Colorado Daily Snow

Sunday Snowday

Summary

As of Sunday morning snow has accumulated in the far northern mountains and we'll see snow push south across all of Colorado from Sunday through Monday. I still think the average storm total will be 5-10 inches with some spots in the 10-20 inch range. It's great to see the snow!

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Short Term Forecast

How nice it is to have the lead story be about snow and not wildfires!

On Saturday, it does appear that the Cameron Peak and East Troublesome fires grew significantly during the strong winds, though we did not see explosive growth like we had last week.

And then on Saturday night, it became cold and snow fell over the far northern mountains, which likely has put the kibosh on fire growth for many days, if not longer.

On Sunday morning, I found two SNOTEL sites that reported 3-6 inches of new snow between Saturday midnight and Sunday at 600am. These sites were north of Steamboat near the CO/WY border and also near Cameron Pass. That's great news for the Cameron Peak fire.

Here's a CDOT cam at Cameron Pass. Snow, not smoke. Yay!

And here is the snow stake cam at the summit of Steamboat, showing the storm just getting started.

As of about 730am on Sunday, the band of intense snow was located over the northern mountains, just getting into Steamboat. The image below, which shows the radar AND the locations of ski areas, is what you can now see here on OpenSnow (website and mobile apps)!

Remember that radar coverage in the mountains can be spotty, and it takes a little bit of experience to read radar correctly.

Sometimes it is snowing in areas that show no radar returns because the mountains block the radar beam from sensing the snow (example in the image above: Steamboat).

Other times, it is not snowing in areas where there are radar returns because the radar is sensing precipitation that's falling from the clouds but evaporating before it reaches the ground (example in the image above: I-70 mountains).

For the rest of Sunday, the narrow band of intense snow will slowly move from north-to-south from the far northern mountains during the morning to the I-70 and central mountains by Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening.

The animation below is the 18-hour forecast radar that you can see here on our OpenSnow website and mobile apps. The points on the map below are ski areas and you can zoom in just a bit more to see the names of the areas overlaid on the map. This forecast radar updates every hour and is derived from the High Resolution Rapid Refresh model (HRRR). The actual map is crisp and the animation below is fuzzy because I had to lower the resolution so that the image size was reasonable. 

For Sunday night into Monday, the narrow band of intense snow should move through the central mountains and then into the southern mountains. It's late Sunday through Monday afternoon that the southern mountains have the best chance for significant snow.

For snow totals, I still like the 5-10 inch range for most mountains. Some areas will see 10-20 inches, mostly based on the luck of getting stuck under the band of more intense snow for a few more hours.

It's not often that I make a blanket forecast for the same amount of snow for all ski areas. In this case, I am doing it because the main driver of snowfall will be the jet stream induced band of intense snow that will slowly wobble its way through most of the state. All models show varying amounts of snow, mostly based on where and when the band might stall or break apart. Picking which model will be correct is like picking stocks – you might get lucky, but often it's better to play the average. So in this case, I'll play the average.

Also, for those of you who love to look at the models, push your analysis just a bit farther and try to figure out why the models are forecasting a certain amount of snow and if this makes sense.

For example, the CAIC WRF 2km model, which sometimes can be spot on but like all models can also perform terribly, was forecasting 25 inches at Steamboat on Saturday night's run but then dropped to ~12 inches on Sunday morning's run. This flip-flopping happens all the time and is why relying on one model run is not great.

Also, on that 25-inch forecast, the model showed winds at Steamboat coming from the east for most of the storm, and that wind direction is NOT how Steamboat gets a lot of snow, so I was skeptical of those high totals. The only way for Steamboat (or any other mountain) to get a lot of snow with a bad surface wind direction is for the jet stream induced band to be SUPER strong and overpower the bad wind direction. It can happen, but it's very rare.

So rather than jumping on that one model run and being excited about 20+ inches of snow, I remain skeptical and will look for 5-10 inches at Steamboat (still a good haul). I am just picking on Steamboat for this example but the same idea applies to a lot of other locations that I've looked at over the past few days.

If you're looking to make turns on gassy slopes during or after the storm, Monday should be the day for most mountains as cold temperatures will preserve the snow that fell on Sunday in the northern mountains and in the southern mountains the snow should ramp up Monday morning and midday.

Extended Forecast

I still don't see any significant storms in the long-range forecast.

Warm temperatures will return by the end of next week and we'll be dry from Tuesday through Friday.

We might get brushed by a storm on Saturday, October 31st.

And the latest models show the chance for another storm to brush us around Saturday, November 7th.

Right now, neither of those storms look significant.

Thanks for reading!

JOEL GRATZ

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PPS - I'll be chatting about the forecast and answering questions on Youtube Live on Wednesday, October 28th. More details soon.

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Geography Key

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

Along the Divide
Loveland, Arapahoe Basin, 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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