In what is being considered a historic meteorological event by NPR, the winter storm currently affecting the state of Colorado and Utah is dumbfounding old timers who’ve never seen this much snow this early. Technically speaking, autumn doesn’t even begin until September 22nd this year but hey, we love snow and we love seeing our favorite mountains blanketed in the white stuff.
Starting yesterday, snow began falling in earnest on the mountains of the Canadian Rockies, Montana, and Wyoming before moving into Colorado early this morning. The first portion of Colorado to see significant snowfall was the Park Range including Steamboat Resort and more specifically Rabbit Ears Pass. By mid afternoon, snow bands began to reach the southern mountain ranges and reports out of Telluride were indicating heavy snowfall rates on the higher peaks.
What is very unique about this particular winter storm is how it’s interacting with a series of smoke/fire complexes throughout the west. As the snow moved south from the northern reaches of Canada, precipitation helped to extinguish (not fully) a series of sizable fires in Wyoming and Montana before doing a number on the gargantuan, 102,596 acre Cameron Pass Fire today in Colorado. That fire currently ranks as the 5th largest in the State of Colorado’s recorded history.
So, I guess we're calling it #Septembruary ?!?!?!
Location: Rabbit Ears Pass, CO pic.twitter.com/dD0dLiayzp
— Ski.com (@Skicom) September 8, 2020
The result has been a winter storm system preceded by pyrocumulus clouds, which are essentially a mix of evaporated snowfall, ash, and smoke. Ultimately, that combination has allowed this particular storm to pick up steam in terms of snowfall. Why is that you ask? When it comes to snow storms, smoke can actually amplify snowfall totals as cold water molecules are keen to attach themselves to microscopic ash particles floating in the air. This causes snow volumes to increase if there is already a vast quantity of smoke present in the atmosphere.
While that mixture might sound bittersweet, it’s good news overall as the snowfall and cold temps will not only heal much of the wildfire activity in the interior Rockies, but serve as a boon for water users across the state of Colorado, which were beginning to strain under a prolonged drought. If you’re wondering what this type of precipitation looks like, check out this webcam footage from Copper Mountain.
So without further ado, here are the goods.
Beaver Creek, CO:
Winter Park, CO:
Steamboat Resort, CO:
Big Sky Resort, MT:
Jackson Hole, WY:
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