The first massive snowstorm of the season is hitting the Heartland today, Tuesday Dec. 8, and is expected to last through Wednesday. Blizzard-like conditions are predicted from the Plains to the western Great Lakes. Snowfall amounts are expected to range up to 15 inches or more across northern Iowa and Illinois, southern Minnesota, central Wisconsin, and northern Michigan, where amounts can exceed 2 feet with enhanced lake effect snowfall. It's the same storm system that dumped over 4 feet of snow on portions of Colorado.
While driving conditions will be horrible for a couple of days, the storm couldn't have come at a better time for more than 100 ski areas scattered across the Midwest trying to get ready for the holidays and snowsports season. An unusually warm fall had provided little natural snowfall and less than optimal snowmaking conditions. Most had not been able to open by Thanksgiving, which is a traditional opening date for ski areas.
Weather Channel forecasters were predicting blizzard or near-blizzard conditions across Iowa today with snowdrifts of 8-to-12 feet. The storm will move into Wisconsin and Michigan later today where lake effect enhanced snowfall may dump a couple of feet or more along lakeshore communities of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.
Ski areas from western Missouri near Kansas and St. Louis all the way through the Great Lakes will receive substantial natural snowfall and temperatures low enough to fire up the snowguns for long periods of time.
Those ski areas located in southern Indiana and Ohio will most likely initially receive rain from the storm, but once the storm passes wraparound temperatures will be cold enough for good snowmaking conditions to prevail at least through the weekend. With good snowmaking conditions resorts can completely cover their terrain in two or three days.
It looks as if the Heartland snowsports season is under way with a good kick-start from this snowstorm.
"This is just what we needed," said Joe Vittengal, GM for Devil's Head Ski and Snowboard Resort in central Wisconsin near the Dells. "We weren't able to open at Thanksgiving as planned, and this gives us the kick-start we needed. Hopefully this bodes well for the rest of the season. It sets us up for the holidays, and that's our most crucial time for having a good season."