Thursday, February 22, 2018
The active weather pattern for Steamboat Springs will continue through next midweek as cold air from western Canada continues to mix with incoming Pacific storms. Several storms are lined up to bring mostly light snow and more cold temperatures to our area starting this afternoon and lasting through the first part of Sunday, with a small break advertised Saturday morning.
Before discussing the weather forecast, I’d like to show the temperature timeseries at Storm Peak Lab near the top of the Morningside lift from last Tuesday when a series of cold fronts blasted through northern Colorado. The red line is the temperature, the vertical scale ranges form -20F to 20F with each tenth representing 4F, and the horizontal timescale ranges from noon on Tuesday through noon on Wednesday. The initial cold front passed through the area around 2pm Tuesday with heavy snow, dropping temperatures from 18F to 6F in minutes and leaving about 4” of snow on the hill through that afternoon. Cold air continued filtering in until another strong push of cold air brought the lowest temperatures of the storm of -12F around 9pm. I had expected another 3-6” of snow overnight with that front, but the very cold temperatures changed the snowflakes from light and fluffy dendrites to dense needles and columns. Rather than snow densities of 30:1 or 40:1, the resultant 10:1 densities meant only about an inch of snow overnight, underscoring the difficulty in predicting snow amounts. Generally, our best accumulating snowfall occurs with mountain-top temperatures between about 5F and 15F.
Back to the current forecast, energy ejecting out of a large storm dropping into the Great Basin will start snow showers over Steamboat Springs later this afternoon as a weak cool front passes through tonight. I would expect 1-4” by the Friday morning report.
The Great Basin storm is pushed eastward by another incoming Pacific storm, keeping light snow showers going during the day Friday before a cold front associated with the storm increases snowfall rates for a time Friday night. I would expect another 3-6” of snow by Saturday morning before a brief break in the weather is advertised for a cold Saturday morning.
The last Pacific storm for the weekend brings another weak cold front through our area Saturday night or Sunday morning, restarting the snow showers by Saturday afternoon that last through Sunday morning. The timing of the front will determine if we get most of the expected 3-6” by report time or by later in the morning.
Yet another Pacific storm moves southward from the Gulf of Alaska late in the weekend along the West Coast, and turns our flow to the southwest early in the work week. We should see dry weather and warming temperatures from later Sunday through at least part of Tuesday before this storm is kicked over our area by another Pacific storm entering the Gulf of Alaska. The warming ahead of the storm will allow a good cold front to pass through the area around Tuesday night or Wednesday, with more accumulating snows likely.
Save your soles! If you do any walking in your ski boots on hard surfaces, then you know the grating and grinding sounds you hear can’t be good. In fact, worn boot soles make your binding unsafe as it interferes with the boot-binding interface. Cat Tracks are a flexible protector that keeps your boot soles pristine, and adds a cushion for walking comfort. When it’s time to click into bindings, I take them off and stash them in my coat pocket. Yaktrax are similar, but I have not used them since they appear they would take up a bit more space in my jacket pocket. But you get a rocker sole that promotes a natural stride which may be worth the space sacrifice. If I did not have to carry them around all day, these would be my choice.
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Some of the frigid air over Hudson Bay in eastern Canada has moved westward this past week, mixing with and intensifying Pacific storms riding over a ridge of high pressure near the Gulf of Alaska. The next weather-maker for the Steamboat Springs area and our state is currently near the British Columbia / Washington coast and is moving southward.
Southwest winds will strengthen today as the storm continues moving south through Monday before turning eastward and entering the Great Basin. The southwest flow will mix with some remnant energy left off the southern California coast from last Friday’s storm, and begin snow showers over Mt. Werner after midnight tonight.
And similar to last Friday, the usually unfavorable southwest flow should bring good snowfall as ejecting energy and moisture travel over a stalled cold front over or near our area on Monday. Due to the late start of the showers tonight, I would expect only 1-4” on the Monday morning report, but another round of Steamboat Magic, where there are accumulations between the report time and ski time, is possible.
Snows should continue through the day as the southward progress of the cold front is stalled by the southwest flow. Sometime in the afternoon or evening, perhaps around sunset, the cold front will blast through the area with a period of moderate to heavy snowfall and plunging temperatures, contributing to difficult travel conditions.
Though moisture decreases behind the front, the coldest temperatures since last December will lead to light and fluffy snow overnight Monday. I’ll guess at 3-6” during the day Monday, with another 3-6” of lighter and fluffier snow overnight, leading to 6-12” for the cold Tuesday morning report.
Snowfall will continue Tuesday, but become lighter and more showery before ending overnight, with an additional 1-4” to be reported on a very cold Wednesday morning.
Unsettled weather will continue through the entire work week and following weekend as additional waves of Pacific energy travel over the top of the ridge near the Gulf of Alaska and continue to mix with the cold air over western Canada.
The timing of the waves are uncertain, but right now, light and non-accumulating snow showers are advertised for later Wednesday, light but accumulating snows for later Thursday, and better snows for Friday and later Saturday into Sunday.
It looks like we will finally have a snowy February as the long-term forecast for unsettled weather continues into March.
Don’t let the cold weather that’s coming shorten your ski day. My new favorite cold-weather glove are all about warmth. And when combined with the standard HotHands handwamers which I use below about 5F, I’m good for the day. Three fingers sit together with the index finger separated, but there is enough room to scrunch all your fingers together while on the lift, which is especially nice if you have a handwarmer in the mitten-part of the glove.
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
The shift in the North American weather pattern discussed in my last Sunday forecast has allowed the storm track to grace the Steamboat Springs area this work week. After the foot of snow on Tuesday, more is expected tonight and tomorrow as some leftover energy from the Tuesday storm, currently vacationing and moistening off the coast of southern California, is ejected over our area by another incoming Pacific storm traveling across the Gulf of Alaska. The incoming Pacific storm will mix with some cold air from western Canada and bring cooling temperatures to our area starting tonight that will become seasonably cold by Thursday night.
The end result is the light snow showers today will become moderate to heavy after midnight as the southern California storm and the Gulf of Alaska storm interact and move sequentially over our area. While areas north of Steamboat Springs will be more favored, we should do quite well as we have moisture and strong forcing from the storms. Snowfall rates over an inch per hour are possible at times, with another round of Steamboat Magic likely bringing significant snows between report time and ski time. I’ll guess 3-6” of snow for the morning report, with another 3-6” possible between the report and noon, and another 2-5” for the remainder of the storm, which winds down by Thursday night.
However, the moderate winds are forecast to be westerly for a large part of the storm, and those that ski the Steamboat Ski Area know that our snow quality can be adversely affected by westerly winds due to the largely western aspect of Mt. Werner. Northwest flow is forecast for late in the storm and late in the day Thursday, but when the moisture is decreasing, and this will limit the accumulations of the lightest and fluffiest snow on the backside of the storm.
The cold temperatures forecast for Thursday night and Friday morning will moderate Friday afternoon behind the departing storm with the sun making a brief appearance. But another storm quickly follows and is forecast to graze our area from Friday night through Saturday morning, sparking sporadic and light snow showers.
Meanwhile, a much larger and colder storm travels through the Gulf of Alaska over the President’s Day weekend and again mixes with very cold western Canadian air. We may see some sun and mild temperatures on Sunday ahead of this storm, which travels southward along the West Coast before moving inland around Monday.
There is uncertainty with respect to how quickly this storm moves inland, but it appears another stationary front may form somewhere near our area around Monday or Tuesday, leading to the possibility of more significant snows early in the work week before unseasonably cold air is forecast to wash over the western states behind the storm.
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Sunday, February 11, 2018
The dominant North American weather pattern of cold in the east and warm in the west looks to be finally changing as the persistent vortex of very cold air over Hudson Bay changes its orientation from north-south to more east-west. This allows the cold air to move westward across western Canada, pushing the ever-present-this-winter-season West Coast ridge westward and providing a proximate source of cold air that will mix to varying degrees with incoming Pacific storms.
The current cool temperatures and sunny skies this Sunday will give way to warming temperatures this afternoon and clouds later tonight as a Pacific storm enters the Great Basin and winds turn to the southwest. This storm will weaken before being ejected across Utah and Colorado on Monday by a second trailing storm, creating a stationary front that will extend from southwestern Utah through north-central Colorado for most of Monday.
The southwesterly flow is usually not conducive for snow in the Steamboat Springs area, in part due to the shadowing effects of the Flat Tops to our south, but atmospheric forcing and instability can overcome this negative if it is strong enough. In this case, the ejecting storm will travel along the stationary front, beginning snow showers Monday morning that should intensify during the day and continue to some degree through the night. Relatively warm winter temperatures will limit the fluffiness and depth of the accumulations, but we could see 3-7” of snow by Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, the second trailing storm shears apart, with the southern part headed toward southwestern California and the weak northern part keeping weakening snow showers over our area for Tuesday and Wednesday.
More good news arrives midweek as another Pacific storm travels across the Gulf of Alaska and digs southward along the West Coast and ejects the storm over southern California northeastward. At this point, it looks like this storm will draw in some substantial cold air from western Canada which will keep most of the storm moving through the Great Basin.
Like the last storm, and the storm for Monday, there are a lot of moving pieces, but it is possible we may see significant snows on Thursday as we first see the relatively warm snows associated with the southwest flow of the ejecting storm and then the colder snows associated with the eventual northwest flows from the Gulf of Alaska storm. 6-12” of snow are possible by Friday morning if the current forecasts hold.
A break in the weather is currently advertised heading into the President’s Day weekend as another significant and colder storm forms to our northwest and possibly starts snow showers again as soon as Sunday afternoon.
Cold fingers? My new favorite cold-weather glove are all about warmth. And when combined with the standard HotHands handwamers which I use below about 5F, I’m good for the day. Three fingers sit together with the index finger separated, but there is enough room to scrunch all your fingers together while on the lift, which is especially nice if you have a handwarmer in the mitten-part of the glove.
Thursday, February 8, 2018
The large-scale weather pattern over North America is still dominated by a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and a large vortex of cold air over Hudson Bay. Several storms are lined up to travel over or through the ridge of high pressure to our west and mix to some degree with the cold air over western Canada. There will be chances of accumulating snows in the Steamboat Springs area Saturday and early and late in the coming work week.
Generally, I am not impressed with the first two storms, though the forecast has been dripping with uncertainty for the past few days and could certainly change. Right now, moisture ahead of the Saturday storm will continue to stream over northern Colorado today and tomorrow, with some energy forecast to graze our area on Friday which may lead to some light snow showers, especially at the higher elevations, and breezy conditions.
The incoming storm will shear apart as it crosses Colorado on Saturday, with our area left between the northern and southern branches of the storm. Snow chances will be highest on Saturday as a piece of the cold front stalls near our area, but the disorganized storm is promising greater snow amounts to our south as that area is closer to the southern end of the storm.
The cold front finally blasts through our area around Saturday evening with clearing skies and cool temperatures forecast behind the front. We could see as much as 1-4”of snow on Saturday which would be reported Sunday morning.
Meanwhile, another Pacific storm is forecast to move through the western ridge of high pressure, and this one is forecast to split as some energy digs into the southwestern U.S. and some swings eastward across and north of our area on Monday. We will see sun and warming by Sunday afternoon ahead of this storm, but that looks short-lived as the northern piece of the storm moves over our area, starting light snow showers again on Monday.
The weather will turn quieter after the Monday storm as we are between the departing northern part storm to our east and the left-behind storm to our southwest. The next chance of snow around the end of the work week occurs as the southwestern storm is dislodged by another Pacific storm traveling through the western ridge of high pressure.
At this point, the end-of-week storm, as portrayed by the current weather models., is looking the most promising as the southwestern storm spends some time moistening off the southern California coast during the work week. The new Pacific storm is forecast to mix with both cold air from Canada and the southwestern storm leading to snow chances for our area around Thursday. However, the number of moving pieces between now and then leads to a very low-confidence forecast.
Stop battling cold feet! I’ve used the awesome Hotronic foot warmers from their beginnings, and can honestly say that each iteration of the product is better than the last. I have the S4 custom, attached to my powerstrap so they never fall off, and my toes stay warm for my entire ski day.