Large spring storm brings snow on Friday

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A large storm currently in southern Nevada will move through the Great Basin today and bring precipitation to most of the Colorado mountains starting tonight. Breezy southerly winds and warm temperatures will be felt across the Steamboat Springs area today before energy rotating around the storm brings rain showers to the lower elevations and snow showers to the higher elevations later this evening.

Showers should increase towards daybreak and continue through a seasonably cold Friday, with broad counter-clockwise circulation around the storm transporting warm and humid air from the Gulf of Mexico first northward and then westward toward northwest Colorado. Some of these showers may produce locally moderate to heavy precipitation, making travel difficult for most of the day Friday at higher elevations. The Yampa Valley floor appears to be warm enough for predominantly rain, though we’ll likely see some snow during the heavier showers.

I would expect 4-8” during the day tomorrow and another 3-6” overnight at mid-mountain, with more likely at higher elevations, as the flow eventually swings to the north and northwest direction by Saturday morning. Showers will hold on for most of the day Saturday, bringing another 1-4” of snow at mid-mountain under continuing cool temperatures.

Warming and drying is advertised for Sunday, before a weak and relatively warm storm grazes northern Colorado later Monday, bringing another round of showers to our area. Cool air behind the storm will keep Tuesday seasonably cool before several additional weak waves brings the threat of afternoon showers to our area on Wednesday and Thursday.

Generally tranquil and seasonable weather is advertised heading into the following weekend as a large storm forms off the California coast.

Still skiing? Then save your soles! As the snow disappears in the spring, you know 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.

Storms for Tuesday and Friday

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Another unseasonably cold and quick-moving storm is forecast for northern Colorado on Tuesday, while a slower and wetter storm will likely impact most of Colorado for Friday. Currently for Closing Day at the Steamboat Ski area, the weather will feature partly cloudy skies and seasonable temperatures with a small chance of an afternoon shower.

Temperatures will warm to above average on Monday with plenty of sun and breezy southwest winds as a sharp ridge of high pressure builds over the Rockies. The ridge builds in advance of a strong and cold storm that will bring significant precipitation to the West Coast on Monday. The storm weakens as it crosses the Great Basin, and though moisture is sparse by the time it arrives over Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, there is plenty of very cold air.

Current forecasts bring the strong cold front associated with the storm through our area around noon on Tuesday, along with snow down to the Yampa Valley floor. The strong front with sparse moisture makes for a tricky forecast, but I expect 3-6” of snow at mid-mountain, which would have been reported on the Wednesday morning report if the mountain was still open.

After a very chilly start to Wednesday morning, especially if skies clear late overnight, dry weather with warming temperatures should be noted for Wednesday and especially Thursday.

Meanwhile, another Pacific storm crosses the West Coast around midweek. Weather forecast models have this storm taking a more southern route through the west than the previous two storms, eventually becoming an area of low pressure cut off from the main jet stream. These cutoff lows are a feature of fall and spring weather, and are notoriously difficult to forecast as there is not a lot of forcing from the somewhat more predictable jet stream.

Furthermore, the broad counter-clockwise circulation around this storm, which is forecast to travel along the Colorado and New Mexico border, will transport the warm and humid air from the Gulf of Mexico first northward and then westward, bringing significant moisture to parts of the Front Range and the mountains to the west.

Timing and position are still uncertain, though that should become clearer by my Thursday forecast, but a significant storm for at least the northern Front Range for Friday is likely. If the storm develops as advertised, the Steamboat Springs area could also get in on the action as the Gulf of Mexico moisture travels over the Continental Divide and brings the possibility of moderate to heavy snow to northwest and north central Colorado.

Behind the storm, precipitation tapers off around Saturday after which we will see some warming and drying to finish the weekend.

Save your soles! As the snow disappears in the spring, you know 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.

Active spring weather continues with the next storm on our doorstep

Thursday, April 12, 2018

In advance of the Friday storm promised in the last forecast, Steamboat Springs has seen warm and windy conditions this Thursday, to be followed by a strong cold front bringing unseasonably cold temperatures and snow to northern Colorado by tonight.

Before the forecast, I would like to quickly review the last storm cycle as it has boosted the north central Colorado snowpack to above average for this water year which began on Oct. 1. Between about 3pm on Thursday, April 5 and 3pm on Monday, April 9, remote telemetry from the Tower SNOTEL site on top of Buffalo Pass indicated 32” of snow fell containing about 6.5” of water, some of that which fell as rain Saturday afternoon and evening. The precipitation at the Rabbit Ears SNOTEL site started closer to midnight, but that site received six inches of snow containing five inches of water, more of which fell as rain during the storm. And, as is expected during a storm with a largely orographic or terrain driven component, precipitation decreased with elevation, and the largest valley totals I found from CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network) stations reporting continuously during the event showed 2.5” of water.

This was an incredible amount of water and reflected the amount of moisture contained in the Atmospheric River that originated near Hawaii, also known colloquially as the Pineapple Express.

Now back to our featured storm that will bring snowfall to our area through early Saturday morning. We may see some showers ahead of the front, but any precipitation will quickly turn to snow even at the Yampa Valley bottom when the front blasts through around sunset. We may even hear a rumble of thunder in this unstable environment, and locally heavy snowfall is expected for a time that will create difficult travel conditions.

While snowfall may wane behind the front, I would expect 3-6” of snowfall at mid-mountain by the quite cold Friday morning report. But snowfall picks up again on Friday as the strengthening storm passes to our east and brings cold, moist and unstable northwest flow over our area. Showers, some of them heavy, will be ongoing through the day before tapering off overnight, and I would expect another 3-6” during the day with 1-4” possible overnight. As was the case this last Monday, the greatest snowfall will be found at the higher elevations.

After the snows ends early Saturday morning, we should see clearing skies and a seasonably cool day. Closing Day should feature warmer temperatures and more sun, though Monday looks to be the warmest and sunniest day of the week.

But the nice weather won’t last as a weakening storm passes near our area on Tuesday. Models disagree on the strength of the storm, but right now mid-mountain could see 4-8” of snow, with more at higher elevations, and some snow even in the valley, before clearing skies are forecast for Tuesday night.

Wednesday should start quite chilly if skies do indeed clear, but temperatures will quickly rebound during the day as southwest flow brings warm temperatures and sunny skies. The beautiful springtime weather will persist for Thursday ahead of another possibly significant storm forecast for around Friday.

Want to instantly improve your skiing? Then you’ll want progressive flex in your ski boot, and the Booster Power Strap delivers by elastically fastening together the lower leg and the ski boot. You get direct ski control so skis start turning sooner and end the turn faster.

Two more storms during Closing Week

Sunday, April 8, 2018

The Steamboat Springs area is currently experiencing a mix of sun and precipitation as showers move over our area this Sunday in moist and unstable northwest flow. A storm from the Pacific Northwest will move over our area tonight, bringing cooler temperatures and the chance of 2-5” of fluffier-than-the-last-three-days snow for the Monday morning report. Snow showers will taper off during the day Monday, with another inch or two of snow possible, mostly before noon.

Even though the Steamboat Ski Area reported a season-high 99” of base at the top of Sunshine Peak this morning, the calendar says spring, and Tuesday won’t disappoint with plenty of sun and above average temperatures.

Temperatures will cool a bit for Wednesday as a weak storm is now back in the weather forecast models, with some clouds and even an isolated shower possible.

Drier air briefly returns for later Wednesday into early Thursday before we start to feel the effects of a strong and much colder storm forecast to cross the West Coast around midweek. While weather forecast models agree breezy to windy southwest to west winds will occur in advance of the storm, they disagree on when a vigorous cold front will cross the area, with the American GFS bringing cooler air and showers into our area during the day Thursday while the European ECMWF waits until Thursday evening.

Furthermore, the European ECMWF has the storm a bit stronger and colder, while the American GFS is broader, and the evolution of the storm will ultimately determine our snow amounts. At this point, I would expect a moderate snow event from later Thursday through Friday night that will be accompanied by unseasonably cold air.

While Saturday may start chilly, temperatures will warm as a ridge of high pressure builds over the West. There will be very dry air to our south, but moisture and energy that travels over the top of the ridge will be to our north. While I cannot promise a cloud free Closing Weekend, it does appear seasonably warm and dry is likely.

Save your soles! As the snow disappears in the spring, you know 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.

Storm Friday followed by a springtime Pineapple Express this weekend

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A couple of tough-to-forecast storms will affect the weather in Steamboat Springs through the weekend. For today, partly sunny skies will yield to thicker clouds in advance of the first storm moving across our area in favorable northwest flow. Snow showers should start around midnight above mid-mountain, though the relatively warm starting temperatures could bring rain at the base.

Cooler air moves in through Friday morning, and this will likely bring snow showers to the base and difficult travel conditions. The warm temperatures mean snow density will be higher and snow amounts lower than during the winter. I would guess 2-4” by the Friday morning report and another 2-4” before noon, with some of that contributing to Steamboat Magic where accumulations occur between report time and ski time.

The atmosphere will destabilize in the afternoon due to warming surface temperatures, and this will increase the chance of showers and possibly bring a rumble of thunder Friday afternoon and evening, where another 2-4” of localized snow could fall under the stronger showers.

Any breaks in precipitation will be short-lived as moisture increases and temperatures warm ahead of the second storm. This one has formed in the subtropics around Hawaii and will bring an anomalously wet and warm air mass through the Great Basin. This event in the past was euphemistically referred to as a Pineapple Express due to the long and relatively narrow fetch of moisture streaming into the storm from the Hawaii area, but now is more generally referred to as an Atmospheric River by meteorologists (and now, perhaps the media). Interestingly, the Grand Junction forecast office mentioned that this Atmospheric River is estimated be holding as much water as 25 Mississippi Rivers!

So the Steamboat Springs area will see snow showers changing to rain showers Saturday morning, first at the base and then extending to perhaps the top of Mt. Werner by the afternoon and evening as the rain becomes moderate to heavy at times.

Cooler air follows sometime between midnight on Saturday and Sunday morning, first changing the rain to snow at the higher elevations before we see snow at the base by around report time. The amount of snow for the Sunday morning report will depend on when the cool front arrives, but right now I would guess 3-6” of very dense snow at mid-mountain.

Because the storm stretches as it crosses the Great Basin, we will see the snow showers decrease in intensity during the day Sunday before they pick up again Sunday night as the remainder of the storm approaches our area. I’ll guess at 1-4” of snow during the day Sunday and another 3-6” of fluffier snow overnight for the Monday morning report.

Snow showers will likely hold on as they taper off during the day Monday, with another inch or two possible.

Even though we have a lot of weather to get through before next week, dry air is forecast to overspread much of the west by Tuesday, bringing warm springtime temperatures and sunshine. A storm that was forecast to possibly affect our area around midweek looks to have gone away in the weather forecast models, so Wednesday may now end up being like Tuesday.

However, the sun will not hang around for long as another potent storm, this one having some colder air, crosses the West Coast around midweek. Showers are advertised for Thursday afternoon in breezy southwest flow ahead of more significant snows currently forecast for around Friday.

Want to instantly improve your skiing? Then you’ll want progressive flex in your ski boot, and the Booster Power Strap delivers by elastically fastening together the lower leg and the ski boot. You get direct ski control so skis start turning sooner and end the turn faster.

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