Heavy snow blankets the high country, weekend snowfall forecast for Denver, Northeast Colorado

So far things are playing out as anticipated, with heavy mountain snow and winds in excess of 60mph making for quite a wintry day across the Colorado high country today. This evening roads are snowpacked, visibility is poor, and while not as windy as earlier in the day wind continues to be an issue in the mountains. Take a look at this scene from Vail Pass this evening:

Mountain resorts are already reporting nearly two feet of snow in some cases, with Breckenridge Resort tweeting a storm total of 23" so far and more to come this weekend. If you can make it up the hill, the powder waiting for you will be deep! Just in time of the holidays no less.

The roaring Pacific jet overhead will continue to deliver snow (and wind) to the state through the weekend. Eventually those snow chances will spill out across Eastern Colorado as well.

Just how much snow can we expect? This is exactly the question we've been debating internally all day.

For the next 24 hours or so we expect most of the snowfall to stay confined to the mountains. The latest NAM model run seems to have a good handle on this. A foot plus will be possible through midnight tomorrow across the passes, with only light snow showers managing their way across the Plains. The snow up near Fort Collins and along the border will need to be watched, as a few models show a bit more potential here. Any snow showers that do manage to develop across the plains Saturday would be capable of delivering a quick coating to 2" of snow.

Here's the NAM snowfall forecast through late Saturday night:

For probabilities, we'll keep them low for Denver on Saturday, but a chance nonetheless. Sunday still looks the like the best window for some snow around here:

Denver precipitation probabilities

For Fort Collins your best shot for some snow may actually come Saturday. Both days do not look all that impressive up north... but, a stray shower could deliver a quick coating to 2" IF one develops. Will keep the city in the chance range through the weekend, but confidence is low in that:

Fort Collins precipitation probabilities

And finally, Colorado Springs your best chance for snow still looks to come Sunday. We're a bit less bullish on totals for COS tonight, but of the three cities listed here likely has the best potential to "boom" if things set up right late Saturday night and Sunday.

Colorado Springs precipitation probabilities

Snowfall forecast
Most data today backed off higher totals across eastern Colorado. The European (both its operational and ensemble) have been the exception, but it too in its off run this afternoon seemed to be cutting QPF (precipitation) east of the hills.

As we outlined yesterday, the best potential for several inches of snow looks to be across the southern and southwest suburbs of Denver, the Western Palmer Divide, and down into the Colorado Springs area. For these areas we will go with 3 - 6", mainly late Saturday night through Sunday night. The midday Euro runs would suggest we'll be too low, but most other data seems to be indicating the high-end potential will be hard to achieve with this event. The 3 - 6" feels like a good starting point, and if we need to adjust up or down tomorrow, we can.

For Denver we'll go 2 - 6" for the weekend, with more south and west, and less north and east. Most of the central and southeast Plains will be in the 2 - 6" range.

Our forecast:

Impacts
For the I-25 corridor and Eastern Plains it looks like the worst of the travel conditions will be Sunday. Northeast Colorado will be spared the worst of it, but from Denver south across the Palmer Divide expect winter travel conditions –– if not tomorrow, certainly by Sunday.

In the mountains, travel restrictions will remain in place through the weekend. Expect off and on heavy snow through Sunday up there, and look for 1 to 2 more feet of accumulation for some areas.

Brendan Heberton

Brendan is founder of Weather5280. He is co-founder of FreshyMap, and develops software for geospatial data analysis and visualization.

Denver, Colorado
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