Tuesday February 12th 2013 9:30am MST
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Summary: A few snow showers in the northern mountains Tuesday and Wednesday, then good snow and likely powder days from I-70 northward on Thursday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday will be dry, then another storm on President's Day (Monday) and then it gets stormy again next Wednesday and hopefully through the end of February.
This morning the storm is clearing out and cold air is left in its wake. The infrared satellite image below senses temperatures. Since clouds are usually colder than the ground (because they're higher in the sky), this image often shows areas of clouds, and there are a few in the lower-right part of the graphic. However the other blue areas in the middle of Colorado indicate cold ground temperatures because there are no clouds between the satellite and the ground, so it senses the temperature of the ground. The coldest temperatures this morning are -10 to -20 F, and those temperatures usually occur in valleys where the heavier cold air sinks overnight. If you've driven around the state, you can likely pick out the valleys based on where the cold air (blue areas) is sitting this morning. However this is tricky because some mountain locations are also quite cold, and those show up in blue as well. To be a great mountain forecaster (and powder chaser), you need to know geography exceedingly well, and often only using a county map because that's the most detail you get for many weather maps.
We do show current temperatures for all ski areas on our Snow Report page and also on each mountain's page, and we pull these from the nearest mountain weather station, NOT the nearest town which is what most other sites do. It took us a long time to find mountain weather stations for every ski area in the country, but I think we've done a good job, and we even tell you on the mountain's page if the weather station is at the summit, mid mountain, base, or nearby.
The image below shows the Sunday/Monday storm moving away from Colorado. This storm is actually dumping 6-10 inches of snow on the Texas panhandle, a great thing for the farmers in the area.
There will be some clouds and light snow from I-70 and north starting Tuesday night and lasting through Wednesday evening, but accumulations will be light and less than an inch or two, if that.
The next good storm arrives on Wednesday night and will likely come in two parts that will be hard to distinguish from each other. Snow will fall from Wednesday night through Friday midday, and areas along and north of I-70 could see powder days on Thursday and Friday morning. There will be a northwest flow over Colorado (winds from the northwest) and two pieces of energy (vorticity) will move through this flow on Thursday and again late Thursday night into Friday. A northwest wind usually favors the mountains from Vail east into Summit County and north to Steamboat and along the divide at Abasin, Loveland, and Winter Park up to Vagabond Ranch. Also and Indian Peaks, Eldora, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Cameron Pass can see good blow-over snow as stronger winds create good lift and snow on the west side of the divide and blow this snow over to the east side of the divide.
Right now it looks like the first piece of energy for Thursday is a given, but the models are hinting at a second piece of energy for late Thursday night into Friday morning that could keep snow going over these locations. The European model is the snowiest of all, and I'm tending to think it'll be correct. Predicting these individual pieces of energy moving through the northwest flow is extremely difficult for the models, as it's almost like predicting where a leaf will end up in a fast-moving and turbulent river. That said, I'm going to be optimistic with this event. Also, I was a little gun-shy earlier this season, but now will be returning to the blue boxes indicating a powder day on the state page. I'll generally mark powder days if the average accumulation from the previous night and that day is equal to or greater than 6 inches.
Here's the storm brushing Colorado with a good northwest flow on Thursday into Friday.
Early forecasts show up to a foot in northern Colorado and perhaps 5-10 inches along I-70. That sounds about right.
It'll clear out on Friday night, stay dry on Saturday and Sunday, then the next storm arrives late Sunday night into President's Day. It's still too far out to know exact accumulations, but it should snow for most of the state on Monday, including the possibility of seeing snow in the front range cities. If this happens, the drive back on I-70 from the mountains on Monday afternoon will be horrific with tons of traffic, so stay tuned so you can plan your travel to avoid the Monday night mayhem.
We'll likely get a break from the snow next Tuesday (19th), then it looks like a stormy pattern starts on Wednesday the 20th and continues through the end of the month. This is exactly what I've been talking about for almost 10 days, so while I hate detailed long-range forecasts because they'll never be right, you can see that identifying trends in long-range forecasts can be useful. Yay for snow!
In fact, both the European and American GFS models show this active period for the end of February, so let's hope for the best. This does NOT guarantee us tons of snow every day, but I hope it means consistent snow at least every two or three days. And if we can get some back-to-back-to-back days of snow, this is what often creates the best "sleeper" powder days because there are no big one-day totals to draw the crowds but the snow just keeps on piling up. I cannot tell you what March will look like, but I would keep some free time for the rest of February as there might be some days you'd rather be skiing powder than be at work.
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