Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Today is the traditional Scholarship Day when the Steamboat Ski Area donates all ticket sales to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. I received varied reports yesterday as to the conditions up top, and with some of the reports indicating good skiing and others not so good, I ventured out to explore the Priest Creek area myself (encompasses Closet, Shadows, Sundown lift line and then all the way across the O’Clocks to High Noon).
Skier traffic is limited by skiers and riders having to skate/slide as much as 1.25 miles on the Duster cat track back to Rainbow saddle. For those willing to do the work, I thought the skiing in any of the tree shelterd northern and northwestern aspects excellent. There is about 36” of dense base snow, with only about the top foot penetrated by the springy and buttery turns. Coverage is excellent. However, I did find some of the no-so-good reported to be on the open runs with southern or western aspects where wind and sun had compacted the powder into a crust.
Also ripping fun was White Out, which has a northern aspect and thus great snow. That run develops lots of bumps early in the ski season, however today it was soft and flat. I was able to make wonderful long and medium radius turns from top to bottom, and I can’t remember when that was possible!
Monday, November 25, 2013
As the departing storm soaks the Gulf Coast and the the east coast during Thanksgiving week, a ridge over the west coast produces generally warm temperatures and dry weather until the weekend. A wave to our northeast grazes the area on Tuesday bringing some slight cooling and clouds before temperatures warm and skies around mid-week.
A strong storm in the Pacific crashes into the west coast ridge around Thanksgiving Day allowing some precipitation to reach southern California by Friday. Coincidentally, a strong wave breaks off from the polar vortex and moves south across Alaska, intensifying in the Gulf of Alaska by Saturday. A piece of energy from this storm is currently forecast to move over our area sometime this weekend producing snow as the mountain-top flow turns to the northwest and moistens.
There is a lot of uncertainty with regards to how much interaction between this wave in northwest flow and the storm moving eastward from southern California. Previous forecasts had a dry forecast for the weekend, but current forecasts are more optimistic.
But more certain is that a storm cycle for the northwest and Rocky Mountains begins as the Gulf of Alaska low begins to move south and east. Likely heavy snow starts this weekend along the northwest coast and move inland before reaching our area around Tuesday. Current forecasts have this as a major and long-lasting pattern change that may provide significant snows and cold winter temperatures through at least early December.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
The departing upper level low currently near the Four Corners may produce some snow for our area this afternoon, though central and southern Colorado should do much better as they are closer to the storm. A ridge builds over the west coast early in the week creating drier northwest flow over our area.
Generally quite weather is forecast for Thanksgiving week as four disturbances to our north graze northern Colorado on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The most promising wave is the weekend wave, but models currently have only very light precipitation over our area then.
These disturbances are a result of energy being diverted around the west coast ridge, but the ridge finally breaks down by the weekend before becoming reestablished off the coast. This should allow waves rotating around the polar vortex (a persistent large-scale cyclone near the pole surrounding the very cold air generated in the polar regions during the winter) to finally influence our area early in the week after Thanksgiving.
Incidentally, he forecast I made late last week for the east coast looks to verify as the cutoff low that has been influencing us for the last few days moves east. It looks to soak the Gulf Coast before turning into a nor’easter by Wednesday. And unfortunately for the eastern ski areas, heavy rain is currently forecast to proceed the cold air behind the storm, although a small eastward change in the storm track could change that forecast to all snow.
Pesky cutoff low influences northern Colorado for the weekend before nice weather returns to start Thanksgiving week
Friday, November 22, 2013
About 2.5” of heavy dense snow on my deck yesterday morning, and another 2” of very light powder this morning, although all of that fell by 6 pm Thursday.
The cutoff low currently to our south and west will wobble eastward through the southern Great Basin and then New Mexico this weekend. While there is a ribbon of dry air just to our north, it appears this will be pushed north of us as this cutoff low approaches. There may even be snow snow showers on Saturday and especially Sunday before clearing for the Thanksgiving week as a ridge builds over the west coast behind the departing storm.
Incidentally, it appears this storm will create issues along the Gulf Coast early in the week before possibly turning into a major Nor’easter. This will likely affecting the entire eastern seaboard right around the Thanksgiving holiday, especially if it phases with another storm forecast to be along the Canadian border around that time.
There may be some showers near the end of the week as a storm off the coast interacts with the ridge and begins to send some energy over our area, although the latest model run keeps the storm too far west and south for that. It appears we won’t get a lot of weather from this storm, but it may set the stage for colder air from Canada to begin to affect the northern Rockies by the week after Thanksgiving.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
A strong wave entering the west coast on Wednesday splits the jet stream into a northern polar jet and southern subtropical jet, with the southern branch forming a cutoff low moving southward along the coast while the northern portion moves along the US border with Canada. The polar jet is named after the cold polar air mass to its north, while the subtropical jet is named after its much warmer and moister air mass to the south.
By Thursday noon, cold air from the northern wave will be over our area as energy begins to eject to the northeast from the cutoff low now forecast to be along the coast of southern California. As the polar jet sags south over our area, an overrunning situation occurs where the warm and moist subtropical jet aloft moves over the cold air near the ground brought south by the polar jet.
The timing of this interaction and exactly where it occurs will determine our snow amounts. Until the cold air arrives sometime Thursday morning or early afternoon, precipitation will be spotty rain in the valleys and snow above 9000 feet or so. There should be a period of moderate to heavy snows when the cold air arives as the warm air is lifted over the front.
Additionally, fronts like these tend to become stationary for a period of time around our area as the southern push of the cold air is balanced by the northern push of the warmer air. Given the above uncertainty, I might expect 6-12” on the hill by Friday morning, with latter periods producing light and fluffy low water content powder.
Current forecasts have a nice but chilly weekend for northern Colorado as the cutoff low moves across the desert southwest and a ridge builds behind the departing storm. These cutoffs are notoriously difficult to forecast as their movement depends upon upstream energy that is difficult to measure in the data sparse Pacific. If the cutoff low moves further north than forecast, the nice weekend forecast may be in jeopardy.
It looks like a break in this storm cycle occurs during next week. There is energy in the Pacific that should begin to affect the west coast possibly as early as the following weekend, but there is much model uncertainty as to the strength of the incoming energy and the strength and position of the west coast ridge.