Cortez received 4.2 inches of snow from about 9 p.m. Monday to about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, and more powder is expected to move into Southwest Colorado on Wednesday and hang around until late Friday or early Saturday.
“The storm moved more slowly than anticipated,” said Cortez weather watcher Jim Andrus. “We were only forecast to get about an inch.”
The snow had perfect timing for Telluride Ski Resort, which opens for donation day Wednesday, when skiers can hit the slopes for a $25 donation that goes to the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club.
“At 10 a.m., we listed 14½ inches of snow, and it’s still snowing like crazy,” said Nancy Clark, a spokeswoman for the resort. “We’re expecting more snow in the weather report, so this week looks really great.”
Telluride Ski Resort’s official opening, when it will begin accepting season passes, is Thanksgiving Day.
Andrus said the 4.2 inches in Cortez put the city at 4.7 inches of snow for the month – 1.9 inches, or 168%, above the 2.8 inches that is normal for November.
For the season, Cortez has received 5.4 inches of snow, with the normal seasonal snow accumulation for the end of the month at 3.2 inches.
“We’ve been dry since June. The monsoons didn’t show up. There was a high-pressure system off the West Coast that diverted storms to the north, but that has broken done,” Andrus said. “Maybe we will be in for a good winter. It’s a promising start.”
An even bigger storm system is expected to move into Southwest Colorado Wednesday night and bring snow through late Saturday morning.
Durango received only a dusting by Tuesday morning.
But this week, a winter storm is predicted to snarl regional holiday traffic with up to 30 inches of snow in the high country, said meteorologist Scott Stearns of the National Weather Service in Grand Junction on Tuesday.
Up to 8 inches of snow is predicted to fall in Durango, he said.
The heaviest snowfall this week is expected Thanksgiving evening, Stearns said. The weather service issued a winter storm watch for the San Juan Mountains from 5 p.m. Wednesday to 5 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s probably not the best idea to be traveling over the (mountain) passes with that kind of snowfall,” he said, adding that Red Mountain and Wolf Creek passes could each get up to 30 inches of snowfall.
The Colorado Department of Transportation will “very likely” implement traction and chain laws over mountain passes, said CDOT spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes.
There are “bound to be some impacts” at the Durango/La Plata County Airport, said Aviation Director Tony Vicari. Both agencies plan to have employees working around the clock the next few days to ensure safe and efficient travel.
“Typically, this 10-day period (around Thanksgiving) is the busiest finite period we see at the airport for local utilization – the parking lot is under highest level of demand,” Vicari said. “Passengers are encouraged to arrive early, check with airlines about delays and drive safely to get here.”
CDOT likely will not treat highways with brine solution before the storm hits – work that keeps ice from bonding with the roadway, Schwantes said.
“Every storm is different, and we’re certainly getting ready with our manpower and equipment with what has been forecast,” she said. “We are at the mercy of Mother Nature. If snow accumulations happen too quickly, and crews can’t keep up, there may be a possibility that we close the high mountain passes.”
Purgatory Resort is scheduled to open Wednesday before Thanksgiving, an opening day delayed after above-average temperatures hindered mountain operations’ snowmaking efforts. As of Tuesday morning, the resort has seen 18 inches of snow, according to its website.
Durango Herald Staff Writer Bret Hauff contributed to this report. parmijo@the-journal