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Some snow for Winter Carnival weekend

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The large-scale weather pattern over North America is still dominated by a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and a large vortex of cold air over Hudson Bay. Several storms are lined up to travel over or through the ridge of high pressure to our west and mix to some degree with the cold air over western Canada. There will be chances of accumulating snows in the Steamboat Springs area Saturday and early and late in the coming work week.

Generally, I am not impressed with the first two storms, though the forecast has been dripping with uncertainty for the past few days and could certainly change. Right now, moisture ahead of the Saturday storm will continue to stream over northern Colorado today and tomorrow, with some energy forecast to graze our area on Friday which may lead to some light snow showers, especially at the higher elevations, and breezy conditions.

The incoming storm will shear apart as it crosses Colorado on Saturday, with our area left between the northern and southern branches of the storm. Snow chances will be highest on Saturday as a piece of the cold front stalls near our area, but the disorganized storm is promising greater snow amounts to our south as that area is closer to the southern end of the storm.

The cold front finally blasts through our area around Saturday evening with clearing skies and cool temperatures forecast behind the front. We could see as much as 1-4”of snow on Saturday which would be reported Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, another Pacific storm is forecast to move through the western ridge of high pressure, and this one is forecast to split as some energy digs into the southwestern U.S. and some swings eastward across and north of our area on Monday. We will see sun and warming by Sunday afternoon ahead of this storm, but that looks short-lived as the northern piece of the storm moves over our area, starting light snow showers again on Monday.

The weather will turn quieter after the Monday storm as we are between the departing northern part storm to our east and the left-behind storm to our southwest. The next chance of snow around the end of the work week occurs as the southwestern storm is dislodged by another Pacific storm traveling through the western ridge of high pressure.

At this point, the end-of-week storm, as portrayed by the current weather models., is looking the most promising as the southwestern storm spends some time moistening off the southern California coast during the work week. The new Pacific storm is forecast to mix with both cold air from Canada and the southwestern storm leading to snow chances for our area around Thursday. However, the number of moving pieces between now and then leads to a very low-confidence forecast.

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Snows continue through early Wednesday

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The overall weather pattern for the Steamboat Springs area has changed very little since my last forecast, with a ridge of high pressure to our west and a deep and very cold vortex of cold air over Hudson Bay. Waves of energy and moisture traveling over or through the ridge of western high pressure will mix to varying degrees with cold air over western Canada through Tuesday, with the amount of mixing the main uncertainty in the forecast.

Over the past several days, we’ve had plenty of moisture and favorable northwest flow, but the warm temperatures are strangling our potential snow accumulations. That looks to change around midnight tonight as some cool air finally makes its way over our area. Until then expect cloudy and warm temperatures with minimal snow accumulations, but snows should increase after midnight and become moderate to heavy at times through at least the early morning hours.

Since we may see snowfall rates over an inch per hour at times, I would expect 2-5” of snow by the morning report. Additional waves of moisture and energy will keep the snow going through the day and overnight Monday, and I would guess 2-5” during each twelve hour period, leaving a 4-10” forecast for Tuesday morning.

Snowfall will taper off for a time Tuesday before picking up again in the afternoon as the the last wave in this series crosses the area. This will also bring the coldest temperatures of the storm cycle, and while the moisture decreases, the colder temperatures will mean lighter and fluffier snow., especially after sunset Tuesday. The timing and strength of this final wave is still uncertain, but I could see another 2-5” for the Wednesday morning report.

There appears to be a break in the weather around midweek, with the weekend forecast becoming more uncertain as the weather models change their predictions. The end result is there may or may not be some sort of storm for the Steamboat Springs Winter Carnival weekend.

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.

Snows likely through Tuesday

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Colorado will be sandwiched between a ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and a deep and very cold vortex of cold air over Hudson Bay, which will continue tormenting the Midwest and East with cold and snowy weather. The resultant northwesterly flow over the Steamboat Springs area, which will be breezy to windy at the higher elevations, will yield generally light orographic or terrain-driven precipitation for almost the entire upcoming week in a long-duration event, enhanced from time to time by passing waves of energy and moisture.

These waves will travel over the top of the West Coast ridge and possibly mix with some cool air from western Canada, though the coldest air looks to stay to our north and east. We won’t be seeing any snow to liquid water ratios of thirty or forty to one, like the last storm, though snowfall will vary between denser and less dense depending upon how much cool air mixes with the incoming waves. The amount of mixing, along with the timing and strength of each wave are the sources of uncertainty over the next five days.

Snowfall should taper off this afternoon and evening on Mt. Werner behind the current small storm before picking up again Friday in advance of the next wave, timed to pass over Colorado during the day Saturday. The warming temperatures forecast for Friday will put the Yampa Valley near the rain-snow line, but right now it appears there is enough cool air for precipitation to remain as snow even in town, though there may be a mix at times.

Cooler air arrives with the storm after midnight Friday, and snowfall rates should increase for a time through Saturday morning before decreasing again as the wave moves past our area by the afternoon. I would guess 2-5” of snow for the Saturday morning report, with another 2-5” possible during the day and overnight, to be reported Sunday morning.

The light and continuing snowfall should pick a bit for Sunday as another wave in northwesterly flow skirts northern Colorado before ending for a short time Sunday night, leaving another 2-5” for the Monday morning report.

But the coldest and strongest wave follows for Monday, with snow redeveloping as early as Monday morning. Moderate to heavy snow is currently expected for Monday afternoon and night before tapering off on Tuesday, and there may be 6-12” of snow by the Tuesday morning report.

Adding up these snow guesses yields around one to two feet of snow between today and Tuesday before the western ridge pushes inland and ends the storm cycle. Because of the large orographic component, snowfall rates will increase with elevation, so amounts in town will not be nearly as impressive as the snowfall recorded at the top of the Steamboat Ski Area.

Drier weather is advertised to return after Tuesday, though there are an additional couple of waves for Wednesday and the following weekend which may trend stronger or weaker as incoming Pacific energy continues to ride over the top of the building western ridge.

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Pacific ridging limits snow chances this week

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Ridges of high pressure are currently located over the Bering Sea and the West Coast. Pacific storms are located upstream and downstream of the Bering Sea ridge, with the downstream storm moving from its current position in the Gulf of Alaska to the Steamboat Springs area by midweek.

Before we move on to the forecast, I’d like to point out that the while the past Friday storm total showed 8” at mid-mountain and 9” up top in the 48 hours preceding the Saturday morning report, the Steamboat Powdercam showed 15” at 8:40 am Friday, which means that 10” of snow fell between 4:40 am and 8:40 am Friday morning on top of the 5” reported that morning. There was also significant settlement of the snow pack; I estimate the snow was compacting at around a half inch per hour, which means snowfall rates were approaching 3”/hour for 4 hours! This Steamboat Magic was due to cold temperatures around 5F (which resulted in light and airy very low density snowflakes), moist northwest flow (which resulted in efficient orographics, or terrain-lifted precipitation, where higher precipitation totals are usually found at higher elevations - I measured two feet up at the top of Mt. Werner, a short hike up from the Morningside lift and 180 feet higher than the Powdercam), a cooling atmosphere, which lead to atmospheric instability, and favorable upward motion associated with the storm.

All of these ingredients came together for a magical snow day Friday.

Back to the forecast, the Gulf of Alaska storm is now moving eastward, and this pushes the West Coast ridge over our area by Tuesday. Any lingering snow showers will end today, and expect warming temperatures and clearing skies for Monday and especially Tuesday.

By Wednesday and Thursday, the Gulf of Alaska storm grazes our area as another ridge pops up off the West Coast in response to Pacific energy further upstream undercutting the Bering Sea ridge. This is unfortunate as it is similar to the pattern that occurred earlier in the winter that kept the cold air and storm track over the eastern two thirds of the country.

The end result is a once promising midweek storm is pushed to our north and east, grazing our area and limiting precipitation to only some light snow showers on Wednesday and possibly Thursday.

Some Pacific energy may travel over the ridge of high pressure off the West Coast and mix with some cold western Canadian air by around the weekend for a chance of stormy weather, though that storm is trending weaker in the weather models as the West Coast ridge trends stronger.

My new favorite cold-weather glove are all about warmth. And when combined with the standard HotHands handwamers which I use below about 5F, I’m good for the day. 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.

Modest storms for Friday and midweek

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A storm currently crossing the Great Basin will bring snows to the Steamboat Springs area starting around midnight tonight, along with some clouds ahead of the storm for the rest of today. The storm does have some cold air associated with it, though good moisture is lacking. I would expect 2-5” for the Friday morning report, with another 1-4” during the day as snow showers taper off by Friday night.

The wide range in the predicted amounts is because I am unsure of the density of the snowfall. Under warm conditions, a tenth of an inch or so could produce an inch of high-density snow that skis like cream cheese, or as we saw last Monday night into Tuesday morning when the temperature at mountain-top was around 5F, four of five inches of light and fluffy snow that feels like it is barely there.

Nonetheless, a building ridge of high pressure over the West Coast this weekend forces northwest flow over our area behind the storm, and combined with some embedded moisture, will produce clouds for Saturday and light snow showers for Saturday night and Sunday, with some light accumulations possible.

The West Coast ridge will translate over our area by later Monday which should bring clearing skies and warmer higher-elevation temperatures during the day. As is usual for this time of year, any clear nights will allow for cold morning lows in the Yampa Valley as temperature inversions form, with low-elevation temperatures slow to recover during the day.

Meanwhile, a chunk of cold air from western Canada squirts into the Gulf of Alaska behind the eastward moving ridge of high pressure, and becomes the basis of our next storm timed for around Wednesday.

At this point, this storm looks colder and broader than the Friday storm with mountain-top flow more out of the northwest, so we may receive more snow from the storm as compared to tomorrow’s storm. Furthermore, there is trailing energy and moisture that will restart snow showers by Thursday after they end for a time Wednesday night.

Behind the midweek storm, an epic atmospheric battle will then ensue over the northern Pacific as a sharp ridge of high pressure builds over the Bering Sea. This ridge will be under attack from the west by a strong Pacific jet stream and the east by very cold North Polar air moving over western Canada. The interaction of these three moving pieces will determine our weather for next weekend, and likely beyond.

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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