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!
Sunday, January 20, 2019
The Steamboat Springs area is taking a break this Sunday from the very productive storm cycle that started last Wednesday. After a precipitation-free day today, much colder air follows for the next storm starting around noon on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Another storm approaches for later Wednesday with a fair bit of forecast uncertainty heading into the weekend.
In review, the SNOTEL (Snow Telemetry) sites at Tower and Rabbit Ears remotely reported 4.2” and 3.5” of Liquid Water Equivalent (LWE - a measure of the amount of liquid in the snow), respectively, between Wednesday and Saturday morning. This was the result of two storms with a sub-tropical moisture tap; the first started Wednesday and dropped 6” at mid-mountain and 8” up top by Thursday morning and the second very impressive storm started Thursday around sunset and mostly ended by sunset Friday. By 1 pm on Friday, the Steamboat Ski Area reported 22” at mid-mountain and 29” up top in the last 24 hours, with almost all of that in occurring in the preceding 20 hours!
Our next storm will contain much colder air, and light snow showers will start on the hill by around noon on Monday. Snows should turn moderate to heavy at times during the afternoon or evening before tapering off after midnight, likely making travel difficult for those headed home after the three day holiday. The wind direction for our area is not ideal as it may have too much of a northerly component for much of the storm, and may even have an easterly component for a time, but the strong forcing and unstable atmosphere may conspire to produce 5-10” of increasingly fluffy powder by the chilly Tuesday morning ski report.
As a ridge of high pressure builds over and off the West Coast early in the week, energy and moisture riding over the top of the ridge will impact our area starting on Wednesday, with light snow showers likely during the day. Snowfall should pick up around sunset and continue overnight before becoming light early on Thursday, with showers possibly continuing until the evening. The timing and placement of the waves of energy and moisture are still changing in the weather forecast models as they are hard to predict in the fast northwesterly flow, but at this point another 5-10” of fluffy low-density snowfall is possible by Thursday morning.
Weather forecast models have additional Pacific energy and moisture approaching and battling the ridge of high pressure off the West Coast by late in the work week and the weekend, but are struggling with the details of how this energy moves over, under or through the ridge of high pressure. The outcome of this battle will determine our weather headed into next weekend.
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.
Thursday, January 17, 2019
A Pacific storm that has and is currently hammering the Sierras (4 feet of snow in the past two days at some ski areas so far!) will move across our area from this Thursday afternoon through Friday night and bring significant snowfall to the Steamboat Springs area. We’ll see a short break in the snows early Saturday and a longer break Sunday before another strong Pacific storm brings another round of significant snowfall from about noon on Martin Luther King Jr. Day through midnight. More chances for snow of varying intensity follow for the rest of the work week.
Light snows should pick up this afternoon as a lead wave of energy and moisture ahead of the parent storm entering the Great Basin moves through Colorado. Snows will turn moderate to heavy around the sunset hours for a time (one of the two periods in the day I’ve coined Steamboat Magic where snowfall rates often intensify; the other is the around the sunrise hours) as travel becomes difficult.
Snowfall should let up a bit around midnight before intensifying again as the main storm approaches soon after. Moderate to heavy snowfall rates are expected through report time, and I would guess we’ll see 6-12” of snow for the Friday morning report.
Snow intensity and density should turn much lighter several hours after the front passes, but will likely continue through Friday night as they taper off by Saturday morning. I would guess an additional 2-5” of increasingly fluffy powder during the day and 1-4” overnight which would be reported Saturday morning.
Though the storm is well east of our area by Saturday morning, some energy and moisture riding over the top of a building West Coast ridge behind the storm may start light snows again later Saturday and overnight, especially at the higher elevations.
Skies should clear and temperatures warm on Sunday as the western ridge of high pressure is forced eastward over our area ahead of the next very strong Pacific storm. This one will bring a quite strong cold front through the area during the day on Monday, with moderate to heavy snows currently expected from about noon on Martin Luther King Jr. Day through midnight, along with difficult travel conditions. Potential snow totals from this storm are in the 6-12” range if the current weather model forecast holds.
Much colder temperatures are expected on Tuesday and Wednesday as the cold air from the Monday storm is reinforced by several waves of energy and moisture traveling over a building West Coast ridge. The position of the ridge has been trending further west in weather forecast models as a vortex of cold air over Hudson Bay expands westward and southward and brings bitterly cold temperatures to the eastern two-thirds of the country.
The position of the West Coast ridge is important for Steamboat Springs as the further westward solution now allows waves of energy and moisture riding over the top of the ridge to continue to impact our area, especially at the higher elevations. Though I expect the details to change, at least light snow showers look to continue for each day of the work week, with snows becoming heavier around Wednesday night and Thursday night as stronger and wetter waves quickly pass through our area in the favorable northwest flow.
The weather for next weekend is uncertain at this time as it will depend upon the eventual position of the West Coast ridge.
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.
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
A quick update this Tuesday morning to increase my expected snowfall for the storm tomorrow. Soon after publishing my Sunday forecast, weather forecast models trended stronger and wetter with the storm. Clouds have already overspread the Steamboat Springs area, and light snow should get started around midnight tonight.
I still expect 1-4” by the Wednesday morning report, but the stronger storm means a stronger push of cool air around noon as the cold front passes, and better northwest flow behind the front that will continue snows through the evening.
Though I hate changing a forecast, mainly because I am exposed to being wrong twice, I now expect 3-6” during the day Wednesday with an additional 1-4” after the lifts close. Even after the front passes, temperatures will not be that cold and the snow will be fairly dense, which should provide a nice cushion for some good skiing by the afternoon.
The next quickly-following storm for later Thursday through Saturday morning is still on track to deliver significant snowfall, along with difficult travel conditions, and I plan to write about that more in my usual Thursday weather narrative.
Sunday, January 13, 2019
The Steamboat Springs area is enjoying a beautiful crisp winter morning this Sunday as a decaying storm drifts eastward across our southern border. The weather will turn unsettled by midweek with a significant storm looking more and more likely for the end of the work week.
After a cool start this Sunday due to a strong temperature inversion in the Yampa Valley, temperatures will have a hard time reaching our average high of 27 F today. Under the clear skies forecast for tonight, Monday will again start out chilly as the temperature inversion persists, with low temperatures below our average low of 3 F and high temperatures once again struggling to reach our average.
Meanwhile a Pacific storm approaches the West Coast later Monday with most of the energy forecast to be shunted to our northwest as it battles a ridge of high pressure over the northern Rockies. However, some moisture and energy do make it far enough inland to bring increasing clouds to our area around midday Tuesday. Light snow showers are advertised from about Tuesday evening through Wednesday, with 1-4” inches expected by Wednesday morning and another 1-4” falling during the day for the Thursday morning report. While I don’t expect to see 8” over the two days, the uncertain start and end of this small storm makes timing the amounts difficult.
Another colder and much stronger Pacific Storm crosses the West Coast midweek, and we may see some brief ridging ahead of that storm on Thursday before significant energy and moisture begin moving over our area in the afternoon or evening in favorable northwest flow.
If the current forecast holds, moderate to heavy snows are likely from Thursday night through Friday as two waves of energy and moisture pass over our area, with lighter snows continuing into Saturday behind the strongest part of the storm. Snowfall is likely to be at least 6-12” from Thursday night through early Saturday, with as much as twice that possible.
A ridge of high pressure is then forecast to build over the West behind the departing storm and ahead of another strong Pacific storm. This one is forecast to cross the Pacific Northwest Coast mid-weekend and mix with some very cold air from western Canada as it approaches our area, bringing the possibility of more significant snowfall early in 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.
I also 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!