Last week I talked about a changing storm track, one that would finally kill the snow drought for many areas of the west. And lo and behold, here we are a week later and the snow forecast is lighting up with activity. The reports are deep, the forecasts are deeper, and finally excitement is returning. It’s funny how snowflakes create immediate smiles. There will be some tricks to this new storm track, though, so let’s dig in, region by region.

Pacific Northwest and Northern Rocky Mountains

With a moisture tap coming all the way from Asia (and passing near Hawaii on the way), there is plenty of fuel to create snowflakes through to next week. In fact, some computer models are forecasting five to eight FEET of snow through the weekend. The mountains of Oregon, Washington, and northern Idaho will see the most snow, though the Tetons of Wyoming (including [R157R, Grand Targhee] and [R191R, Jackson Hole]) will also get into the act with three to five FEET of snow. With snow levels down to sea level (Seattle is getting snow, which is infrequent), the powder will initially be light and fluffy. Though high winds and slightly warmer temperatures will create heavier (or more dense) snow closer to the weekend.

Joel Weather Story 1.18.12

The snowfall in the west will be fueled by moisture coming from the far east.

Far West and Central Rocky Mountains

It’s time for Tahoe, Utah, and Colorado to get back into the action. Tahoe hasn’t seen snow for two months, but that’s about to change late this week and especially this weekend. By early next week, Tahoe and Utah should rack up at least a few FEET of snow, if not more. Early on, the snow level will be quite high—above lake level in Tahoe and near the bases of the mountains in the Wasatch of Utah. However, by later in the weekend, colder air will move in and the snow will change from wet and heavy to light and fluffy. Most areas in central and northern Colorado will see snow this week, but the best powder day looks to be on Sunday when a colder northwest wind should kick up plenty of face shots.

Joel Weather Story 1.18.12

The snow forecast through Monday, January 23. Weather computer models are never exactly right, but this provides a good overview of where the flakes will fly. Many of the areas in brown will see far more than the 20 inches indicated.

Northeast and Mid-Atlantic

Good news for the east, where three to six inches will be common from central Pennsylvania north to New England. A swath of this region—possibly centered on [R184R, Hunter], NY—could see double-digit snowfall through Saturday. Unfortunately, this good news is balanced by the threat of rain for early next week. Bit that’s still a ways away, though, so enjoy the snow and the great weekend!

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