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Closing day storm delivers the goods

Monday, April 14, 2014

The storm forecast for closing day was indeed interesting! The Steamboat ski area reported 2” mid / 3” top at 5 am as some convection ahead of the cold front brought rain to the valleys and snow to the hill. Then we were affected by 3 pulses of energy, though the first or these was limited in impact as there was only 4” of snow at 1 pm up top. Closing day snowstorm with TROWAL signature on 13 April 2014 However, at this time, the second pulse delivered good snow and was quickly followed by a TROWAL (TRough Of Warm air ALoft), which is evident on the IR satellite loop shown on the right (first image at 10:11 am MDT and last image at 5:45 pm MDT on 13 April 2014). This is seen as convective plumes generated over the southern Front Range propagated northwestward over the Continental Divide and into our area. The powdercam at the top of Sunshine Peak showed 6” of snow fell between 1pm and 3pm, with 3.5” falling between 2 pm and 3 pm!

The intense snowfall rates also brought snow to the valleys with over 6” of snow falling in the 5 hours between 11:30 am and 4:30 pm. Additionally, temperatures at Storm Peak Lab near the top of Mt. Werner fell from about 23F around noon to 14F at 4pm, and kept falling through this morning until the temperature reached a mid-winter -1F!

Ski conditions moved from good to great to outstanding, and as advertised in earlier forecasts, the last run of the day was the best, with 10” of snow shown on the powdercam and over a foot measured in the favored areas. The mountain was also relatively sparsely populated due to the events at the base, though I’m sure the mid-winter storm skiing also discouraged those expecting spring conditions!

Some good skiing today followed by a week of unsettled weather

Monday, March 31, 2014

Though the powdercam at the top of Sunshine Peak read just under 4” at 5 am, the Steamboat ski area reported 6” mid / 7” up top for the morning report, and I measured 4” on my deck. I’m at a loss in explaining why the powdercam did not reflect the reported measurement since they are located in close proximity.

The snow on the upper mountain was wind affected, and the runs with a western aspect were inconsistent. However, areas protected from the wind skied creamy and bouncy, as the snow that fell last night was relatively dense.

Surprisingly, the best run I found on the front side of the hill was High Noon down to Rolex. High Noon had been recently groomed and there was a nice layer of fluff on top of a soft surface. And the snow had blown into the right side of Rolex, especially in the lower half of the run. There I found the 7” advertised on the report, and it was only lightly skied, probably due to the visibility being far less than optimal on the open runs. It was so good I did a five runs in a row before finally moving on!

Trees skied OK, but really any place you could find that was consistent skied great. And with that in mind, I was able to ski North St. Pats relatively early in my ski day, and was rewarded with an untracked line down the right side of the main pitch. Deep and steep bottomless turns were some of the best of the day, though there are only so many of them that can fit in the short pitch! I also found great deep snow on the Third Pitch out of Gate 3, though I would caution against venturing in that area without knowledge or guidance, especially since it involves some cliff bands and a 15 minute slog back to the ski area.

This storm will be quickly followed by a complex storm presently just off the coast of northern California that will turn our winds to the southwest by tonight. Several pieces of energy are forecast to be ejected over us in this relatively warm southwest flow even, as main low over California moves southward. Showers on Tuesday will likely remain as rain or a mix at lower elevations in the warming temperatures, though snow should occur above Thunderhead, and I would expect 1-4” to be reported by Wednesday morning.

This pattern persists for Wednesday, though showers will increase and snow levels fall a bit as the main storm moves eastward long the Utah - Arizona border. We will get some cooling on the back side of the storm by late Wednesday as it finally moves east of us, and I would expect around 3-6” by Thursday morning. Snows will likely continue Thursday morning before tapering off by the afternoon.

A transient ridge moves over Great Basin late Thursday / early Friday before another storm enters the west coast on Thursday. There is a fair bit of model uncertainty as to whether this system splits and to what degree, but it appears that this storm helps carve out a persistent trough over the Great Basin.  This trough then keeps us in moist and cool northwest flow for a long-lasting snow event, possibly lasting through the weekend and into the next workweek.

Good skiing today, but better skiing tomorrow

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Steamboat ski area reported 3” mid / 4” top this morning, and it was lightly snowing at report time. There was less than an inch of additional accumulations during the day with some sun on the hill, though it was snowing hard at 4 pm as another convective shower moved through. I currently see more showers upstream on the satellite loop, so we will continue to experience localized and heavy showers through the evening. They will probably wane near midnight, but then pick up again early in the morning as the second part of the storm moves over us, hopefully contributing to some Steamboat Magic between 5 am and 9 am tomorrow morning.

Interestingly, Steamboat recorded one of the lower snow totals this morning in Colorado; the storm produced localized areas of heavier snow last night, and we were unlucky enough to missed by some of these convective cells. Hopefully, we do better tonight!

There was some wind last night, and that evenly compacted the snow in most locations on the upper mountain, creating a smooth and carveable surface. The compacted snow had a fair bit of substance and it skied pleasantly soft on the upper half of the upper mountain. Though the snow became significantly heavier in the lower half, the old snow / new snow interface was not frozen, so it was still soft, albeit crunchy.

The snow was a bit deeper at the top of Morningside - probably around 6”. Christmas Tree Gully was fairly chewed by the time I got to it, though there was good skiing along the sides of the alleys through the trees. No Names skied quite good, especially when turning in the untracked powder.

Excellent snow quality today

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Steamboat ski area reported 5” mid / 6” top this morning, though, as expected, all of that came during the day on Saturday. In fact, I measured 4” of snow on my deck that fell between 6 am and 10 am Saturday morning. The snow started slightly earlier on the hill and lasted longer, though the sun was out late in the day.

I had expected that snow quality would have been similar to last Tuesday or the Tuesday before that, but that was not the case. The temperature this time did not get colder than about 13 F up top during the snowfall while the previous two storms were in the mid single digits. The end result is the snow skied a fair bit heavier yesterday, even on the northern-tilted aspects.

I had lowered snow-quality expectations for the sunny day today, but was pleasantly surprised to find that the lower relative humidities and breezy conditions last night and today dried the snow a fair bit. The snow was far more workable, at least for the upper half of the upper mountain. Closet skied great, as did the Rolex trees, Kuus’ Cruise and Typhoon. The last run of my day was spent poking around in No Names, still uncovering batches of untracked turns in the deep powder.

The grazing wave expected for tomorrow looks to bring some cooling, but precipitation will stay almost completely to our east and north. Sunny weather is on tap later in the day, Tuesday and likely Wednesday morning before the next significant storm begins to affect our weather later Wednesday. Current forecasts show a couple of waves keeping snow going on the hill from late Wednesday to late Friday. There may be some rain in the valleys preceding each frontal passage before that turns to snow.

Another round of Tuesday powder makes for great skiing

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Steamboat ski area reported 3” mid / 5” top at 5 am this morning, and by 1 pm the report had 7” mid / 10” top. Interestingly, there was 3” up top at 4 am and it snowed about an 1” / hr between 4 am and 9 am, except for a 2.5” burst between 4 am and 5 am - now THAT is Steamboat Magic!

More magic was in force on the other side of the Sunshine Peak ridge as over 16” of snow was measured in the early afternoon near the base of the Morningside lift! Satellite loops showed a persistent convective cell in the area from about 7 am to 2 pm that was likely the cause of the enhanced snowfall rates. And I measured as much of 20” in the Second Pitch!

Similar to last Tuesday, the skiing kept getting better as the snow accumulated and covered the last run’s tracks. The upper half of the upper mountain skied great all day, while the lower half benefited greatly from the additional snowfall during the day.

The first time I was in Shadows, for example, the lower parts were still crunchy, so I went over to the Twilight trees seeking a flatter pitch so as to keep above the hard surface. The skiing here was soft through the whole run, as expected. In fact, I did about four runs in a row as I kept finding untracked lines, and even the pitch below Duster skied great.

It seemed there was less snow over in the Rolex trees, but the Sundown and Priest Creek liflines skied soft and effortlessly. The 3:30 trees still had big swaths of uncut powder when I finally left that to check out what the additional snow had done for Shadows. By then, I was measuring almost a foot in the favored locations, and the skiing turned great for the entire run as the crunchies were well buried.

After several more runs in Closet and Shadows, I jumped into Morningside and was greeted by the 16”. It was a bit shocking to see that much snow back there, and I had enough time to lap Wake Up Call three times off the top - with face shots on the initial steep pitch. After that, one more hike to the top to ski the East Face, and then over to the Second Pitch to sample the 20”.

It’s always nice to be reminded of mid-winter skiing in the springtime, especially when the snow quality is fantastic!

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