Several chances for snow this week

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The active spring weather in Steamboat Springs will continue this week, with chances for snow on Saturday, later Monday and possibly around midweek. These storms will first travel across the Gulf of Alaska and then mix, to varying degrees, with cold air from western Canada that is rotating around a persistent vortex of very cold air over Hudson Bay.

The amount of cold western Canadian air that mixes with the storms will eventually determine the strength of the storms as they travel near or over northern Colorado in generally northwest flow. And, as is usually the case, the weather forecast models disagree on the amount of mixing. More mixing yields stronger storms and a storm track that will be more over our area, similar to today’s storm, which ended up further west, colder and snowier than I forecast last Sunday.

So after the snow showers end this afternoon with minimal additional accumulations, a seasonably warm and pleasant Friday will be followed by our first chance of snow on Saturday. A cool front is dragged through our area early Saturday by the first passing storm, and 1-4” of snow is possible during the day.

Snow showers will end Saturday evening ahead of what is now looking like a nice Easter Sunday.

Monday will start dry, but a second storm again drags a cool front through our area later in the day. The strength and timing of the storm will likely vary with the amount of cold air eventually incorporated from western Canada, so stay tuned to my Sunday forecast for the amount of new snow expected for the Tuesday morning report.

Though Tuesday may start chilly, we should see warming and some sun that will extend into part of Wednesday.

Another storm is possible for around Thursday that may begin snow showers later Wednesday if the current timing is to be believed. But the amount of moisture associated with this storm, as well as the extent of mixing with the cold western Canadian air is very uncertain, so a forecast for that storm will have to wait.

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.

Unsettled weather for this week

Sunday, March 25, 2018

A storm currently over Oregon will split as it travels across the Great Basin on this Sunday, with the southern part of the split bringing weather to southern Colorado on Tuesday and the northern part dragging a weak cool front through northern Colorado on Monday. Before that, today will see some clouds and a breezy afternoon as ejecting energy from the incoming storm travels over Steamboat Springs.

For Monday, the Steamboat Ski Area will see the possibility of up to several inches of snow during the day as the cool front moves through with a quick end to the showers by sunset or soon after.

Tuesday is looking nice as some drier air moves over our area behind the weak cool front.

Meanwhile, a modest ridge of high pressure builds over the Gulf of Alaska early in the work week, and energy traveling over and through this ridge will mix with some cool western Canadian air and bring periods of unsettled weather to northern Colorado in moist northwest flow starting Wednesday.

Snowfall chances will wax and wane with the cool air, and right now the weather forecast models have our best chances for accumulating snowfall late Tuesday night through Wednesday, and possibly again Saturday. While Steamboat is favored by moist northwest flow, our snowfall amounts will be tempered as we are on the southern fringe of the best action.

I would expect 2-5” of snowfall during Wednesday, with higher amounts further north closer to the Wyoming border.

Snow showers will decrease during Thursday before we are left with just clouds for later in the day, with the possibility of some sun on Friday.

Another surge of cooler air and snow showers is currently advertised for the weekend, perhaps as early as Saturday, as the jet stream strengthens to our north. There is a fair bit of forecast uncertainty for later that weekend and early the following week.

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.

Warm and wet Friday ahead of next splitting storm Monday

Thursday, March 22, 2018

A ridge of high pressure rests over the spine of the Rocky Mountains today, and moisture traveling through this ridge will keep warm temperatures and clouds over the Steamboat Springs area on this Thursday. Meanwhile, a strong storm in the Gulf of Alaska has kicked what was once part of this past Monday’s 16” storm, which was loitering between Hawaii and the West Coast, eastward, bringing another round of significant precipitation to the Sierras overnight and leaving 30” at Mammoth Mountain.

The old storm will cross the Great Basin today and affect the weather over our area on Friday, validating the slower European ECMWF solution advertised in my last forecast. While temperatures will be warm enough for rain showers to the top of Mt. Werner in advance of the storm in breezy southwest flow, most of the precipitation looks to hold off until the storm moves over our area sometime between sunrise and noon on Friday and drags a weak cool front across our area.

Showers will intensify as the front moves through, becoming moderate to heavy for a time, and bringing snow showers down to the Yampa Valley floor. We do see some some moist northwest flow behind the storm for some of Friday, and that should keep snow showers going through the day at the higher elevations as they end at the lower elevations.

I don’t expect much, if any, snowfall to be reported by Friday morning, but we will see some accumulating snowfall during the day. Snowfall amounts at mid-mountain are tricky to forecast due to the warm springtime temperatures, but 2-5” of relatively dense snow there, with higher amounts at higher elevations, are possible.

The Gulf of Alaska storm moves inland over the weekend, and turns our winds back to the southwest. There is some drier air in this southwest flow, and northern Colorado will be between the driest air to our south and moistest air to our north. We should see a generally pleasant weekend with seasonable temperatures and some sun and clouds.

Meanwhile, the once promising Gulf of Alaska storm splits late in the weekend, with the southern piece staying to our west and diving southward across Nevada while the northern piece translates across the northern third of the U.S.

The end result is our area will be mostly between the storms, and Monday and Tuesday will feature a small battle between the southerly flow ahead of the storm to our south and northerly flow behind the storm to our north. While Monday looks to stay mostly dry, Tuesday and possibly Wednesday are more uncertain as the amount of energy split between the northern and southern storms will end up determining our weather.

In any case, a ridge of high pressure builds over the West Coast midweek, and this should provide a break in our active weather. However, we may still be susceptible to passing showers as storms travel down the east side of the ridge of high pressure and possibly graze our area.

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Unsettled week starts with our next storm Sunday

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The second part of a complex storm has just pounded the Sierras, with over 40” of snow being reported over the last day at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. The storm will evolve as most of it moves eastward across the Great Basin today, bringing a strong cold front through the Steamboat Springs area around noon on Sunday. This is at least twelve hours later than my last update, so there is no need for powderhounds to set the alarm. However, travelers may want to get their skiing in early as travel will likely become difficult again after the cold front passes, similar to last Thursday.

The storm has a lot going for it, including instability, intensification as it eventually moves east of our area, cold air, moisture and northwest flow, which is ideal for the Park Mountain Range where the Steamboat Ski Area is situated.

We will likely see periods of heavy snow Sunday afternoon during and after the cold front passes, with 2-4” of relatively dense snow expected by the time the lifts stop turning. Snows will continue overnight with an additional 3-6” of increasingly light and fluffy snow.

We may also see some Steamboat Magic Monday morning, where there is accumulations between report time and ski time, before snows decrease towards noon as temperatures rise. However, another weak piece of the storm moves overhead after noon, likely increasing showers again before they end for a time Monday night. I hate to use such a large range of snowfall estimates for an entire day, but we could see 1-4” of before noon on Monday and another 1-4” of snow for later in the day.

Though temperatures will warm starting Tuesday after a chilly start to the day, more moisture will be carried over or just north of our area by a leftover piece of the storm from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning. If the moisture is far enough south, we may see some clouds and the possibility of some snow showers, with accumulations most likely at higher elevations and closer to the Wyoming border.

Meanwhile, another storm, warmer and wetter than the previous storms, takes shape off the West Coast early in the work week and is forecast to move inland around midweek. The American GFS is faster than the European ECMWF, perhaps by a lot, bringing clouds and showers to our area as early as Thursday morning.

Unfortunately, the storm will start off quite warm, and the relatively low elevation of Steamboat means rain showers at the lower elevations and snow showers at the higher elevations during the day. Incidentally, our low elevation, while providing for relatively long mountain summers, also means March is not our snowiest month, as is the case for most of the higher elevation Colorado ski resorts.

Snow levels should lower to the Yampa Valley bottom overnight Thursday, if the faster American GFS solution ends up closer to being correct. While we generally do not do well with the predominantly southwest winds forecast for the storm, we could pick up significant accumulations later Thursday and into Friday as the coldest part of the storm moves over our area.

Uncertainty increases for next weekend as the American GFS advertises a break in the weather while the European ECMWF keeps colder and more unsettled weather over our region.

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.

Update on the storm

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The complex storm spinning off the West Coast will still affect the Steamboat Springs area weather in pieces, though a larger piece is now forecast for Thursday. We will still see the possibility for high elevations snow showers and low elevation rain showers overnight tonight as one piece of ejecting energy skirts to our northwest, though accumulations look meager at best.

But a stronger piece of the storm will affect our area later Thursday with a weak cool front, which is a change from my last forecast. Timing is still uncertain, though Thursday afternoon or evening is currently forecast, and precipitation should turn to snow in the Yampa Valley when the front passes.

As we are entering the spring months, the sun is higher in the sky and warms the surface more strongly than in the winter months. The warmer surface temperatures combined with the forecast cool front may allow the precipitation to organize in cells, similar to summertime afternoon thunderstorms, and this means spottier precipitation, with some areas receiving more and adjacent areas less.

All of this makes forecasting snow amounts difficult, but 2-5” by the Friday morning report is a good guess.

We still see a break for later Friday and at least part of Saturday with warming temperatures before the last piece of the storm approaches later Saturday. The American GFS is faster than the European ECMWF, bringing the possibility of high elevation snow showers and low elevation rain showers into our area as soon as Saturday afternoon.

This last piece of the storm will be the strongest and coldest, bringing a moderate cold front through the area Saturday night or Sunday. The snow will be heaviest along and just behind the front, with snow showers waxing and waning through Sunday and continuing during the day Monday in cool temperatures and northwest flow, as some trailing energy passes over our area.

I expect significant accumulations for Sunday and Monday, with storm totals over those two days in the 6-12” range.

Tuesday will offer a break before a warmer storm approaches our area around Wednesday.

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.

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