Close this search box.
Colorado Winter Storm

Colorado Winter Storm: Avalanches, Heavy Snowfall and Extreme Winds Expected Through Monday

VAIL, COLORADO Colorado is currently facing a severe winter storm that began on Friday, January 12, 2024, and is expected to continue raging through Monday, January 15. The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a Winter Storm Warning effective until 5 PM MST Sunday, cautioning residents about heavy snow, high winds, and significant impacts making travel ‘difficult to impossible.’

Here’s what to expect for the rest of the weekend:

Storm Details and Areas Affected

According to the NWS, the storm is bringing snow and blowing snow today, with heavier snowfall anticipated tonight and Sunday. The state is expecting additional snow accumulations of 12 to 24 inches, particularly around Rabbit Ears Pass. Wind gusts could reach up to 70 mph. The warning covers Rabbit Ears Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park and the Medicine Bow Range, as well as the mountains of Summit County, the Mosquito Range, and the Indian Peaks.

Snow Forecast

Government Response

Governor Jared Polis has declared a disaster in anticipation of the storm. This declaration, issued on Thursday, January 11, enables the mobilization of the Colorado National Guard and activates the Colorado State Emergency Operations Plan. The cold front accompanying the storm is expected to plunge temperatures below zero in many mountain towns and ski resorts, with wind chills dropping to -10 or -20 F.

Meteorological Insights

Meteorologist Chris Tomer reported brutal conditions across Utah and Colorado this morning with jet blast winds reaching 100mph, low visibility, and sub-zero temperatures. A staggering 114mph wind gust was recorded near Breckenridge, signaling the storm’s severity. Tomer expects the next surge of snow from tonight through January 15 as the main storm system moves in from Oregon and California.


Snowfall Projections

NWS forecasts substantial snow accumulation through January 16. Vail, Winter Park, and Steamboat Springs could see 24-30 inches of snow, while Glenwood Springs may receive 18-24 inches. Aspen, Meeker, and Gunnison are expected to get 8-12 inches, and Boulder, Fort Collins, and other areas are projected to have 4-6 inches.

Avalanche Danger

The combination of high winds, significant snowfall, and weak early-season snow layers is escalating the risk of avalanches. An Avalanche Warning is in effect for the Park Range and Gore Range through Monday

night. These conditions create large, naturally occurring avalanches and the possibility of human-triggered avalanches. Travel in avalanche terrain is strongly discouraged.

An Avalanche Watch is also in effect for most Colorado mountain ranges. The conditions are expected to worsen overnight Saturday, lasting through Monday. Avalanches could be larger and more destructive than seen earlier in the season.

RELATED READ: What is an Avalanche Warning?

Safety Tips for Residents and Visitors

Given the severe weather conditions, Coloradans and visitors are urged to exercise caution and follow these safety tips:

  1. Avoid Unnecessary Travel: With the potential for roads to become treacherous or impassable, avoid non-essential travel. If travel is necessary, keep an emergency kit in your vehicle.
  2. Stay Informed: Regularly check weather updates and heed warnings from local authorities.
  3. Prepare for Power Outages: Have a supply of flashlights, batteries, and a backup power source ready.
  4. Protect Pipes from Freezing: Let your faucets drip slightly to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.
  5. Check on Neighbors: Ensure that elderly or vulnerable neighbors are safe and have necessary supplies.
  6. Avalanche Awareness: If in mountainous areas, avoid avalanche-prone terrain and stay informed about the latest avalanche warnings.

This storm is a reminder of nature’s power and the importance of preparation and caution during extreme weather events. Stay safe, Colorado. Read our comprehensive mountain safety guide to learn more.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

Enjoy this Article? Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Join 4,000+ other subscribers and receive mountain news updates, route guides, gear reviews, and other articles in our twice-monthly email newsletter.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to The Next Summit!

My mission is to protect peaks and prevent rescues through public education, outreach, and policy advocacy using digital marketing strategies, tools, and tactics.

Click and learn more about our mission, approach and impact. Thanks again for visiting!

Download My Ultimate Dispersed Camping Guide!

Discover twelve of the best spots for dispersed campsites across Colorado, plus tips for a safe and successful adventure by subscribing to my newsletter.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Subscribe and get my free planner with all 58 peaks in the perfect climbing order.

14er Planner

Download my Colorado 14ers Planner for Your Next Summit!

Become a subscriber to download my free 14er planner. It lists all 58 peaks in the perfect climbing order. Get it now & start planning!