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Really good storm skiing this afternoon

Friday, January 10, 2014

It’s been snowing about an inch per hour the entire day, and at 1pm the Steamboat ski area reported 13” had fallen at mid and top in the last 24 hours. It was a bit windy on the hill, and with winds increasing during the afternoon, conditions evolved through the day. In general and as you might expect, any aspect sheltered by the wind skied better as the afternoon progressed, but the wind was even starting to get into the trees and create some drifting there.

An early run down Shadows skied well, especially the lower half, as did the left side of Lower Shadows. The wind was strong enough to buff Sundown liftline so that it skied very consistently, encouraging high speed and bouncy GS turns for a couple of runs. Even the gully just above Duster was skiing great as many (but not all!) of the rocks were covered. Rolex trees also skied very deep if you could find the untracked lines, and the Aspen near the bottom were sublime.

The lower mountain received similar amounts of snow, so that was skiing great too. A quick run down the middle of Concentration had tons of untracked turns. Vertigo is a smaller trail than Concentration and had less untracked snow, but the skiing was still soft and consistent.

Current storm cycle is delivering the goods

The morning report had 6” at mid and 9” up top, with 3.5” at mid falling overnight. By 9am, and additional 2” of snow had fallen at mid and top, and by 11am, another 3” mid and 1” up top had fallen, and it is currently snowing.

Snowfall should increase again this afternoon as a trailing wave passes over the area, producing another 3-6” of snow. Snowfall will rapidly diminish after midnight as the airmass stabilizes and winds increase. Considering that 5” of new snow has already fallen at mid-mountain between 5am and 11am, I’m expecting tomorrow’s report to be in the 8-12” range.

Snowfall will continue to taper off during Saturday and might even end for a short time during the day and possibly into the evening. Sundays forecast storm has slowed a bit, shifting some of my original 6-12” prediction to after the morning report. So I would expect 4-8” on both Sunday and Monday morning to be reported, with most of the snow for Monday occurring during the day Sunday. Snowfall will be becoming lighter but still persistent starting later Sunday and lasting through midnight Monday before ending, likely adding another 3-6” during the Monday that will be reported Tuesday morning.

Dry air and warming mountain temperatures will overspread the area in earnest later Tuesday into Wednesday with beautiful sunny days and cold valleys due to inversions reforming and strengthening. The grazing wave for Thursday may be even further east than earlier forecast, minimizing any cloudiness associated with it as the western ridge rebounds over our area Friday into the weekend.

There are indications that Pacific storms may weaken the ridge and allow energy to move into the west coast and then over our area later in the weekend or early in the next workweek, but lots of model disagreements at this time.

Storm cycle on track to continue through Monday

Thursday, January 9, 2014

We are currently in a lull between the departing weak wave last night and the far more impressive wave timed for tonight. Snowfall will be increasing again this afternoon, especially after sunset as the cool air begins moving over the area. Accompanied with moderately strong northwest flow, I would expect 6-12” by Friday morning, with optimistically some Steamboat magic occurring between 5am and 9am. Snow will lighten later in the morning before picking up again later in the afternoon as a trailing wave moves just northeast of the area.

Models have trended further northeast with this trailing wave, reducing expected snowfall late Friday into Saturday and increasing the chance that high winds will impact the ski area. Snow will become lighter by midnight as the air mass warms and stabilizes, and the snow will likely stop for a short time Saturday, though troublesome winds will continue. I might expect another 5-10” by Saturday morning with only a small amount of that occurring after midnight Friday.

The final wave affecting our area by Saturday afternoon is also cool, moist, energetic and from the northwest. Cooling temperatures will help reduce winds later in the day, and I would expect another 6-12” by Sunday morning, again optimistically with some Steamboat magic occurring between 5am and 9am. The morning snows should lighten during the day, but will likely persist through Monday afternoon. Most of the forecast 3-6” of snow by Monday morning will have fallen Sunday.

A dry and grazing wave in northwest flow looks to bring more cool air into the area Monday night, but no precipitation is currently expected. Likely a couple of brilliant sunny days Tuesday and Wednesday as mountain slopes warm, though valley inversion will reform and strengthen. Another grazing wave in northwest flow may bring some cool air into the region around Thursday, though models are currently struggling with the westward extent of this wave.

Big model differences emerge for the next weekend as the American model breaks the west coast ridge down and allows substantial energy and moisture into the central west coast where they desperately need it, while the European model hints that the ridge will dominate.

Fine skiing this afternoon

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

3” of new snow was reported at mid-mountain at 1pm with temperatures in the upper 20’s, while the upper mountain had a temperature around 10F. I feared dust-on-crust conditions up top, but was very pleasantly surprised to find very soft skiing everywhere.

The snow that fell was comprised of very small rimed snow crystals that formed a dense but buoyant surface. Riming occurs when snow crystals fall through a moist cloud layer comprised of supercooled water droplets. These water droplets then freeze on the snow crystal and obscure its original pristine shape. In fact, when the original shape of the crystal is no longer identifiable, the precipitation is referred to as graupel.

My perfunctory first run down Shadows found soft snow and big patches of the 3” of unskied powder. Next over to the Twilight area, of which the first half pretty much skied the same as Shadows. The lower half was warmer and more tilted to whatever sun we had up there this afternoon, and was getting heavy.

Last run I ripped down Sundown lifline, and the tracked up snow skied soft and bouncy and was extremely carveable. Then, up Elkhead to first catch Concentration, and then the last ride up Thunderhead for Vertigo. Both of these runs also skied soft and bouncy, very similar to Sundown liftline. A quick ride up Bashor lift to access See Me, which also skied great, to end the afternoon.

After light snow tonight, possibly big snows start Thursday night and last until Monday

After about 2” of snow last night, another weak wave traverses the area tonight. There is not much cool air associated with this wave, so I would expect another several inches by Thursday morning after light snow begins this afternoon.

Snow may let up a bit Thursday, but likely not end high on the hill. The next wave affects our area by Thursday afternoon. Yesterday, I was concerned about this wave splitting as it moved over the Great Basin, but the European model solution has uncharacteristically moved toward the American model solution and now keeps the wave far more intact. Confidence increases, then, that significant snows will occur Thursday night when the main wave passes and again Friday night as a trailing wave sneaks through behind the departing main wave.

Snow will wane early Thursday before increasing again, especially after sunset as the cool air begins moving over the area. With cool air and a moderately strong and moist wave in stiff northwest flow, I would expect 6-12” by Friday morning, with optimistically some Steamboat magic occurring between 5am and 9am. Snow will lighten later in the morning before picking up again later in the afternoon and likely becoming heavy as the trailing wave moves over the area.

Snow will become lighter by midnight as the air mass warms and stabilizes, and the snow will likely stop for a short time Saturday. I might expect another 6-12” by Saturday morning with only a small amount of that occuring after midnight Friday.

The final wave affecting our area by Saturday afternoon is also cool, moist, energetic and from the northwest, so I would expect another 6-12” by Sunday morning, again optimistically with some Steamboat magic occurring between 5am and 9am. The morning snows should lighten during the day, but will likely persist through Monday morning. Most of the forecast 3-6” of snow by Monday morning will have fallen Sunday.

A dry and grazing wave in northwest flow looks to bring more cool air into the area Monday night, but no precipitation is currently expected. Likely a couple of brilliant sunny days Tuesday and Wednesday as mountain slopes warm, though valley inversion will reform and strengthen. Another grazing wave in northwest flow may bring some cool air into the region around Friday, though models are currently struggling with the westward extent of this wave.

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