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Cold and generally unsettled weather on tap this week

Sunday, February 17, 2019

After thirty-three inches of snow fell at the top of the Steamboat Ski Area since Wednesday afternoon and raised the base up there to an even 100”, the currently sunny skies this Sunday morning over Steamboat Springs should give way to some scattered snow showers this afternoon. The upcoming work week will feature more cold and periods of light snow each day before moderating temperatures and drying skies are forecast starting around next weekend.

The current weather over the U.S. is dominated by an expansive trough of low pressure covering the western two thirds of the country downstream of a strong and dominant ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska. Several waves of energy and moisture will travel down the eastern periphery of the ridge off the West Coast, continuing the cold temperatures and chances for light snow over our area through the work week.

The first such wave will bring significant snowfall to southern Colorado, and we will see increasing chances of light snow the afternoon of Washington’s Birthday and overnight, though only 2-5” of fluffy low-density snow are expected by the Tuesday morning mid-mountain ski report.

Light snowfall is expected to continue during the day Tuesday as the storm passes south of our area and brings a reinforcing surge of cold air that will lead to steady or falling temperatures during the afternoon.

A quite cold Wednesday morning, especially if skies clear, should have 1-4” of snow for the morning ski report, with clouds increasing in the afternoon and maybe some isolated snow showers.

What appears to be the last storm in this cold series drops down the West Coast on Wednesday and starts light snow showers again over our area by Thursday afternoon. Trailing energy overnight and into Friday makes for an uncertain forecast as timing and position are difficult to forecast in this relatively chaotic atmospheric flow, but it does appear we will see some favorable, moist and unstable light northwest flow over our area by later Friday and into the overnight. This should lead to some accumulating snows that would be reported on a quite cold Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, additional Pacific energy looks to undercut the Gulf of Alaska ridge sometime around next weekend, and this may allow westerly flow to penetrate inland and bring warmer weather to the southern half of the West. I expect the details to change with such a major adjustement to the global circulation pattern, but right now the first half of next weekend looks cold and dry while the second half looks much warmer with some light snow showers possible along a frontal boundary separating the cold air to our north from the warmer air to our south.

Save your soles! You suspect that the grating and grinding sounds you hear from your ski boots as you walk across hard surfaces 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.

Long duration storm cycle starts Wednesday afternoon

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Snows have started in earnest this Wednesday afternoon in Steamboat Springs as the first in a series of storms moves across our area tonight. Two more storms will follow centered around Thursday and Friday nights, with the second one warmer and wetter than the first one and the last one much colder than the previous two. Snow showers will likely continue through most of a cold Washington’s Birthday weekend before ending by Monday as very cold air settles over the Yampa Valley. We could be looking at between twenty and forty inches of snow at mid-mountain by the time the storm cycle ends Sunday night.

Earlier in the week, the current storm had moved through a ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska and mixed with some cold western Canadian air. The southern section of the storm was left behind well off the coast southwest of southern California and will play a part in the wet and warm second storm for Thursday night. But for tonight, the northern part of the storm will bring moderate to heavy snows and westerly winds that will likely create difficult travel conditions.

I would expect 8-16” at mid-mountain for the Thursday morning report, with some Steamboat Magic continuing accumulations through noon at which point snows should diminish, but likely not stop during the afternoon.

Meanwhile, another Pacific storm, which will eventually become our third storm Friday night, travels over the top of the Gulf of Alaska ridge of high pressure and mixes with some air from the North Pole. This forces the wet and warm southern portion of the first storm over our area Thursday night with rising temperatures and more windy westerly to southwesterly flow. Snow will turn moderate to heavy again overnight with difficult travel conditions continuing, with another 6-12” of dense snow for the Friday morning ski report.

Weather forecast models have trended towards a break in the snow during the day Friday that may extend into the early evening, which will be the best time for travel, before the third storm in this series rotates inland across the Great Basin and begins moderate to heavy snows by Friday night. This storm will be the coldest of the three, and snows should be of the much fluffier low-density variety. The timing of the storm is still in question leading to uncertainty in the cold Saturday morning ski report, but by noon I would expect another 6-12” of snow at mid-mountain.

Meanwhile, another cold Pacific storm reinforces the cold air over much of the West through the end of the weekend and early next week. Snows will become more showery starting Saturday afternoon and continuing though the weekend before becoming very light or ending on Washington’s Birthday. The cold air will stick around for Tuesday and Wednesday as another very cold storm approaches our area, and there is considerable forecast uncertainty as to how this storm will develop.

I absolutely love this super-warm split-finger mitten-glove, and it’s perfect for the very cold week ahead! I’m on my second season with these and am very impressed with their durability and warmth, especially when combined with the standard HotHands handwamers. 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.

Snows likely Monday and Thursday

Sunday, February 10, 2019

The current sunny skies and relatively warm temperatures in Steamboat Springs this Suday will give way first to clouds later today and snow and cold on Monday as a vigorous cold front passes through Colorado. A break in the weather is advertised through midweek before another storm brings snow back into the forecast for Thursday followed by a fair bit of uncertainty for the following weekend.

A ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska has directed cold air from the northern latitudes across the West the past week, and the next storm to impact our area tomorrow has already dropped 42” of snow in the past 24 hours at Heavenly! The storm will travel across the Great Basin today and bring a sharp cold front through our area early tomorrow morning. Rapidly falling temperatures, wind and heavy to intense snowfall rates are expected to accompany the front, with snow and winds quickly dying down after the front passes. The quickly moving storm will limit snowfall, and I now only expect 2-5” by noon on Monday before showers end by the afternoon.

We should see cold temperatures to start Tuesday, though they will quickly moderate at the higher elevations by later Tuesday and Wednesday as we see westerly flow ahead of the next storm. This next storm will travel through the ridge of high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska rather than over the top, and the trajectory limits mixing with cold air from the northern latitudes. Model trends have weakened the storm with a further north trajectory, but right now I still expect good snowfall during the day Thursday, with 4-8” expected by Thursday evening before the snowfall ends.

Friday will start chilly. though again westerly flow well in advance of the next Pacific storm brings warming most noticeable at the higher elevations. There is a lot of uncertainty for next weekend as models disagree on the track of these Pacific storms and whether the southern section of these storms are left behind off the coast of southern California. This is important for our weather as these left-behind storms may provide a rich source of tropical moisture that could be tapped by upcoming Pacific storms that follow similar trajectories. At this point, the weather for next weekend could be warm or cold and wet or dry, but this should be resolved by my next weather narrative on Thursday.

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.

Moderating temperatures ahead of snow Saturday night and Monday

Thursday, February 7, 2019

After the powdercam showed 15” of snow in the last 2 days at the Steamboat Ski Area, a frigid arctic air mass has settled over much of the West. Low temperatures this morning were 0 F at the Steamboat Springs airport and -14 F at the top of Mt. Werner, and after a cold start to Friday, temperatures will moderate heading into Winter Carnival Weekend. A small storm will bring a chance of snow around Saturday night with a better storm forecast for Monday. Seasonably cold temperature and dry weather will follow for most of the rest of the work week before more snow is forecast by the following weekend.

As the current storm departs to the east, another strong and bitterly cold storm moving south along the British Columbia coast will dislodge a weaker storm off the West Coast that had earlier passed through a ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska. After another bone-chilling night tonight, the sun should return on Friday as the upper level flow turns to the southwest ahead of the small storm and brings warmer and drier air over our region. Temperatures will be slow to recover on Friday after such a cold day today, but will be noticeably warmer at higher elevations.

More warming is expected on Saturday ahead of the small storm that should bring overnight snowfall of 1-4” for the Sunday morning ski report.

Meanwhile, more Pacific energy moves through the Gulf of Alaska ridge of high pressure and starts the strong and cold storm off the coast moving eastward across the Great Basin on Sunday. The storm is forecast to weaken on its eastward journey, but will still be of moderate strength when it passes through our area sometime around Monday morning, though timing is currently uncertain. We should see a burst of snow as the cold front passes, with additional accumulations of light and fluffy snow behind the front in our favorable cold, moist and unstable northwest flow during the day Monday. I would guess 4-8” of snow will fall at mid-mountain by the time the storm ends by Monday evening.

Tuesday will start off unseasonably cold again behind the storm, with moderating temperatures and some sun expected as the week progresses, most noticeable at the higher elevations.

Rather than moving directly inland, like the past several storms, the upstream Pacific storm responsible for moving the Monday storm over our area is forecast to move southwestward and spend a day off the California Coast before moving eastward itself around midweek. This will allow the storm to mix with some moist subtropical air and direct clouds over our area near the end of the work week in southwesterly flow, possibly followed by another major snowstorm heading into the Washington’s Birthday weekend as the storm eventually moves through.

Start your ski day with toasty warm and dry boots! I use a boot dryer/warmer after every ski day, and the Happy Feet Dry-n-Warm boot dryer would be my choice if I ever had to replace my 30 year old and no-longer-manufactured look-alike. Just insert into your ski boots at the end of the day and leave them plugged in overnight. They become only slightly warmer than your body temperature so are safe to be plugged in for all footwear for days on end, though only overnight is needed for even the soggiest of liners. The ski boots are then thoroughly dry and toasty warm to start your next ski day!

Mostly unsettled weather for the week ahead

Sunday, February 3, 2019

A cold front just blasted through the Steamboat Springs area around 11 am this Sunday morning with a band of heavy and wet snowfall. Unsettled weather with periods of mostly light but sometimes moderate snowfall are expected through Tuesday. An arctic front then passes through sometime on Wednesday and brings much colder temperatures preceded by and accompanied with periods of moderate to heavy snowfall that will taper off on a cold Thursday. A break in the weather follows for the end of the work week and the first half of Winter Carnival Weekend before snow chances return for the second half of the weekend and headed into the following work week.

Pacific storms have been riding over the top of a ridge of high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska and mixing with some frigid air over western and central Canada before they move southward along the West Coast. One of these storms currently off the West Coast has pounded the Sierras with 28” of snow recorded so far at Kirkwood, with lots more expected, and energy ejecting out ahead of this storm brought the Steamboat Springs snowfall this morning. Periods of sun behind the front should give way to afternoon and evening snow showers.

Meanwhile, another colder and stronger Pacific storm is currently moving southward along the British Columbia coast and will force the first storm to move piecemeal across the Great Basin Monday and Tuesday in southwest flow. Generally light snowfall is expected through Tuesday with some enhancement expected when these hard to time pieces of the first storm move through, with better snowfall currently expected around Monday night or early Tuesday.

I would expect 2-5” of snow to be reported both Monday and Tuesday mornings before the very cold second storm is forced westward into the Great Basin by a third Pacific storm following the same track as the first two. A somewhat stationary front separating the frigid air to our north from the warm and humid air to our south is forecast to form near our area from Tuesday night into Wednesday. Energy ejecting out of the advancing second storm along the stationary front may bring periods of moderate to heavy snowfall to our area through Wednesday as the arctic front eventually moves through later Wednesday.

I fully expect the details to change as this complicated storm scenario unfolds, but we could see 3-6” of snow by Wednesday morning with another 3-6” during the day. Snows will become increasingly light and fluffy when the arctic front moves through, with another 3-6” of snow possible overnight leading to 6-12” on a quite cold Thursday morning report.

Snows will taper off by noon on Thursday as the upper level flow finally turns to our favorable northwest direction, and we may see some Steamboat Magic in the cold and unstable flow that will leave another 1-4” of morning snowfall.

If skies clear Thursday night, Friday morning in the Yampa Valley will be well below our average low of 4 F but the sun should return for both Friday and Saturday in the warmer and dry southwest flow ahead of the third storm.

Though differences in timing need to be sorted out between the weather forecast models, it appears that a piece of energy ejecting out of the third storm may bring snowfall chances back to our area around the second half of Winter Carnival Weekend. The storm track is currently forecast to remain the same for the following week allowing our stormy weather pattern to continue.

Save your soles! You suspect that the grating and grinding sounds you hear from your ski boots as you walk across hard surfaces 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.

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