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A week of snow starts tonight

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Well, I hope you enjoyed the last three days of spring-like weather in Steamboat Springs because winter returns starting tonight, with possibly a week of snowfall ahead. Light snowfall starts later today on this Wednesday and will be followed by several waves of likely heavy snowfall that will persist through next Monday. A short break is currently advertised by the weather forecast models for around Tuesday before the snow machine starts up again around midweek.

The weather pattern over the West has been dominated by a large ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska with a strong and cold storm loitering off the Pacific Northwest coast near the base of the ridge. All of the weather action has stayed north of our area these past few days, but that is going to change starting tonight as another upstream Pacific storm is shunted to the south of the ridge in the gulf. As this storm moves east toward the West Coast, it forces the Pacific Northwest storm to eject pieces of energy and moisture that will begin moving over our area starting tonight.

While this storm cycle will start small, with only 1-4” of relatively dense overnight snow expected by the Thursday morning mid-mountain report, it will ramp up by Thursday afternoon as a stronger piece of energy drags a modest cold front across our area overnight. Winds should briefly turn to be from the west-northwest as snowfall intensifies, leaving 5-10” of fluffier and less-dense snow for the Friday morning report, with an additional 1-4” of Steamboat Magic falling before noon.

Additional pieces of the original Pacific Northwest storm travel along what becomes a stationary front aligned roughly along the northern borders of Nevada, Utah and Colorado, and keeps snow showers going for the rest of Friday into early Saturday. Showers will wax and wane along the undulating front, but I would think another 1-4” during Friday afternoon and overnight are possible for a wide-ranging 2-8” guess at the Saturday morning snow report.

At this point, what is left of the Pacific Northwest storm will move just north of our area early on Saturday even as the next Pacific storm that moved underneath the Gulf of Alaska ridge races across the Great Basin and moves just south of our area by Saturday night. The combination of these two storm systems should keep moderate to heavy snows going from early Saturday though early Sunday, with 8-16” of new snow expected by the Sunday morning mid-mountain report.

But wait, there’s more! After these two storm move east of Colorado by Sunday, winds turn to our favorable northwest direction carrying moist and unstable air over the Park mountain range. Persistent light to sometimes moderate orographic, or terrain driven, snowfall is expected from Sunday through Monday afternoon or evening.

At this point, I’ll stop guessing at snowfall amounts since our snowfall will be dependent upon the location and timing of the best moisture and upward motion, and all of these things are changing with each new weather forecast model iteration. But more significant accumulations are very likely by Monday evening.

A short break is advertised for around Tuesday before another Pacific storm takes the same southern trajectory underneath the persistent Gulf of Alaska ridge and crosses the West Coast around midweek. More significant snowfall is likely for much of the West through the rest of the work week and into the following weekend.

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.

Quiet before active weather resumes around midweek

Sunday, February 24, 2019

After an unseasonably cold and moderately snowy week, the sun has returned to the Steamboat Springs area this Sunday morning. A ridge of high pressure over the Gulf of Alaska has allowed a Pacific Northwest storm to form near its base, and Pacific energy and copious moisture will be carried inland this work work and bring significant precipitation to the western corridor between the I-80 and I-90 interstate highways.

After a mostly sunny day today, our area will see some sun and clouds on a seasonably warm Monday and Tuesday, along with the slight chance of some light afternoon snow showers with minimal accumulations at best, as hard-to-time waves of energy and moisture pass just north of us.

The weather turns more active around midweek as additional upstream Pacific storms encounter the Gulf of Alaska ridge of high pressure and split. After strong weather forecast model disagreement on how this pattern will evolve over the last week, it appears the American GFS caught on to the current forecast about 12 hours faster than the experimental model expected to soon take its place, and 24 hour faster than the European ECMWF.

The consensus is now that a Pacific storm will undercut the Gulf of Alaska ridge of high pressure and quickly slingshot around the Pacific Northwest storm and head inland, bringing clouds and a good chance of light to moderate snow later Wednesday into Thursday morning.

Meanwhile, another stronger upstream Pacific storm looks to be shunted much further south underneath the Gulf of Alaska ridge before moving towards the West Coast late in the work week. This will dislodge the Pacific Northwest storm, bringing the possibly strong but quick-moving storm to our area by later Thursday into Friday.

Even at only a half-week away, the details are still uncertain, but right now I would guess snows get started by Wednesday afternoon or evening in generally westerly flow, leaving 3-6” of relatively dense snow by Thursday morning, Snows will diminish, but likely not stop during the day before the much stronger storm starts moderate to heavy snows by Thursday afternoon or evening, bringing 6-12” of fluffy low-density powder by Friday morning.

Winds will turn from the west during the beginning of the storm to the northwest by the end of the storm with another blast of unseasonably cold air, and I expect some Steamboat Magic Friday morning before snows eventually taper off by the end of the day. Another 2-5” of snow will fall during the day that would be reported on a cold Saturday morning report.

A short break is advertised for Saturday before the storm from under the Gulf of Alaska ridge is forecast to cross the West Coast early in the weekend and battle the cold air from the northern latitudes as it moves piecemeal across the Great Basin. Though I expect changes in the forecast, a stormy weather pattern may restart on Sunday and last into the beginning of the next work week.

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.

Warming temperatures for the upcoming week

Thursday, February 21, 2019

A large, cold and slow-moving storm currently over Nevada will cross the Great Basin over the next day and bring heavy snowfall to the Desert Southwest and southern Colorado. North-central Colorado, including the Steamboat Springs area, has seen warming temperatures this Thursday morning in advance of the storm, with the Storm Peak Lab at the top of Mt. Werner reporting 21 F at 11:20 MST, around twenty degrees warmer than the temperatures the last two days.

We will see a chance of light snow showers this afternoon and evening as moisture moves over our area in unstable southwest flow with little accumulation. Snow showers should pick up during the day Friday as the storm approaches the Continental Divide and eventually brings some weak but moist and unstable northwest flow to northern Colorado. Snowfall amounts for our area will be light as the the bulk of the snows will be to our south, but we could see 1-4” by Friday evening before showers taper off and end for another quite cold start to Saturday.

A trailing wave from the northwest brings another surge of cold air along with a chance of snow showers for Saturday afternoon and evening that will bring only light accumulations at best by another cold Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, a rebuilding ridge of high pressure in the Gulf of Alaska will be undercut by a strong Pacific jet stream early in the work week, and this will allow warmer air to cross the West Coast and penetrate inland. Additionally, some upstream Pacific energy is forecast to be diverted southward and form a strong storm well off the West Coast underneath the Gulf of Alaska ridge. This combination of westerly and southwesterly flow impinging on the West Coast will force the jet stream just to our north early in the work week, with the best precipitation likely to occur between the I-80 and I-90 interstate highways.

There is weather forecast model disagreement as to the strength and evolution of the storm underneath the Gulf of Alaska ridge, and this will affect whether a transient ridge of high pressure builds over the Great Basin around midweek. A stronger ridge of high pressure would keep precipitation to our north through the end of the work week, while a weaker ridge will allow for light to possibly moderate snow showers. For what it’s worth, as of this morning, models were trending towards the warmer and drier solution.

Regardless, the weather forecast models seem to agree that the storm under the Gulf of Alaska ridge will be forced inland sometime around next weekend, restarting this winter’s stormy weather pattern as we head into March.

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!

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.

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