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Early winter forecast shows low snow in fall, deeper December

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A thin layer of fresh snow in the Crazy Mountains makes for slippery ridge running. PHOTO BY SHELBY WHITMORE

Snow fell over the weekend in the higher elevations around Montana, signaling summer’s imminent end. And after a lackluster winter season last year, many hope the light dusting the mountains received is a sign that this upcoming winter will have more consistent snowfall.

A long-term forecast issued recently by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration suggests that temperatures around southwest Montana might be a little warmer than usual through November. Expected precipitation for that same stretch of time is a toss-up for the region, NOAA reported.

The outlook improves—at least for snowsports fans—through December, January and February. NOAA’s forecast suggests that it’s likely that southwest Montana will receive an above average amount of snow. Tempering any powder hound’s optimism is the outlook for temperatures over those months. The initial forecast shows nothing definitive for the temperatures—a 50-50 chance at either warmer or colder than usual.

Overall, the forecast seems the inverse of last year’s snowfall pattern.

The 2021-2022 winter season was a low snow year, with snowpack totals about 70% to 80% of normal, according to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center’s 2021-2022 annual report. The first significant snowfall of the season came on Oct. 11, with the GNFAC releasing its first early season bulletin the next day.

Snow fell most regularly in November and December. The faucet shut off in January and February, before picking back up in the spring. The season’s largest snowstorms hit in May, according to the GNFAC.

A fresh dusting of snow highlights slopes in the Crazy Mountains above the Trespass Creek trailhead.

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