Winter storm warning in effect | AspenTimes.com

Winter storm warning in effect

Staff report

A winter storm warning for Aspen and Snowmass is in effect from 5 a.m. to midnight today.

Snow is expected to begin falling this morning, increasing during the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. About 5 to 10 inches of snow is expected, with locally higher amounts in the highest terrain, according to the National Weather Service.

Winds are expected to be 10 to 20 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 35 miles per hour. Roads over mountain passes will become icy and snowpacked due to a rapid drop in temperatures Thursday evening. Independence Pass is scheduled to close at noon Thursday in advance of the winter weather conditions.

A lack of precipitation and low temperatures has kept the slopes on Aspen and Snowmass mountains, both of which are scheduled to open on Thanksgiving, bare from natural or man-made snow. Aspen Skiing Co. hasn't announced any changes to its opening day plans. Other Colorado ski resorts have pushed back openings due to dry conditions across the state. Vail announced Tuesday that it was pushing back its opening from Friday to Nov. 25.

Telluride announced Monday that it would delay its opening day. The lack of snow across the West also prompted the International Ski Federation to cancel the men's World Cup races in Lake Louise, Canada, scheduled for Nov. 26 and 27.

On the bright side, Thursday's storm could bring as much as 10 inches of snow to the area, with larger accumulations at higher elevations.

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Forecaster Joel Gratz, of http://www.opensnow.com, wrote in his Wednesday forecast that the storm's rapid strengthening can produce surprises, too.

"Roads will be snowiest from Thursday mid-morning through Friday morning," Gratz wrote. "Also, temperatures will be cold all day on Thursday and bottom out in the low single digits on Friday morning, so it'll really feel like winter. This is good news for snowmaking teams across the state."

AspenWeather.net forecasters are showing about 3 to 5 inches of snow in Aspen by dawn Friday, and about 5 to 8 inches on the mountains. A few more inches could fall by dawn Tuesday, according to AspenWeather.net.

Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle confirmed Wednesday that Aspen and Snowmass would fire up the snowmaking guns given Thursday's colder temperatures.