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The Colorado Daily Snow

Snow & Powder Forecasts for Colorado

Light accumulations along the northern divide

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Summary

While the main weather pattern for the next two weeks will bring dry weather, storms will clip the northern mountains now and again. One of these times will be on Wednesday and Thursday when 2-4+ inches could fall from about I-70 north and along the divide. There could be fresh snow on Thursday and especially on Friday morning. The generally dry weather pattern should continue through about December 20th and then there will likely be more action during the final 10 days of December.

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TMC

Short Term Forecast

Before getting to the forecast, I wanted to share this photo sent in by a reader, taken from a commercial airliner as it passed over Summit County. That's Breckenridge in the foreground and Copper in the background.

Also, I wanted to point you to Powderchaser Steve's latest post which talks about a single-day chase earlier this week that took him to Grand Targhee, Wyoming, and then south to Beaver Mountain, Utah. When you really want powder, you'll do what it takes! Here is Steve's story and pictures: http://opensnow.com/dailysnow/chase/post/9237

Now on Wednesday morning temperatures are between 10-20F across the state, so snowmakers likely had another productive night. While most of the state is dry with clear skies, the northern mountains along the divide (Cameron Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park, Berthoud Pass, etc) are beginning to see clouds and light snow showers as a weak system slides from north-to-south across northern Colorado.

Here is the light snow that began falling at Cameron Pass (west of Fort Collins) early on Wednesday morning.

We should see light snow along the northern divide on Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday morning will likely offer the softest turns. Here is the snow forecast from Wednesday morning through Friday morning, which shows the best chance of snow in the northeastern mountains.

Below is the CAIC WRF 4km model output for two locations, Cameron Pass on the top pane and Arapahoe Basin on the bottom pane. The model shows light snow on Wednesday into Thursday morning, then a 6-12 hour period of more significant snow from about Thursday 1 pm to Thursday at midnight, resulting in 3-4 inches.

In a dry weather pattern, like we're seeing now, every flake counts. If you love powder, I suggest poking around the northeastern mountains on Friday morning for a chance at soft turns.

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Extended Forecast

The weather pattern from now through December 15th will look like this. Colors show snowfall, and the orange line shows the approximate storm track.

You can see how northeastern Colorado gets clipped by a few systems, but the only deep powder in the US will be near the lake-effect regions downwind of the Great Lakes. And maybe in southwestern Texas!

During the period between Friday, December 8 and Friday, December 15, expect mostly dry weather and temperatures that will allow for snowmaking at night but likely not a lot during the day. We might see a shot of cooler air around the 11th and 15th, with perhaps a few flakes, but we'll stay dry most of the time. We might see a bit more terrain open thanks to snowmaking.

Between about December 15-20, the weather pattern will begin to adjust though I don't know if this will actually allow storms to track into Colorado. My best estimate is that we'll stay dry during this time as well.

Between about December 20-30, most longer-range models hint that the weather pattern will change and storms will track from the Pacific Ocean into the Rockies. This is a positive sign, though there is no way to know if any single storm will hit Colorado as we just can't know these forecast details 15-25 days into the future.

I have reasonable confidence that we will see more storms during the last 10 days of December through early January (based on longer-range models) but this more active pattern may not come in time to produce enough snow to open a lot of terrain for the holidays. To open a lot more terrain, all we need is about two good storms, and that's not an unreasonable ask over a period of 5-7 days. But again, I don't have any idea if this will or will not happen later in December - that's still too far away for a specific forecast.

If you're looking to ski more terrain in Colorado, Monarch and Wolf Creek show 60% of their terrain is open.

If you're looking to ski even more terrain, Grand Targhee, Wyoming is 100% open with all natural snow and more mountains in the northern Rockies have a decent amount of terrain open with a deep snowpack (click around OpenSnow to see snow reports for any ski area).

If you're looking to ski powder, the cat and heli ops in British Columbia are in good shape after the plentiful early-season snowfall. They will also be in this dry weather pattern for the next ~10 days, so expect powder with sunshine, which is somewhat rare during December in BC.

If you're looking to ski deep, fresh powder, fly to Japan now and stay for 10-20 days. It's deep over there and the forecast looks good. C'mon, just go for it. Book a flight. Ditch work. Ski pow. Eat sushi. You'll be glad you did! If my wife and I didn't have a 3-month-old son, we'd probably use miles and hop on a flight in the next few days to satiate our powder fix. If this same situation happens next season (dry in Colorado, deep snow in Japan), our then one-year-old son will be coming with us across the Pacific. Yes, Japan is so good if you like deep snow. Ok, you get the point. Did you book your flight?

Lastly, if you are good with Photoshop, please draw a snowflake tattoo around my eye, like in the movie The Hangover, and post in the comments or send to me at [email protected] Maybe this will make it snow...

Here's a picture of my face to use ... I am nervous to even suggest this because, well, the internet can do some crazy (mean) things, but it can also be super creative and funny, so have at it and be kind:-) All good photoshop renditions of a snowflake tattoo around my eye will get a free OpenSnow All-Access Pass for a year. 

Thanks for reading!

JOEL GRATZ

Announcements

See you Wednesday night (Dec 6) in Denver at REI.
Lou Dawson wrote a guidebook presenting only safe backcountry ski tours and he is giving a talk about the book. I'll be there and hope you can make it as well.
https://www.rei.com/event/uphill-skiing-and-light-tours-of-colorado/denver/186652

OpenSnow bookmarks

Colorado Forecast Page:
https://opensnow.com/state/co

Sign up for a free or All-Access account to set favorites & snow alerts:
https://opensnow.com/user/register

Geography Key

Northern Mountains
Steamboat, Granby, Beaver Creek, Vail, Ski Cooper, Copper, Breckenridge, Keystone, Loveland, Abasin, Winter Park, Berthoud Pass, Eldora, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cameron Pass

Along the Divide
Loveland, Abasin, Winter Park, Berthoud Pass

East of the Divide
Eldora, Echo, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cameron Pass

Central Mountains
Aspen, Sunlight, Monarch, Crested Butte, Irwin, Powderhorn

Southern Mountains
Telluride, Silverton – north side of the southern mountains | Purgatory, Wolf Creek – south side of the southern mountains

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