Some good skiing today followed by a week of unsettled weather

Monday, March 31, 2014

Though the powdercam at the top of Sunshine Peak read just under 4” at 5 am, the Steamboat ski area reported 6” mid / 7” up top for the morning report, and I measured 4” on my deck. I’m at a loss in explaining why the powdercam did not reflect the reported measurement since they are located in close proximity.

The snow on the upper mountain was wind affected, and the runs with a western aspect were inconsistent. However, areas protected from the wind skied creamy and bouncy, as the snow that fell last night was relatively dense.

Surprisingly, the best run I found on the front side of the hill was High Noon down to Rolex. High Noon had been recently groomed and there was a nice layer of fluff on top of a soft surface. And the snow had blown into the right side of Rolex, especially in the lower half of the run. There I found the 7” advertised on the report, and it was only lightly skied, probably due to the visibility being far less than optimal on the open runs. It was so good I did a five runs in a row before finally moving on!

Trees skied OK, but really any place you could find that was consistent skied great. And with that in mind, I was able to ski North St. Pats relatively early in my ski day, and was rewarded with an untracked line down the right side of the main pitch. Deep and steep bottomless turns were some of the best of the day, though there are only so many of them that can fit in the short pitch! I also found great deep snow on the Third Pitch out of Gate 3, though I would caution against venturing in that area without knowledge or guidance, especially since it involves some cliff bands and a 15 minute slog back to the ski area.

This storm will be quickly followed by a complex storm presently just off the coast of northern California that will turn our winds to the southwest by tonight. Several pieces of energy are forecast to be ejected over us in this relatively warm southwest flow even, as main low over California moves southward. Showers on Tuesday will likely remain as rain or a mix at lower elevations in the warming temperatures, though snow should occur above Thunderhead, and I would expect 1-4” to be reported by Wednesday morning.

This pattern persists for Wednesday, though showers will increase and snow levels fall a bit as the main storm moves eastward long the Utah - Arizona border. We will get some cooling on the back side of the storm by late Wednesday as it finally moves east of us, and I would expect around 3-6” by Thursday morning. Snows will likely continue Thursday morning before tapering off by the afternoon.

A transient ridge moves over Great Basin late Thursday / early Friday before another storm enters the west coast on Thursday. There is a fair bit of model uncertainty as to whether this system splits and to what degree, but it appears that this storm helps carve out a persistent trough over the Great Basin.  This trough then keeps us in moist and cool northwest flow for a long-lasting snow event, possibly lasting through the weekend and into the next workweek.

Storm for later Sunday followed by unsettled weather for the week

Saturday, March 29, 2014

After a beautiful sunny and warm day today, the weather changes Sunday in advance of the next storm. Southwest winds will increase late Sunday morning and afternoon before a moderately strong cold front moves across the area around sunset. We will likely have localized areas of moderate to heavy snow as the front moves through, with light to moderate showers continuing through Sunday night before decreasing and eventually ending by late Monday.

The storms this past Thursday and Friday produced snow at the low end of my forecast, though most of the other resorts in Colorado were at the high end. At this point, I suspect that the lower elevation of the ski area compared to the others may be handicapping our snow totals, and I will have to be more conservative with forecasts as temperatures continue to warm this spring. I would expect 2-5” from this storm by report time Monday morning, with another 1-3” during the day.

A large and organized low in the Gulf of Alaska will move west this weekend and begin to influence our weather soon after the Sunday system departs late Monday. Pieces of energy ejecting from the large system will produce showers for Tuesday and Tuesday night, but the forecast amounts are uncertain as there is disagreement on whether the system splits upon entering the west coast.

The European model keeps the system more coherent and would lead to greater forecast amounts, while the American model currently splits the system, taking most of the energy west and then south of us Wednesday. Unsettled weather will last through much of the work week nonetheless, as it appears the southern system will be close enough to impact our weather as it eventually moves east of us.

Good skiing today, but better skiing tomorrow

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Steamboat ski area reported 3” mid / 4” top this morning, and it was lightly snowing at report time. There was less than an inch of additional accumulations during the day with some sun on the hill, though it was snowing hard at 4 pm as another convective shower moved through. I currently see more showers upstream on the satellite loop, so we will continue to experience localized and heavy showers through the evening. They will probably wane near midnight, but then pick up again early in the morning as the second part of the storm moves over us, hopefully contributing to some Steamboat Magic between 5 am and 9 am tomorrow morning.

Interestingly, Steamboat recorded one of the lower snow totals this morning in Colorado; the storm produced localized areas of heavier snow last night, and we were unlucky enough to missed by some of these convective cells. Hopefully, we do better tonight!

There was some wind last night, and that evenly compacted the snow in most locations on the upper mountain, creating a smooth and carveable surface. The compacted snow had a fair bit of substance and it skied pleasantly soft on the upper half of the upper mountain. Though the snow became significantly heavier in the lower half, the old snow / new snow interface was not frozen, so it was still soft, albeit crunchy.

The snow was a bit deeper at the top of Morningside - probably around 6”. Christmas Tree Gully was fairly chewed by the time I got to it, though there was good skiing along the sides of the alleys through the trees. No Names skied quite good, especially when turning in the untracked powder.

Active spring pattern continues as next storm starts Wednesday

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A beautiful day today before 2 distinct waves influence our weather from Wednesday through Friday. An area of low pressure in the Gulf of Alaska is forecast to eject a wave that will first bring high cloudiness and then precipitation into our area on Wednesday. Temperatures will be warm with this first wave, and we may have rain in the valley and snow higher up on the hill later Wednesday before the valley rain turns to snow in the evening. Additionally, the atmosphere may be unstable enough to support thunder with these passing waves, especially Wednesday afternoon.

I would expect up to several inches of heavy snow on the hill by sunset, though the storm will intensify around then, keeping snows going through the night. The relatively warm storm will limit accumulations to 4-8” for the Thursday report before a break between the two storms appears Thursday morning.

This break will be short-lived as the second colder wave affects our area by Thursday afternoon. Moderate to heavy snows are expected by sunset and will continue past midnight. Though model forecasts diminish snows during the Friday morning hours, we may have some Steamboat Magic occur then, boosting snows after the 5-10” Friday morning report. A weak trailing wave passes over the area later Friday keeping lighter snows going through the day for an additional 2-4” before a transient ridge builds bringing warmer and drier weather moves over the area Saturday .

The nice weather Saturday gives way to another quick-moving wave for Sunday. Precipitation should be heaviest in the morning before decreasing in intensity during the afternoon and may last until midnight, with rain or a rain / snow mix in the valleys.

Another transient ridge brings nice weather for Monday of next week before another major storm begins affecting our area around Tuesday afternoon.

Excellent snow quality today

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Steamboat ski area reported 5” mid / 6” top this morning, though, as expected, all of that came during the day on Saturday. In fact, I measured 4” of snow on my deck that fell between 6 am and 10 am Saturday morning. The snow started slightly earlier on the hill and lasted longer, though the sun was out late in the day.

I had expected that snow quality would have been similar to last Tuesday or the Tuesday before that, but that was not the case. The temperature this time did not get colder than about 13 F up top during the snowfall while the previous two storms were in the mid single digits. The end result is the snow skied a fair bit heavier yesterday, even on the northern-tilted aspects.

I had lowered snow-quality expectations for the sunny day today, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the lower relative humidities and breezy conditions last night and today dried the snow a fair bit. The snow was far more workable, at least for the upper half of the upper mountain. Closet skied great, as did the Rolex trees, Kuus’ Cruise and Typhoon. The last run of my day was spent poking around in No Names, still uncovering batches of untracked turns in the deep powder.

The grazing wave expected for tomorrow looks to bring some cooling, but precipitation will stay almost completely to our east and north. Sunny weather is on tap later in the day, Tuesday and likely Wednesday morning before the next significant storm begins to affect our weather later Wednesday. Current forecasts show a couple of waves keeping snow going on the hill from late Wednesday to late Friday. There may be some rain in the valleys preceding each frontal passage before that turns to snow.

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