Tuesday December 18th 2012 8:06am MST
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-- Update 9:45pm Tuesday --
I've heard some grumbling from people that said it wasn't snowing much (or at all) today. Yes, that's true...and exactly what I said would happen when winds switched to the southwest during the day. The cold front and heavy snow is still coming, though might be a few hours later than I thought and will hit many areas between midnight and 4am and last through early morning. This could mean that the AM snow reports aren't as impressive as you'd think, but I would bet it continues to dump through the morning hours after the 5am reports are posted. I still think Wednesday will be a great day to ski. I say this because 1) there were many days of snow which have created soft conditions and 2) an additional 6-12 inches will fall overnight and in the AM for most areas.
-- Previous discussion 8:00am Tuesday --
In late November I said all it would take to make us happy would be about two weeks of consistent cold and snowy weather. Fast forward to now and we're in our second week of consistent cold and snowy weather and all of a sudden it looks and feels like winter. Seeing 24 hour snow reports of 6-12 inches is fantastic, especially since that's on top of previous days of 3 to 6 to 8 inches. Over the last eight days, Monarch has had over 60 inches of snow, Wolf Creek is about the same, and many other resorts have had at least a few feet. And we've got another 24 hours of snow to look forward to.
Today (Tuesday) is a powder day for many areas with more snow falling than I thought on Monday. And tomorrow (Wednesday) is going to be a powder day for every ski area in Colorado.
Let's first talk about today. Like most relationships during college, today's weather will be complicated. There will be three distinct areas of the state with different types of weather.
1) Steamboat and the continental divide north of I-70 will see continued heavy snow today as a cold front stalls over or just north of the area.
2) Areas from I-70 down to Aspen might see the snow wind down today as winds switch around to blow from the southwest (instead of west for the last two days). Southwesterly winds aren't favorable for snow in this area. There is a ton of moisture and some storm energy (vorticity) to keep the snow going, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a few more inches, but I think the snow will be lighter than Monday.
3) Areas from Crested Butte, Irwin, and Monarch south to the San Juans should see decent snow continue as they can do OK in winds from the west-southwest and southwest. CB and Monarch may see the snow slow down this afternoon, but it will pick up for the southern San Juan mountains like Durango, Silverton, and Wolf Creek.
The heaviest snow will fall Tuesday night from about midnight through mid-morning on Wednesday. When the cold front comes through, expect a burst of heavy snow with rates at 2"/hr and gusty winds. This could temporarily close some roads tonight, so make sure you're at your Wednesday ski destination by this evening.
Tuesday night's cold frontal passage has something for everyone. The northern half of the state will see winds switch around to the northwest and keep the snow going through midday on Wednesday. Areas along and east of the divide down to the eastern foothills and the Denver urban corridor will also see snow after midnight with some upslope flow (winds from the east). The southern mountains will see a moist wind from the southwest Tuesday night which will dump at least a foot of snow in a short time.
Wednesday will be the deepest day of the week for most areas and will ski incredibly well as the new snow will fall on top of a soft base created by many days of consistent snow. You'll want to get out there for the freshies and hope some resorts can open more terrain through the day as they mark obstacles and do avalanche control work.
The snow will wind down by early afternoon on Wednesday for most areas, and Thursday morning will look like a postcard. Blue skies. Cold temperatures. Frosted towns. Evergreen trees turned white. Take a picture and enjoy the view!
After a dry Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, the next storm comes ashore Sunday and could begin to put flakes in the air by Sunday evening. We're still a week out so the details will change, but it looks like the best snow from this next storm will fall Monday into Monday night...perhaps creating a white Christmas (or at least a white Christmas Eve).
Welcome back to winter, folks. It's good out there. Enjoy!
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