Snowy Range Ski Area Opening Day 2016

Skiers and snowboarders ride the Virginian lift during the Snowy Range Ski Area’s opening day in 2016.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory Wednesday afternoon for the Snowy and Sierra Madre mountain ranges, expecting a minimum of 15-20 inches of snow.

“When we say advisory or a warning, then we’re much more confident that winter weather hazards are going to happen,” said Andrew Lyons, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Cheyenne.

The advisory, which started at 11 p.m. Wednesday and is in effect until 5 p.m. Friday, is primarily for the two mountain ranges, and the heaviest of the snowfall is expected above 9,000 to 10,000 feet.

The extra powder is great news for the Snowy Range Ski Area, which is set to open for the season Friday. Ellie Southerland, director of marketing operations for the Snowy Range Ski Area, said the mountain already has 30 inches of snow pack, and the “powder alert” will only help make their opening day more successful.

“The entire front side is going to be open, which is a really big deal,” Southerland said. “The past several years we’ve only been able to open a couple of runs, so we’ll be able to open a lot more this year. Hopefully with this snow we’ll get everything else open soon.”

Since the advisory isn’t set to end until 5 p.m. Friday, Southerland added drivers should exercise caution getting to and from the mountain. The resort has a snow plow they use to help make getting up to the mountain easier, Southerland said.

“Make sure you bring some sort of ice scraper or brush to get all the snow off of your car,” Southerland said. “We do help people if they are stuck in our driveway, we will help them get out.”

The NWS warned anyone venturing up to the mountains for outdoor activities, including hunting or snowmobiling, to “beware” of potential white-out conditions that “could leave you disoriented or lost” in its announcement of the winter weather watch, before it was upgraded to an advisory.

“Anytime we issue a winter weather advisory like that, there’s a good chance for snow packed roads and — especially in this case — blowing snow and reduced visibility,” Lyons said. “We recommend making sure you have alternate routes planned, making sure you have the proper vehicle if you are driving and making sure to have extra supplies – water, blankets, coats and tools to dig yourself out if you do get stuck.”

Looking to the weekend, Lyons said the NWS isn’t confident in what will happen beyond Friday, but there is a chance of snow, especially in the mountains.

“We do see a signal for potential for snow to continue through the weekend and into Sunday,” Lyons said. “We’re not super certain on amounts right now, it’s really going to depend on the track of a low-pressure system across mainly northern Kansas and southern Nebraska and where that goes.”

Lyons added anyone wanting updates on winter weather can access the NWS reports out of the Cheyenne office can go to www.weather.gov/cys or @NWSCheyenne on Twitter or Facebook.

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