Colorado Daily Snow

Southern mountain powder on Monday and Tuesday


Look forward to two storms this week. The first storm will bring snow on Monday and Monday night with double-digits in the southern mountains and powder days on both Monday-day and Tuesday morning. Other mountains will generally see light amounts, though any particular storm cell could dump a quick 3-6 inches on a certain mountain as it randomly passes across the state. The second storm will bring snow from Wednesday night through Thursday night and should deliver respectable amounts (4-8 inches or more) to most mountains. Thursday will likely be a powder day that gets deeper through the day, and Friday morning could offer fresh tracks. We should then dry out for a few days, with the next chance for snow arriving around Sunday or Monday, February 18-19.

Ski then Jam Out

Live in Beaver Creek Feb 19 catch NYC fusion group Snarky Puppy on their first CO stop in one of the most intimate venues, the VPAC. Other stellar acts coming up - DeVotchKa, Comedian TJ Miller, Collective Soul, Robert Earl Keen, John Hiatt and more:

Short Term Forecast

Monday is going to be a stormy day across Colorado.

Here is the setup.

A storm will swirl and nearly stall well to the southwest of our state. This position will allow the storm to pump lots of moisture into Colorado from the southwest and south. Moisture is the fuel for snow, so this is a good thing. The winds from the south and southwest will bring warmer air, so the snow that falls on Monday could be on the thicker side for most areas.

The good parts about the Monday storm are lots of moisture, lots of storm energy (vorticity), the jet stream will be overhead, and the atmosphere will have some instability with warmer air below and colder air above. All of these factors will prime the atmosphere to produce snow. Also, the winds from the south and southwest are very favorable for the southern part of the southern mountains, so Wolf Creek, Purgatory, and Silverton should see intense snowfall.

The bad part about the Monday storm for mountains that are NOT Wolf Creek, Purgatory, and Silverton is the wind from the south. This is a bad wind direction for most ski areas, which means that this wind direction descends from a higher elevation to a lower elevation around most other ski areas, and descending air is NOT what we want to have when we want the atmosphere to produce snow.

I have tried to take all of this into account in my snow forecast for each ski area:

The southern part of the southern mountains should see 8-16 inches with over 24 inches possible at Wolf Creek. Elsewhere, I have kept amounts much lower (1-6 inches) due to the unfavorable wind from the south and southwest.

The only way for deep snow to fall on areas NOT in the southern part of the southern mountains is for a certain mountain to get lucky and happen to be under a strong storm cell or line of precipitation. Think of these storm cells and lines of precipitation as summer thunderstorms – they can produce a lot of precipitation very quickly, but it’s impossible to know exactly where they will form until they actually form.

So, for all mountain NOT in the southern part of the southern mountains…

* Areas like Telluride, Snowmass, and even Beaver Creek can get some spill-over snow from higher mountains upstream, so these areas could get a bit more snow than others.

* Other locations will need to get lucky. If they do, and a storm cell or line of precipitation tracks over a certain mountain, a quick 3-6 inches could fall in 30-90 minutes.

I wish I could tell you which central and northern mountains will get lucky and see a storm cell on Monday, but I have no idea. For evidence that it’s impossible to pin down these storm cells, here is the forecast radar on Monday at 3 pm from one version of the 3km NAM model.

If you look closely at the above image, it appears that Vail or Beaver Creek could be under a band, and maybe Steamboat too.

But look at the same forecast made just six hours after the one above.

The location of the storm cells have changed and now all of Summit County looks like they’ll get in on the action. And on and on this will go, with each model run showing a different forecast.

The reality is that nobody can pin down where these cells will track. There could be some surprisingly high snow totals in the central and northern mountains for any location that is lucky and sees a storm cell or a line of precipitation, but that’s all I can say. Hope for the best, and if you want to increase your odds of deep snow by a lot, head to the southern part of the southern mountains!

The snow should wind down by late Monday night or Tuesday morning, and the image below shows the forecast snow amounts from the CAIC 4km WRF. Pay very close attention, because a dot that is close to a snowfall bullseye might not be in the snowfall bullseye, and there’s a big difference between a few miles one way or the other. Also, as I discussed above, any snow forecast for an area NOT in the southern part of the southern mountains has very low chance of coming true … could be nothing, could be a lot, just depends on the randomly placed bursts of heavy snow.

Summary – if you want high odds of skiing powder early this week, ski Purgatory or Wolf Creek on Monday-day and/or Tuesday morning (Silverton will get a lot of snow but does not open until Thursday). Other mountains could get hit as well with the random bursts of snow, so keep your eye on webcams but keep your expectations on the lower side.

Extended Forecast

On Tuesday morning, the snow should end and most of Tuesday and Wednesday will be dry.

The next chance for snow will be from Wednesday night through Thursday night when a storm from the northwest merges with the cut-off storm to our southwest. Because the wind direction will transition from south to northwest during the storm, all mountains should get snow. My early thought is 4-8 inches with the best chance for powder on Thursday-day and/or Friday morning. This storm will bring in colder air so the snow should be fluffier on Thursday afternoon and night. Hellllooooo additional midweek powder days!

On Friday and Saturday, we should see another break in the snow.

Then the next storm should arrive on Sunday night (ish) with snow possibly falling through Monday. This could mean that President’s day has snow, but that is 7-8 days away, so too soon to discuss details. And then it’s possible we could see active weather for a lot of next week as well.

How about this pattern? Finally starting to feel like solid winter around here:-)

Thanks for reading!



* While some of you find my forecasts humorously funny or disappointingly funny, sadly I was not invited to perform at the Laugh Festival in Aspen this year (that's a joke ... I am a weather forecaster, not a comedian:-). But a pairing of skiing and laughter is hard to beat, so this might be of interest to you:

* I will be giving a talk in Crested Butte on Friday, February 16th from 600-800pm at the Crested Butte Town Hall. This will be an educational talk about weather forecasting in Colorado, with about 1 hour of general information, a short break, and then another hour of more technical discussion for you weather nerds out there. The price is a $15 donation to the Crested Butte Avalanche Center, and that gets you into the event and also gets you free beer! Hope to see you there!

* A big shout out to your local ski shop! Over the past year, I had a tiny yet important part of my ski boot break off, twice, and both times, I walked into the nearest shop and they were able to find me a spare part with no fuss and get me back on snow that day. In particular, Alpine Quest Sports in Edwards (near Beaver Creek) helped me last season, and Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder helped me this past weekend. Thank you!

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, 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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