Steamboat Springs The first major storm of the winter is hitting Northwest Colorado this weekend.
A winter storm warning has been issued for Steamboat Springs and the surrounding areas, with a foot or more of snow expected by Sunday afternoon.
The storm fortuitously will coincide with Steamboat Ski Area's announcement that additional terrain will open today. Four more lifts will begin operating: Sundown Express, Sunshine Express, South Peak and Elkhead.
According to the National Weather Service, a powerful Pacific storm will move into the area Saturday, increasing in intensity Saturday night as a strong cold front also passes through the area.
The snow will continue through Sunday. Between 6 and 12 inches are expected in Craig by Sunday evening. More than a foot of snow is forecast for Steamboat Springs, Clark and Oak Creek.
Strong winds gusting to 30 mph will accompany the storm system, according to the National Weather Service. Winds should diminish overnight and early Sunday.
The winter storm warning is in effect from noon Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday. Hazardous driving conditions are expected throughout the weekend.
With today's planned terrain openings in the Priest Creek and Sunshine areas, 65 percent of the Steamboat Ski Area will be accessible this weekend, according to a news release.
The openings of South Peak, Sundown Express, Sunshine Express and Elkhead on Saturday will bring the number of lifts open at the ski area to nine. Christie Peak Express and Preview have been running since opening day, Nov. 26. The gondola and Burgess Creek chairlift opened for the season Dec. 5, followed the next day by Storm Peak Express.
Trails opening Saturday in-clude: Tomahawk, Flintlock, Quickdraw, Rendezvous Way, Sunshine Liftline, Rolex, Westside, Broadway and Daybreak. The only backcountry access will be from the top of Mount Werner near the microwave towers.
East Face, North St. Pats and Last Chance likely will open this afternoon, as Steamboat Ski Patrol needs some extra time to ready those trails for skiers and riders, ski area spokesman Mike Lane said Friday.
"They're working as fast as they can," Lane said.
Thanks to low temperatures, snowmaking crews have been able to work around the clock at some areas on the mountain, Lane said. Crews are focused on lower Vagabond, the Mavericks Superpipe and Drop Out.
"If the storm pans out, we'll see how it goes," Lane said.
The Rendezvous Food Court also will open Saturday.
The ski area is aiming to open Morningside on Dec. 20, followed by the Pony Express chairlift Dec. 27, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Vice President of Mountain Operations Doug Allen said in a news release.