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The Colorado Daily Snow

Snow & Powder Forecasts for Colorado

Every flake counts!

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Summary

The northern mountains received a dusting to 2 inches of snow on Wednesday, and the same locations should receive 1-4 inches on Thursday afternoon which might lead to sneaky fun turns on Thursday afternoon or more likely Friday morning. Then temperatures will warm up and we'll stay dry from Saturday through most of next week. Models hint that our next chance for widespread snow would be on or around December 17th.

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TMC

Short Term Forecast

A weak system slid over the northern mountains on Wednesday, bringing with it times of clouds and times of light snow. Here was the scene late on Wednesday at Arapahoe Basin as light snow fell with blue skies just above.

Snow on Wednesday
Breckenridge - 2"
Loveland - 1"
Keystone - 1"
Steamboat - 1"
Winter Park - 1"

Other locations in the northern mountains picked up between a dusting and one inch on Wednesday.

Now on Thursday morning, temperatures are cold with readings in the single digits at most mountains. And just like Wednesday morning, clouds are covering the sky over the northern mountains and we should see more snow in this area on Thursday and Thursday night.

Most models agree that the northern mountains will pick up 1-4 inches of snow from late morning on Thursday through about dawn on Friday morning, with most of the snow falling on Thursday afternoon and early evening.

The CAIC WRF 4km model shows the general 1-4 inches across the northern mountains, with the highest amounts likely along the divide near Breckenridge, Keystone, Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, Berthoud Pass, Winter Park, and near the Never Summer range near and west of Cameron Pass.

Below are two model forecasts for snow at Copper Mountain. I picked Copper because the NCAR Ensemble model (lower pane) is available for this location.

It's nice when models agree – the CAIC WRF 4km on the top pane shows 3 inches, and the NCAR model on the bottom pane shows about 2-4 inches with a median of 3 inches. Model agreement doesn't always lead to an accurate forecast, but it provides more confidence than when the models disagree!

Recap - if you're looking to ski a bit of fresh snow, keep your eye on the northern mountains near the divide and on Thursday late afternoon or Friday morning. Even though snow amounts are only forecast to be a few inches, it could ski well and snow amounts could come in a bit higher than expected.

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Extended Forecast

Following the storm in the northern mountains on Thursday evening, temperatures will begin to warm on Friday morning and then we should see warmer and dry weather from Friday through at least the rest of next week.

The European model is hinting at an adjustment to the pattern after about the 15th.

Below is the Pacific-North American Pattern (PNA), which describes areas of higher pressure and lower pressure. When the pattern is negative (lines are lower on the chart below), that's generally good for snowfall in the western US. When the pattern is positive (lines are higher on the chart below), that's generally bad for snowfall in the western US.

You can see that we are currently heading into a strongly positive pattern (bad), and then the model shows a trend toward neutral or negative as we get toward December 15-20.

It's nice to see a trend toward a negative PNA, but I'm not going to be unreasonably optimistic for snow just yet. It looks like we might get a storm to sneak into the western US on or around December 17th, and then I don't know what will happen. Maybe that storm will neutralize the pattern and we'll see more storms shortly after, or maybe the pattern will reestablish itself, as these high-pressure ridges can be hard to break and sometimes last for many weeks.

To put the upcoming dry spell in perspective, it feels terrible from a ski and snowboard standpoint as the biggest resorts in Colorado have very little terrain open, and I know this negatively affects folks in the mountains whose living is tied to skiing and tourism.

From a weather standpoint, though, we are only a few good storms (to me, a good storm is about 12" or more) away from getting back to an average snowpack, and it's only December 7th, so it's far too early in the season to worry about how much snow we'll get between now and April (when our snowpack usually peaks).

Lastly, I received many submissions from my request to photoshop a snowflake tattoo on my face and I'll share them in upcoming posts. Just trying to keep things a bit more fun around here as we prepare for a week or more with no snow fresh snow.

Thanks for reading!

JOEL GRATZ

Announcements

If you're in or around Golden, head to Bentgate on Thursday night for a presentation about backcountry ski tour lines in the San Juans. One of the presenters is Josh Kling, who is a guide in the San Juans and was one of my favorite avalanche class instructors that I still remember from when I took a class in Silverton in January 2010. More info: https://www.facebook.com/events/165576767371995/

OpenSnow bookmarks

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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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