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Posted at 04:00 PM ET, 01/20/2012

Good changes for Western ski areas

The storm track has shifted in a favorable way for western skiers. (
It was only a few weeks ago that many ski town locals and hopeful vacationers were writing off this entire winter, as least for most of the western U.S. What a difference a week makes.

The Lake Tahoe area of California had not seen snow since the second week in November, and after eight weeks of dry weather, most locals were taking to mountain bikes instead of skis.

But a new storm track has taken shape over the last few days, and this promises big snow and big smiles across most ski areas in the central and northern Rockies.

This new weather pattern is sending plentiful moisture across the entire Pacific ocean and slamming it into the West Coast. This will result in 5+ feet of new snow in some areas!

The moist air from the Pacific tends to be warmer than air sourced from Arctic regions, and this warmer air contributes to heavier, wetter snow. Especially for south-facing slopes that didn’t have much snow on the ground prior to this week (Tahoe, parts of Utah and Colorado), the dense snow is welcome because it helps to cover rocks, stumps, and other outdoorsy ground cover.

Lots of snow predicted for western ski areas this weekend. (
The first two storms of the week mainly targeted Washington (state), Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah with 2-5 feet of snow. But things don’t stay the same for long, and a big storm on Saturday will bring colder air and big snow further south. This means much lighter, fluffier snow for many areas, which will undoubtedly lead to some powder-iffic photographs clogging the pipes on Twitter and Facebook over the weekend.

If you have a ski trip to the West Coast coming up, fear not as the snow is back and the storms should continue through at least early next week. If you’re thinking of taking a trip, keep an eye on the weather and the longer-range forecast. Bookmark which specializes in snow forecasting. We created a special page called the Powder Finder so you could see new snow reports, short-term forecasts, and a one week outlook, all focused on snow for ski areas and all on one page.

Are you interested in twenty-three inches of new snow at Silver Mountain, Idaho? It happened. How about fourteen inches of fresh powder forecasted for Grand Targhee, Wyoming? Coming right up! The numbers will make you happy (if you like snow).

For East Coast skiers, good news as some light snow and cooler weather will move through southern New England and Pennsylvania on Saturday. But it looks like a new storm will head into the Great Lakes on Monday, dragging warm air up the east coast with rain likely.

But that’s OK, because it’s always snowing somewhere. And right now, “somewhere” is mostly in the western U.S. Finally.

Meteorologist Joel Gratz is the creator of and is based in Boulder, Colo.

Related: A dismal ski season all-around

By Joel Gratz guest contributor  |  04:00 PM ET, 01/20/2012

Categories:  U.S. Weather

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