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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.

Stormy weather returns Sunday

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Another sunny winter day with below normal temperatures has greeted the Steamboat Springs area this Thursday morning. Temperatures will moderate through Saturday before a series of storms affects the West through most of the next work week. The storms will start out on the warm side beginning Sunday, but another blast of arctic air is advertised to arrive around midweek.

The hemispheric circulation pattern is currently reorganizing, with the vortex of frigid air that has been centered over Hudson Bay this winter moving eastward. Concurrently, a strong and very moist storm in the eastern Pacific approaches the West Coast this weekend and pushes a shallow ridge of high pressure over our area through Saturday. Temperatures in the Yampa Valley should be near our average 29 F high today and exceed that for Friday and Saturday as warmer air moves through.

The Pacific storm crosses the West Coast early in the weekend, bringing very heavy precipitation to the Sierras. Clouds and southwest winds should increase over our area on Saturday in advance of the storm with snows starting sometime before midday on Sunday. The cold front associated with the storm is not very strong, and northwest flow behind the storm is limited with a more westerly component, but there is a lot of moisture that could lead to periods of moderate to heavy precipitation, along with moderate winds and difficult travel conditions. Though the forecast will likely change as the storm approaches, right now I would guess 4-8” of snow by Sunday evening before this first storm moves east of our area.

Hot on the heels of the first storm is a much colder storm from the Gulf of Alaska that will have mixed with some frigid western Canadian air. Snows may stop for a time Sunday night before they start again by Monday morning as the flow turns back to be from the west-southwest.

Forecast snow amounts will have to wait until the details become clearer, but periods of light to even moderate snow look possible ahead of the main Gulf of Alaska storm on Monday and through the day Tuesday.

Weather forecast models are struggling with the timing, but a strong cold front is forecast for around late Tuesday at which point snows will turn moderate to heavy. Temperatures will plunge and snows will continue on Wednesday as the moist upper level flow turns to our favorable northwest direction. Though moisture decreases in the very cold air mass behind the front, snows should continue to pile up as it becomes increasingly light and fluffy.

A trailing wave of even colder air will pass through our area and reinforce the very cold temperatures around Wednesday night, likely keeping accumulating snows going through part of Thursday.

Another storm and more cold air is advertised to be to our north near the end of the work week, though weather forecast models disagree about the southern extent of this event making the forecast for the following weekend uncertain.

I absolutely love this super-warm split-finger mitten-glove! 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.

Cold and clear follows light snow for Monday

Sunday, January 27, 2019

After nearly 2 feet of snow was reported in the past 3 days at mid-mountain at the Steamboat Ski Area, and more up top, a small storm brings light snow to the Steamboat Springs area starting tonight followed by the return of sunny but cold conditions for the first part of the work week. Milder conditions are forecast for the rest of the work week before a series of storms are advertised to start around next weekend.

The current weather of North America is still dominated by a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and a persistent and deep vortex of very cold air centered over Hudson Bay. For the rest of this Sunday, snow showers are forecast to redevelop this afternoon with some light accumulations of up to an inch or two possible.

A small and relatively dry storm will travel down the east side of the ridge of high pressure and mix with some very cold air from western Canada before affecting the Steamboat Springs area after midnight tonight. Weather forecast models are predicting banded snowfall which makes a forecast difficult since there may be localized moderate snowfall for a time, but I would expect 1-4” by Monday afternoon, along with some Steamboat Magic during the morning hours where the snowfall rates periodically increase.

The cold air pours in during the day, and if skies clear Monday night, we are looking at well below zero temperatures in the Yampa Valley for Tuesday morning. The sun will return though, for a beautiful, cold and crisp winter day.

Another wave of very dry but frigid air will graze our area as it descends over the Midwest and eventually the East starting on Tuesday night, leading to more sub-zero mornings on Wednesday and possibly Thursday, even as the higher elevations warm. But big changes are advertised in the global weather pattern by the end of the work week as the persistent Hudson Bay vortex is forecast to finally move east. Perhaps coincidentally, but likely not, the West Coast ridge also breaks down around this time and allows Pacific energy and moisture to penetrate inland around next weekend.

Timing is uncertain, but it looks like two storms are possible, one around next weekend and another early in the following work week. Furthermore, quite cold air is a possibility sometime after next weekend as the removal of the Hudson Bay anchor allows cold air from the northern latitudes to spread further westward across parts of North America. More details should emerge by my next weather narrative to be published on Thursday afternoon.

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.

Accumulating snows continue through Friday night

Thursday, January 24, 2019

After 9” of snow was reported at both mid-mountain and the top of the Steamboat Ski Area this Thursday morning, accumulating snows look to continue through Friday night as waves of moisture and energy move over our area in brisk northwest flow. We will see a break in the accumulating snows starting Saturday morning and continuing for the rest of the weekend, though some snow showers cannot be ruled out, before snowfall chances increase again on Monday.

Steamboat Springs is currently sandwiched between a large and very cold trough of low pressure covering the eastern two thirds of North America and a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast. The end result is brisk northwest flow that contains waves of Pacific energy and moisture that mix with the very cold air centered near Hudson Bay. As this air is forced to rise as it flows over the Park Range (orographics - or terrain-driven lift, or upslope), the moisture condenses and freezes, forming snowflakes.

The orographic forcing has been and will be augmented by rising motion forced by the Pacific energy, an unstable atmosphere caused by the cold air aloft, and favorable mountain-top temperatures between about 5 F and 14 F. That temperature range encourages the formation of the classic snowflake called a dendrite that contributes to low-density, fluffy snowfall thanks to its space-taking design.

This very favorable setup will bring another 3-6” of snowfall to our area tonight, and with the snow we received this morning, I would expect another 5-10” report by Friday morning.

We may see snow showers, or at least clouds on Friday ahead of another wave that will bring a round of lighter snowfall on Friday night, leaving 2-5” for the Saturday morning report.

Accumulating snows should end Saturday morning, though we may see periodic showers through the weekend as the ridge of high pressure over off the West Coast bulges inland.

Another Pacific wave is expected to round the ridge of high pressure and mix with some frigid air from the North Pole before reaching our area on Monday. There is weather model uncertainty with respect to the track of the storm, with models trending further east and sparing our area from the coldest air, but also reducing snowfall accumulations. So a snowfall forecast will have to wait until my Sunday weather narrative as I expect further forecast changes before then.

The sun is currently advertised to return for Tuesday and Wednesday as some dry air moves over our area in still northwest flow. Forecast uncertainty is high for the end of the work week as incoming Pacific energy battles the ridge of high pressure off the West Coast. At one point, it looked like Pacific energy and moisture would penetrate the ridge and move inland, but now only a small piece of energy looks to ride over the top of the ridge and bring a moderate storm to our area around Thursday.

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!

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