Following the storm that came through Monday, it will be a chilly and blustery end to 2020 and the start of the new year.
Snow is expected in the high country, but the plains should be spared any significant traffic-snarling snowfall.
If your plan is to celebrate New Year’s Day by joining the First Day Hike at Curt Gowdy State Park, the two-mile guided hike takes off from the Visitor Center at 11 a.m. Bring your own snacks and hot beverages and remember to adhere to safe distancing from other participants.
The forecast is for clear skies to start 2021, but temperatures will be nippy. Breezes are possible, but they don’t really pick up until the weekend. For the long term, the weather is firmly in the grips of a La Niña due to all the cold water near the equator in the Pacific Ocean. That means the weather could cruise along with mild conditions and then, suddenly, a blip arrives to bring cold, wind and snow. For the next few days, though, we are in one of those mild, although somewhat nippy, phases.
The Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area has seen nearly a foot of fresh snow in the last week, providing excellent conditions. This is a very busy time of year on the slopes, and, due to COVID-19 precautions, lift tickets must be purchased in advance. Skier and rider numbers are limited to ensure safe distancing at the lifts and other facilities, so plan ahead for a day on the slopes.
The best snow in the region continues to be in northwest Wyoming. Grand Targhee, on the west side of Teton Pass, is 100% open, with 17 inches of natural fluff the last few days. They are at 104% of average snowpack for the season. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has similar conditions and snowpack. While they have 66% of their terrain open, they are a large resort and have plenty of space for all that social distancing.
Looking to the south, Winter Park is inching up with their snowpack and is now at 93% of average for this time of year. They saw 9 inches of new snow the last week. Steamboat saw 10 inches of new snow, but still lags behind with 65% of average snowpack.
Snow levels closer to home in the Medicine Bow Mountains took a good jump yesterday, thanks to the recent storm. At Keystone, near Rob Roy Reservoir, there have been a total of 69 inches of snow so far this season, according to Don Day Jr. at www.dayweather.com. This is a 13-inch increase from last week, but still well behind the 106 inches reported by this time last year.
Skiers report conditions “up top” are outstanding, and that is also true for snowmobilers. The safety shelters are both in place and ready for visitors. Users are reminded to haul out whatever they bring in.
There is a concern with avalanche conditions due to all the new snow sitting atop an unstable base. 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. Large avalanches are possible on many slopes, especially those facing north through east to southeast. They recommend avoiding travel on slopes steeper than 30 degrees.
Backcountry skiers report excellent conditions from the Green Rock Trailhead, and going in about any direction. The Libby Creek Trail is user-packed, and a base is forming, making it fine to bring out the good skis.
Prior to the snow Monday, conditions were marginal at the lower elevation trails at Corner Mountain and Barber Lake. Snow depths there were so minimal that hiking was the preferred mode of travel. Even snowshoes were unnecessary. Possibly, those snowshoes and skis will be the way to go with the new snow.
Conditions are good on the trails at Chimney Park, off of Highway 230. The trails are a good option for skiers and snowshoers, but expect to have to go around or up and over downed timber. There hasn’t been enough snow yet to create a base to cover these obstacles. Trails are user-packed, with no grooming to date.
Snow blanketed Pole Mountain yesterday, but it is unknown if enough arrived to finally kick off the Nordic ski grooming season. No doubt fingers are crossed for those raring to get on groomed routes. Check the Medicine Bow Nordic Association website for an update at the Happy Jack Recreation Area. Hopefully the ski season kicks off to celebrate the start of 2021.
Grooming is underway for the multi-use trails at the Happy Jack Recreation Area, and those out on snowbikes report excellent conditions. Wind action created some interesting drifting, though; use caution and expect the unexpected.
The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service snow measuring stations report 28 inches of snow at Cinnabar Park, an increase of 9 inches from last week. The station at Brooklyn Lake reports 35 inches of snow, an increase of 12 inches from last week. On the north end of the range, the station at Sand Lake shows 47 inches of snow, an increase of 10 inches from a week ago. The station at Medicine Bow, at an elevation of 10,500 feet, reports 58 inches of snow, an increase of 15 inches from last week. The station at North French Creek, on the west side of the Medicine Bow Mountains, reports 53 inches of snow, a whopping 21-inch increase from last week. The Crow Creek station on Pole Mountain shows 8 inches of snow, a 5-inch increase from last week.
Pole Mountain/Happy Jack Recreation Area Nordic ski trails: Snow depths may allow for grooming to start for the season; up to now, no grooming has taken place.
Pole Mountain Multi-Use Trails: Grooming is underway, and conditions are very good to excellent; expect drifted areas where bike-handling skills are tested.
Chimney Park Nordic ski trails: Good conditions, with about 10 inches of snow; trails are user-packed and lack a base.
Snowy Range backcountry conditions: Very good to excellent conditions, with a base starting to set up; trails are user-packed.
Snowy Range: There’s powder to be had, but avalanche conditions are quite high; use caution in steeper terrain.
Wyoming Downhill Areas:
Snowy Range Ski Area: 41-inch base; 5 lifts, 25 runs and 76% of terrain open.
Grand Targhee: 69-inch base; 5 lifts, 95 trails and 100% of terrain open.
Hogadon: 15-inch base; 1 lift, 2 trails and 7% of terrain open.
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort: 58-inch base; 13 lifts, 88 trails and 66% of terrain open.
Sleeping Giant: 30-inch base; 3 lifts, 49 trails and 100% of terrain open
Snow King: 25-inch base; 3 lifts, 29 trails and 88% of terrain open.
White Pine: 24-inch base; 1 lift, 5 trails and 50% of terrain open.
Colorado Downhill Areas:
Arapahoe Basin: 33-inch base; 6 lifts, 24 trails and 17% of terrain open.
Breckenridge: 29-inch base; 29 lifts, 60 trails and 31% of terrain open.
Copper Mountain: 25-inch base; 18 lifts, 74 trails and 47% of terrain open.
Eldora: 12-inch base; 10 lifts, 28 trails and 43% of terrain open.
Keystone: 27-inch base; 20 lifts, 73 trails and 57% of terrain open.
Loveland: 31-inch base; 7 lifts, 28 trails and 30% of terrain open.
Steamboat: 41-inch base; 15 lifts, 99 trails and 48% of terrain open.
Vail: 33-inch base; 22 lifts, 178 trails and 91% of terrain open.
Winter Park: 37-inch base; 21 lifts, 106 trails and 63% of terrain open.