The best part about weather forecasting is the anticipation of a big snowstorm. Looking ahead to next week, I’m getting very excited for snow from coast-to-coast.

But before we jump into the future with a 5 to 10 day forecast, a word of caution. Meteorologists can only forecast the details of every individual storm a few days in advance, so forecasting a week out or more will not pinpoint the areas of heaviest snow. So why even dabble in long-range forecasts? Because these forecasts can get us “in the ballpark,” which at least lets you start planning to take advantage of certain weather conditions. So with the caveats out of the way, here’s the good news.

Graphic-Great Pattern February 15, 2012

The weather pattern next week should look like this. There’s no guarantee of snow for all areas shaded in blue, but the storm track is favorable for snow across much of the country.

Pacific Northwest, Far West and Rockies

The last few days brought good snow to Tahoe, about a foot to some areas in Utah and one to two (or more!) feet to a few areas in Colorado. Wolf Creek once again took the cake with better than three feet of snow falling over a few days. And this is just the start.

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Powder Day at Wolf Creek Ski Area

Powder Gallery: Wolf Creek Ski Area, Colorado

A new storm will move off the Pacific Ocean late Saturday night and bring snow to Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho by Sunday morning. By Sunday night and Monday, snow will spread over Utah and Colorado, with 5 to 10 inches likely for most of these mountains across the west. Some spots will get more, and some will get less. But suffice it to say, things look good. And the best part is during the middle and end of next week—weak but consistent storms could follow a similar storm track and bring some snow to most mountains every other day. In short, the upcoming weather pattern looks active across the west, and that’s as much as we can hope for when looking at the 7 to 10 day forecast. So get those legs ready to ski some powder.

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic

Two snowstorms in the next week will put smiles on people’s faces, and most areas should stay cold enough for all snow, especially in New England. The first storm rolls through on Thursday night into Friday with about three to six inches for areas north of Pennsylvania and perhaps an inch or two for Pennsylvania and south (after some mixed rain/ice/snow). But then all the excitement will turn toward a possible coastal storm on Sunday into Monday. At this stage in the game, it looks like the storm will stay far enough off the coast for colder air and snow to cover most of the Mid-Atlantic and New England. And if the storm can stay far enough away to keep cold air over the ski areas but close enough to throw moisture back into this cold air, there could be some great snow during the last two days of the extended President’s Day weekend.

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

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