variety of fronts – drought, wildfire, boating, fishing, agriculture – if it continues.

Fortunately, after Vail reported two inches of new snow and Beaver Creek three inches new on Friday morning, more snow is in the forecast starting Friday night.

“From Friday evening through Saturday, we’ll see times of steady and even intense snow, favoring the southern mountains,” Opensnow.com meteorologist Joel Gratz reported Friday. “Chances for snow will continue through Sunday and into next week.”

Backcountry travel should be a little safer than it has been, with moderate levels of risk in the Vail and Summit County areas as of Friday, but that could change depending on winds and new snow over the next few days. Check with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center before heading out.

Gratz predicts there will be a break toward the end of next week followed by more snow toward next weekend.

“…A storm is likely between later Friday, January 29, and Saturday, January 30,” Gratz wrote. “Beyond that time and into early February, all of the 2-week forecast models are showing another storm or the potential for a stormy pattern starting between February 2-4. It’ll take a LOT of snow to get our snowpack back to the average outside of the southern mountains, but maybe this early-February storm cycle can get us going in the right direction.”

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