By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Winter refused to relinquish its hold on western Montana on Thursday, delivering between four to eight inches of snow across the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys.

But spring-like weather may be on the way next week.

Travis Booth, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Missoula, said the Missoula International Airport picked up 4.3 inches of snow through noon on Thursday, continuing what's been one of the snowier seasons seen in several decades.

“Here at the airport, we've had 63.5 inches throughout the winter,” said Booth. “Our average is about 40 inches for the winter season. That's a pretty decent number.”

As of noon on Thursday, snowfall totals in the Bitterroot Valley ranged from 4 to 6 inches, with up to 8 inches reported in isolated areas. Alberton reported roughly 7 inches, while Lookout Pass had 8.

“It does look like the snow will change to rain in the early morning hours on Friday,” said Booth. “But if people are traveling into the far northwest corner of the state, they'll see some more significant snowfall. That's certainly a travel concern up there.”

Booth said the snow will taper off around Friday afternoon before another wet weather pattern moves in Saturday and Sunday. While mountain passes could see snow accumulation, much of the moisture will fall as rain in the valleys.

“It does appear it will warm up some to more seasonable temperatures in the upper 40s and lower 50s next week,” Booth said. “We'll continue to see periods of rain showers in the valley, but it won't be as significant.”