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Snow reluctantly ends to start the work week ahead of significant midweek storm

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Temperatures are around twenty degrees in the town of Steamboat Springs and mid-teens near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort under lightly snowing skies late this Sunday morning. Light snows will continue today and reluctantly end by Monday morning, though we may see some more snow showers Monday afternoon and overnight. We will see a break in the unsettled weather on Tuesday with some sun possible ahead of a significant storm for Wednesday and Thursday.

After eight inches at mid-mountain and nine inches up top were reported Saturday morning at the Steamboat Ski Resort, brilliant sunshine emerged early in the morning and lasted through the day. But snow showers have restarted in our favorable northwest flow this morning, with three inches accumulating on the Steamboat Powdercam and two inches at the mid-mountain snow stake. Snow showers should continue through the overnight leading to a 3-6” Monday morning ski report at mid-mountain.

A weak wave passing to our south on Monday may restart light snow showers for a time Monday afternoon and overnight with 1-4” possible by the Tuesday morning report.

A break in the unsettled weather is forecast for Tuesday as a ridge of high pressure moves through the Rockies, and we should see temperatures within several degrees of our average of 41 F along with some hard-to-come-by sunshine this winter.

The nice day on Tuesday will precede our next major storm starting on Wednesday and lasting through Thursday as a cold storm currently over the Gulf of Alaska conspires with another atmospheric river north of Hawaii. As with the last storm, temperatures will be above freezing down in town after the precipitation starts early in the day Wednesday, so expect snow or a rain-snow mix turning to rain in the afternoon. Snow levels should rise to as high as 8000′, so wet and dense snowfall should be above Christie Peak.

The structure of the storm as it moves overhead Wednesday night is still uncertain as weather forecast models indicate there may some sort of split in the storm. A cold front may then stall over the mountainous terrain of north-central Colorado later Wednesday into Thursday, which contributes to a difficult snowfall prediction. We will likely do quite well from the combination of the moisture associated with the atmospheric river and the cold air from the original Gulf of Alaska storm, and my current guess is 6-12” for the Thursday morning report at mid-mountain with another 2-5” during the day Thursday.

Though the weather forecast models disagree on the details of the storm as it passes overhead, they do agree on the unseasonably cold air in the wake of the storm by Friday morning, especially if skies clear Thursday night. Unless there are big changes in the forecast, I’ll be back with my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Thursday afternoon where I’ll discuss what currently looks like a nice start to the weekend and the following storm.

Wall of water arrives Friday

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Temperatures are in the upper twenties in the town of Steamboat Springs and low teens near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort under clearing skies late this Thursday morning. The mostly sunny skies this afternoon will be replaced with a warm and wet Pacific air mass on Friday, possibly bringing rain below mid-mountain during the day and evening. Colder air arrives overnight Friday, turning any liquid precipitation to snow, with the bulk of the significant snow at mid-mountain and above over by Saturday afternoon. Snow showers may persist through the rest of the weekend.

The two inches of snow reported at mid-mountain today and three inches up top were due to an ejecting wave of energy and moisture from a persistent area of low pressure currently off the Pacific Northwest coast that had earlier formed an eddy. Our weather gets very interesting starting on Friday as a stream of subtropical and tropical moisture referred to as an atmospheric river combines with winds on the south side of that Pacific Northwest eddy and slams into West Coast later today.

Ahead of that, skies will continue to clear today for a mostly sunny afternoon. But we will see a warm and wet Friday after the atmospheric river dumps impressive low-elevation rain and high elevation snow on California and moves overhead. As is often the case in March, the low elevations will struggle with cold enough temperatures for snow, and rain or a rain-snow mix is likely below mid-mountain on Friday and Friday evening, with a dense 2-5” expected by sunset at and above mid-mountain.

That Pacific Northwest eddy is forecast to be forced eastward on Friday by another eddy forming in its place, and will move over our area around midnight on Friday. Much colder air will accompany the former eddy, with any liquid water turning to snow at low elevations and mountain top temperatures dropping from near thirty degrees ahead of the cold front toward ten degrees by Saturday morning. Winds will become strong and gusty along the front, though should quiet down by sunrise on Saturday. We could see another 4-8” by the Saturday morning report, with the snowfall becoming progressively less dense toward morning. And there may be another 1-4” of light and fluffy snowfall by noon.

The cold front will push the best moisture to our south, keeping the chance of snow showers going through the rest of the weekend as we are on the boundary between the warm and moist air to our south and the cold and drier air to our north. We could see 1-4” of additional snowfall Saturday night and that again during the day Sunday.

A final weak wave may move across Sunday night, and if that happens we could see another 1-4” fall in the favorable northwest flow. A ridge of high pressure then looks to briefly build over our area to start the work week ahead of the new Pacific Northwest eddy for some nice weather, though that may be short-lived as another significant storm is possible around midweek. I’ll have more details about that in my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon.

Unsettled work week ahead

Sunday, March 5, 2023

After some sun and wind and temperatures in the mid-thirties in Steamboat Springs late this Sunday morning, snows have restarted with several inches of accumulation at the Steamboat Ski Resort by late this Sunday afternoon. Another several inches are likely to fall by midnight before they taper off by Monday morning with some clearing skies advertised for parts of the day. Our area will be right on the southern edge of light snows on Tuesday and Wednesday before good chances for snow reappear starting Wednesday night and lingering through Thursday.

A sharp ridge of high pressure currently over the eastern Pacific extends through Alaska toward the North Pole while an area of low pressure is anchored off the Pacific Northwest coast near the base of the ridge. Northerly winds on the east side of the high pressure are directing waves of cold air and energy around the somewhat stationary storm, resulting in a stationary front that extends from the base of the storm eastward across northern California, Nevada, Utah and northern Colorado. This front separates the colder air to our north from the warmer air to our south.

The snows from today were the result of some energy ejecting out of the storm yesterday and moving over our area this afternoon, accompanied by the strong winds of the jet stream overhead. The bulk of the 3-6” that should be reported at mid-mountain Monday morning that has not already fallen today will fall by midnight.

Weather forecast models are not in complete agreement as to the strength and location of the ejecting waves through most of Wednesday, and we may have some light snow showers at times as the front meanders south and perhaps even some sun as the front meanders north. Any accumulations are likely to be very light, with 1-4” the best hope on the Tuesday and Wednesday morning mid-mountain ski reports, though there also may be zeros reported.

Weather forecast models agree that a stronger wave of energy moves overhead by Wednesday night even as cold air from the northern latitudes replenishes the storm through the work week and beyond. Unfortunately, they disagree about the details, with the American GFS faster, stronger and wetter. That model is currently predicting as much as 6-12” between Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, though the European ECMWF, which I’m currently inclined to support since it has forecast this weather setup more accurately so far, has less than half of that.

A break in the unsettled weather is forecast by both models for at least some of Friday, and agree about some sort of storm for the weekend, though they disagree on how that storm may evolve. So be sure to check back Thursday afternoon where I’ll have more details about the possible weekend storm and what may be a break in the unsettled weather pattern for the beginning of the following work week.

Short breaks in snowfall later today and Saturday

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Temperatures are in the mid-twenties in the town of Steamboat Springs and mid-teens near the top of the Steamboat Ski Resort late this Thursday morning under lightly snowing skies. We will see a short break in the wintry weather that has been over the area this past week later today before a modest storm quickly moves through on Friday. Another short break is advertised during the day Saturday before we see chances for snow from Saturday night through the beginning of the next work week.

The storm which dropped incredible amounts of snow to our west is now quickly scooting along southern New Mexico and will be through Texas by Friday morning. Mammoth Mountain, for example, reported an incredible 65” in the three days ending yesterday, and Arizona Snowbowl reported a monster three feet this morning!

Our snow reports were underwhelming by any measure, though we did pick up an inch after the morning report today at mid-mountain and two inches up top as shown on the powdercams. The snows have stopped for now and we may see some clearing today, especially at the lower elevations, before a quick-moving storm in favorable northwest flow moves through the area on Friday. The bulk of the predicted 3-6” for the Saturday morning mid-mountain ski report should fall during the day Friday with with the rest falling in the evening and tapering off by Saturday morning.

Some sun is currently forecast during the day Saturday, and that will be our last break before unsettled weather returns for an extended period starting Saturday night thanks to another large and complex storm forecast to develop off the Pacific Northwest coast Saturday and loiter there in some fashion through at least midweek.

Similar but slightly different than the last storm cycle, energy and moisture ejecting out of the storm will move across the West in winds generally from the west and west-southwest direction. As the first wave approaches our area Saturday night, winds will increase with average winds speeds approaching 40 mph on the mountain and gusts twice that. While the strongest winds are forecast for the overnight, they may only decrease to 30 mph by Sunday morning with gusts again about twice that, possibly leading to some more lift issues early in the day.

Luckily the winds are forecast to subside during the day as snows pick up, and while we won’t see much snow on the Sunday morning report, we could see 2-5” fall during the day. However, even at this short range, weather forecast models are wavering on how much moisture moves overhead and the location of the best storm energy.

The Pacific Northwest storm is forecast to loiter there through at least midweek as ejecting storm energy is replenished by more incoming Pacific energy. This forces a stationary front to set up shop across parts of Nevada, Utah and Colorado, with the front drifting north ahead of ejecting energy and south behind it. Our snowfall will eventually be determined by the location of the front and how much moisture each ejecting wave carries.

So lots of uncertainty regarding snow amounts, but the cool and unsettled weather looks likely. Stay tuned to my next regularly scheduled weather narrative on Sunday afternoon where I’ll hazard some snowfall guesses and take a peek at what lies beyond the wintry start to the work week.

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4 February 2024

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