A-Basin starts making snow; More in the forecast this week CO, UT, WY, MT

Stellar crystal sight this morning with A-Basin making snow. The ingredients all came together with a few inches of new natural snow and colder temps in the teens and 20s.

Natural new snow + blowing artificial snow. A-Basin is off and running. 10/10/2021.

I’m forecasting a good week ahead for the intermountain West including Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, and Montana. A stronger, colder front will drive through Tuesday-Thursday followed by a kicker on the backside through UT, WY, and CO with an early season brief, weak NW Flow. What to expect:

  • Winter Storm Watches for higher elevations
  • Several inches of accumulation
  • Temps drop 20 degrees on the highest peaks
  • 14er temps near zero by Friday-Saturday
  • Wind gusts hit 50-90mph Tuesday-Wednesday higher up
My forecast for Colorado’s highest peaks. 10/10/2021.
  • Jackson Hole, WY (10k+): 6-12 inches
  • Alta, UT: 4-10″
  • Big Sky, MT: 4-10″

Here’s my forecast video so can graphically see how this week plays out:

Forecast video 10/10/2021.

Snow hits CO, UT, WY

Just like that October moves the atmosphere towards winter. The first of two cold fronts delivers snow.

New snow dusts Loveland 10/9/2021.

Air temps on Loveland and Berthoud Passes will drop through the 20s for the rest of the weekend. Wind gusts by lunch should clock 50mph.

New snow at Alta, UT 10/9/2021.
New snow at Jackson Hole 10/9/2021.

A second cold front next week looks stronger and colder.

Mountain weather update 10/7: two snow chances ahead

Two cold fronts are lined up for Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana.

  • 1st front: Friday-Sunday in Colorado (snow level 10k)
  • 2nd front: Monday-Wednesday in Colorado (snow level 7k)
  • Full Forecast Video for this analysis:
10/7 Mountain Weather Update.
Pressure anomalies mid-atmosphere valid 10/9/2021, GFS interpretation.

Pressures drop and the jet stream buckles across the West. This sets the stage for colder temperatures and organized snowfall at ski areas. In addition, gusty wind is likely on higher peaks as the jet stream shaves those higher summits. For example, my forecast wind gusts:


Snowfall amounts seem more impressive with the 2nd cold front because it’s colder.

Forecast snowfall Alta, UT.
Forecast snowfall Berthoud Pass, CO.

The Golden Days of Fall

I love Fall in Colorado. It’s one of the driest parts of the year, temperatures drop, afternoon t-storms end, and I usually advise anyone attempting FKT’s (fastest known times) to shoot for September or early October before consistent snow and wind take up residence.

Crisp Autumn morning ride 2021, colorful underbrush as Red Rocks.

Fall color is a gift. It’s a short window of visual change in life cycles. I have moments of reflection about what’s next.

Taking in the colors, Autumn 2021. Photo by Leanne Tomer.

I have numerous friends who do longer trail runs, rides, and climbs. From the Maroon Bell 4-Pass Loop, 14er speed records, Nolans, RMNP link-ups, long ridge runs, and Foothill multi-park 20-milers.

Ridgelines Autumn 2020.

At some point in October the bottom normally falls out. Cold fronts become inevitable, wind on the high peaks becomes consistently strong, and snow levels drop. See you on the summit!

Snow possible in Colorado’s mountains this weekend and next week

A dip in the jet stream could bring snow to Colorado’s mountains this weekend and next week (10/9-10/15). Amounts this weekend appear on the lighter side, but next week they could be a touch higher.

Pressure pattern at about 18,000ft valid on 10/9/2021. Lower pressures in blue, higher in red.

This more active pattern would also benefit the higher mountains of Wyoming, Utah, Montana, British Columbia, and Alberta. Here’s a specific look at Berthoud Pass in Colorado. Totals are not big but it’s something. This is a normal progression for October.

Long range snow plume for Berthoud Pass, 10/4/2021.

We be peepin’

Leanne and I took a road trip and found vibrant Fall Color. I don’t recall seeing so much orange and red.

Classic Colorado: Fall color and snowcapped peaks.

We did a big loop from Denver to Hoosier Pass to Frisco then back to Denver. Cloud cover made the trip and photos even better.

Meadow of gold.

We were lucky to see moose out gathering their breakfast.

In total, there were at least four moose.

This weekend is peak color for the Central Mountains. Next weekend the Southern Mountains peak.

Reflection of life.

I’m struck by how quickly this time of the year passes. We witness these golden colors for about a month then the wind and snow hit erasing it all until next Fall. Good luck out there!

Capitol Peak snow; Is it termination dust?

Snow now covers Capitol Peak and the Elks. Will this end the climbing season for most Summer climbers? The Alaskan phrase for this phenomena is “Termination Dust”.

9/29/2021 view of Capitol Peak by Ann Driggers.

I suspect the answer comes down to how much risk climbers are willing to shoulder. Other peaks that are less technical like Quandary (“walk-ups”) will continue to be frequented.

I’ve climbed Capitol in all conditions and I find October climbing tricky. There’s not enough snow yet to cover all the rocks so stability is an issue and climbing is mixed.

Will it melt? Some will early (especially southern aspects). Looking at October, I foresee overnight lows on the 14ers permanently below freezing after October 4. And, I’m forecasting about a foot of additional snow on Capitol Peak and the Elks during October.

Snow hits Alberta/BC high peaks

Light snow dusted the high peaks in Alberta/BC overnight. This includes Mount Athabasca, Mount Andromeda, Mount Rundle, Banff and Lake Louise higher terrain, and Kicking Horse.

Columbia Icefield, 7:15am 9/28/2021

Why? A cold front is moving through. How much more snow will fall in Alberta/BC? I’m forecasting another 1-3 inches through Wednesday on the highest peaks.

Kicking Horse, 7:20am 9/28/2021

This front will then dive south through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado where the higher peaks will get dusted with new snow. Some of the very highest peaks could get 6″ or more. Forecasting for a few more locations:

  • Big Sky, MT: 1″
  • Kings Peak, UT: 6″
  • Berthoud Pass, CO: 4″
  • Wolf Creek, CO: 4″
  • Taos Ski, NM: 1″

La Nina Watch continues

Snow is falling at Whistler/Blackcomb this morning. This snow will drop into the northern Rockies this week including Banff, Colorado, Idaho, and Montana.

Snow at Whistler/Blackcomb at 6,069ft, 9/27/2021

We’re still waiting on the official arrival of La Nina. Current water temps in the South Pacific near the equator are running “neutral” (-0.3C NINO3.4). La Nina and El Nino are normally cyclic in nature, but this will be the second straight winter with La Nina in control.

Historical look at the cyclic nature of La Nina and El Nino.

Why does it matter? La Nina can influence the position of the winter storm track across North America. Said another way, La Nina can stack the odds where the heaviest, most consistent snow will fall this winter. I go into more detail, explain the forces at play, and look at ski area snow odds in my full winter forecast video here.

The latest forecast from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and International Research Institute indicates a 70-80% chance of La Nina during this winter season.

NOAA ENSO Forecast Odds, September 2021

NOAA released their Fall outlook for temps and precipitation on 9/16. I’m in agreement with most of their assessment with one difference. Temps will be warmer than normal OCT-NOV with precipitation drier than normal, but I think by December we’ll start to see a snowier pattern take hold across the West.

NOAA Fall Outlook OCT-DEC 2021

The Long Run

I’ve been a runner for over 20 years. This morning I read a quote by Tiger Woods and I started reflecting.

I’ve had every running injury in the book. It can be brutal and depressing at times. But, on the other hand I know many runners who somehow escape injuries and run for years without issue. I’ve read scientific studies that show it’s actually good for bones and joints. So, what to believe? Like most things, it probably comes down to each individual person.

Putting in the trail miles, August 2019.

I love quotes like this because they make you think. There’s wisdom in what Tiger is saying. It also makes you ponder aging and what comes next.