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Snow chances for Tuesday through Thursday

Sunday, January 19, 2020

A cool and mostly cloudy Sunday morning in Steamboat Springs should give way to more sun this afternoon and temperatures warming in town to around our average high of 27 F. Though Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be the sunniest and warmest of the long holiday weekend, a couple of storms will bring the chances for snow from Tuesday through possibly Thursday before the weather turns nicer for next weekend.

Currently, a ridge of high pressure over the West Coast is moving eastward thanks to some incoming Pacific energy and moisture. The ridge is forecast to move over our area on Monday, allowing for plenty of sun and warming temperatures.

The first of the two Pacific storms moving over our area will be relatively weak and warm, and should start light snow showers in the Steamboat Springs area on Tuesday. Even at this close range, there is weather forecast model disagreement on the amount of snow for the the Wednesday morning report, but 2-5” is a reasonable guess at this time.

It looks like there won’t be any break between the two weather systems, with the second one keeping snow showers going during the day Wednesday. This one will cross the Pacific Northwest coast on Tuesday and contain colder air originally sourced from Siberia. But as you may expect with the model disagreement on Tuesday, there is even more on Wednesday, as the European ECMWF keeps the storm more consolidated and moves it east of our area by early Thursday as compared to the American GFS, which moves the storm more slowly and has additional energy keeping favorable moist northwest flow over our area through Thursday.

There are enough differences that I will commit to moving my usual Thursday weather narrative to Wednesday in the hopes of gaining clarity on the eventual speed and strength of the storm. We could see as little as 1-4” by Thursday morning if the European model verifies, or as much as 4-8” by Thursday morning with an additional 1-4” during the day if the more optimistic American GFS verifies.

Remarkably, weather forecast models agree on a building ridge of high pressure for Friday and the weekend. Though the temperature forecast is uncertain, as the American GFS keeps much colder temperatures around longer as compared to the European ECMWF, we should see plenty of sun through next weekend.

Another Pacific storm is forecast to approach the West Coast late next weekend or early the following week, with the European ECMWF stronger and more consolidated than the weaker and more disorganized American GFS. We may see some effects from this storm by around the following Tuesday.

Drying and then warming heading through the holiday weekend

Friday, January 17, 2020

The blustery Friday storm arrived as advertised in the Steamboat Springs area, and though snowfall totals were likely less than forecast, it was hard to tell with the blowing snow. But the weather improves through the long Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, with the holiday on Monday being the warmest and sunniest day of the upcoming week. A modest storm is forecast for Wednesday and Thursday of next week, followed by some weak ripples in a disorganized jet stream that may bring a small chance of light snow showers heading into the next weekend.

Behind today’s storm, we’ll see a cold start to Saturday, with high temperatures on Mt. Werner likely staying in the teens, along with some sun and clouds. A ridge of high pressure starts to build over the West on Sunday for warmer temperatures, though we will still see a mix of sun and clouds, before the nicest day of the week arrives on Monday with sunny skies and warm temperatures.

But a strong storm forecast over the Gulf of Alaska will keep the ridge of high pressure moving as it pounds the Pacific Northwest through the weekend before making landfall around Monday. We should see some clouds ahead of the storm on Tuesday before it moves over our area on Wednesday and Thursday. Though there is some cold air from Siberia associated with the storm, there is weather forecast model disagreement on storm strength and amount of moisture, and that will affect the amount of snow we may see from this system.

A relatively weak and disorganized jet stream is forecast to follow the midweek storm and may bring some clouds and higher-elevation snow showers for the end of the work week and the beginning of the next weekend.

Quick Friday forecast

Thursday, January 16, 2020

I have been having internet issues with the local cable provider in Steamboat Springs this morning, and wanted to put out a quick forecast for the Friday storm ahead of my usual weather narrative that will have to wait until Friday.

A well advertised storm will affect Colorado on Friday. The quick-moving storm will bring a cold front through our area within a few hours of noon on Friday, with strong southwesterly winds ahead of the front shifting to the west during frontal passage and the northwest behind the front.

The strong winds will created banded snowfall ahead of the front with localized snowfall rates around an inch or two per hour for areas under the bands, though light snowfall should occur early in the morning. The front itself should be quite impressive, with localized snowfall rates up to 3” per hour for a short time before more consistent snows occur in the favorable moist, cold and unstable northwest flow behind the front.

Travel will likely be difficult during the storm, probably at its worst between 9 am and 3 pm or so. Snows will become showery and taper off later in the afternoon and evening before ending before midnight, We could see as much as 6-12” on the cold Saturday morning report, almost all of which will have occurred during the day Friday.

Four more waves of snow this work week

Sunday, January 12, 2020

After 7” was reported this morning at the Steamboat Ski Resort, and 10” up top, snow showers have picked up again this Sunday afternoon ahead of the first in a total of four more storms expected this work week in Steamboat Springs. A second storm is forecast to move through our area on Monday with a break in the weather advertised for Tuesday. The third, and unfortunately weakening and north-trending storm is timed for Tuesday night into Wednesday before the fourth and final promising storm moves across later Thursday into Friday.

Three day snowfall totals range from 18” at mid-mountain and 21” up top as of Sunday morning, and these will be added to through our last storm in this series on Friday. All of the snow is courtesy of a strong and active Pacific jet stream from the northwest that is moving through and over a ridge of high pressure over Alaska. The moist Pacific air has been mixing with cold air from western Canada as it flows southward along the eastern periphery of the Alaska ridge.

And before I discuss what may be, I’ll briefly mention that the snows this past Friday morning were not predicted by the couple of shorter-range forecast models I look at. My guess is the moisture was under-forecast Thursday night, leading to a couple more inches than expected. But the big miss was the 6” on Friday morning that was likely due to eddies of moisture and energy that broke away from the splitting storm and moved over our area. While it may be tough to forecast, it is really not all that surprising as the Steamboat Springs area often overachieves in cold and moist northwest flow.

Moving on, I would expect 2-5” of snow for the Monday morning report, with snow continuing through the day that will accumulate an additional 3-6” to be reported Tuesday morning. Accompanying this wave will be stout westerly winds of up to 30 mph, gusting to as high as 60 mph during Monday, and this may affect snow quality on the predominantly west facing Mt. Werner, as well as lift operations. Additionally, travel over the passes will likely be difficult at times from at least mid-morning Monday through mid-afternoon as there will be blowing snow.

We should see a break in the snows during the day Tuesday, though it is not clear if they end or just significantly decrease in intensity, with similar winds to Monday. By Tuesday evening, a third storm travels over our area, though weather forecasts models have trended weaker and further north with this feature, forecasting snows Tuesday evening that end around midnight. Therefore I am less optimistic with snow amounts on this one than I have been for the last several day, and currently only expect 2-5” for a cold Wednesday morning ski report.

Thursday should be snow-free ahead of a quick-moving but good looking storm for Thursday night or Friday. This will be the last storm to mix with cold western Canadian air for at least several days as Pacific energy is forecast to undercut the ridge of high pressure over Alaska and introduce a milder and drier weather pattern to our area as the jet stream shifts a bit to the north. This Friday storm may also draw some moist subtropical air in from the southwest, creating a cold and wet storm that is looking to leave at least 6-12” of snow, and possibly more by the time it wraps up on Friday night.

Though we may see some snow showers mid-weekend, or not, quieter weather looks to last into the following work week.

Let the snows begin

Thursday, January 9, 2020

After four inches was reported this Thursday morning on the mid-mountain ski report at the Steamboat Ski Area, and five inches up top, clouds have increased this afternoon ahead of our next small storm for tonight into Friday. After a break Friday night into early Saturday, the start of a long-duration snow event begins Saturday afternoon and extends into Wednesday morning. Quite cold temperatures will accompany most of the snowfall which could total in the 15-30” range by midweek.

Currently, a storm sliding down the West Coast has mixed with some cold air from Western Canada and is forecast to split as it crosses the Great Basin tonight. Despite the split, we likely see another 1-4” from this storm after snow starts this afternoon, with some occurring after the Friday morning report. The air mass dries considerably after Friday morning as cold air from the northern branch of the split pours over our area, leaving mountain-top temperatures struggling to reach the mid-single digits during the day.

A quick-moving ridge of high pressure crosses over Friday night into Saturday morning, allowing temperatures to warm about ten degrees from Friday. But don’t be fooled if the sun briefly appears early in the morning as a storm that traveled across the Gulf of Alaska on Friday restarts snow showers by sometime between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. This is the beginning of a series of storms that will move over our area in generally brisk and favorable northwest flow through the weekend and the beginning of the next work week. This first storm should leave 4-8” of snow for the Sunday morning report.

Some ill-defined waves moves through the northwest to perhaps westerly flow on Sunday and Monday, keeping light to moderate snows going through both days. Timing of the waves and snowfall amounts are uncertain at this time, but right now 3-6” for each of Monday and Tuesday reports are preliminary guesses. And be aware that strong westerly winds, if they occur, may affect snow quality on the predominantly westerly facing ski area slopes.

It does appear there will be a short break during the day Tuesday before the last wave in this series moves over our area. At this point, the storm looks to bring 4-8” by Wednesday morning, though that will likely change as we get closer to the end of this impressive long-duration snowfall event.

I plan to publish my next weather narrative on Sunday afternoon and should have better guesses for the remaining snow amounts. Additionally, the atmosphere looks to undergo a pattern change after this event as a ridge of high pressure over the Bering Sea is undercut by a strong and active Pacific jet stream, and I hope to have some clarity on how that may affect us as well.

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