The National Weather Service in Taos, N.M., is warning residents of northern and western New Mexico of a prolonged and powerful winter storm that will move slowly through the Western United States Thursday through Saturday.

The news has New Mexico skiers and snowboarders fired up and talking about "the big one" expected on Friday.

"Significant snow accumulations will begin today over the west and northwest mountains, and they will expand east tonight and Friday. Snow levels will lift to near 7,500 feet this afternoon and this evening before plummeting to valley bottoms Friday during the day as a cold front crosses from the west. Very strong southwest winds will accompany the storm tonight into Friday along the central mountain chain,where the potential exists for wind gusts over 60 mph," the National Weather Service reported in a Winter Storm Watch advisory.

Angel Fire Resort received a foot of fresh powder in the last 24 hours. Taos Ski Valley was in great shape yesterday with powder falling on happy skiers hiking the Highline Ridge near Kachina Peak.

The much-welcome storm this past Monday was a perfect prelude to what most skiers and riders in the state say is a jumpstart for an abnormally low-snow season. Bare terrain, firm conditions and sizable, unforgiving moguls were the norm since Christmas.

Forecasters expect 1 to 2 feet by Saturday morning, with strong possibility of more.