Storm Bears Down – Prelude to a 2011 Monster Montana Winter?

By PAUL QUENEAU

Late tonight, a powerful cold front will sweep across western Montana. By noon Saturday, National Weather Service forecasters predict six to ten inches of snow will drape the mountain passes around Missoula, along with winds that could gust as high as 40 mph.

More snow is then predicted Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday … basically it’s the only graphic on the 10-day forecast. The Missoula valley bottom may only get a dusted from the initial punch, but the storm is eerily reminiscent of the cold front that settled over Montana in Mid-November last year.

That snow event presaged a winter in which more than a dozen snow-measuring sites set new records across the state, and which some skiers dubbed “powder-pallooza.”

Could we be in for a repeat?

I’ve long held that the very act of saying it was going to be a big winter was the best way to assure it wasn’t. But La Niña (the weather phenomenon largely responsible for the rash of moisture and cold last winter) is busy setting up shop again, albeit a tad weaker than last year.

Time will tell what that will bring, but Bob Nester of Missoula’s National Weather Service office say we should expect to see “system after system pound the Northwest into the Rockies.”

Batter up.

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Click on any photo below to see it larger or start a slideshow.

A cold winter's moon hides behind a lone tree.
A cold winter's...
That's one sweet powder stash.
That's one swee...
Hope you've got your snowshoes.
Hope you've got...
Stand still too long and you'll be covered.
Stand still too long...
A snowy highway.
A snowy highway.
Snowy peaks in the Bitterroot.
Snowy peaks in the B...
Winter's getting closer to Missoula!
Winter's gettin...
Sun, snow, and shadows over Missoula.
Sun, snow, and shado...
A snowy Sentinel.
A snowy Sentinel.
Stuart Peak, wrapped in a cold blanket of snow.
Stuart Peak, wrapped...
Pink alpenglow - one of the best things about winter in the mountains.
Pink alpenglow - one...
Alpenglow is an optical phenomenon created when light reflects off airborne snow, water, or ice particles low in the atmosphere.
Alpenglow is an opti...
A cold November full moon over Mount Sentinel.
A cold November full...
Snowghosts at sunrise.
Snowghosts at sunrise.

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Want another dose of Montana’s great outdoors? Check out Paul’s other posts: Missoula Fall Foliage Photo GalleryMissoula’s Fall Color: The Best Ever?, and Missoula’s Bucks Are Ready to Rumble.

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Paul Queneau is an avid outdoor recreationist, naturalist, and hunter. He works as conservation editor of Bugle Magazine at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, where he writes about, photographs, edits, and films wildlife. See and read more of his work on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s website and Paul’s photo portfolio.