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The Colorado Daily Snow

Snow & Powder Forecasts for Colorado

Sunday-morning surprise for the northern divide

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Summary

The northern mountains received more snow than I expected on Saturday night with 1-4 inches of accumulation now on Sunday morning. Enjoy the surprise snow! Otherwise, I do not see any large changes to the forecast, with 3-6 inches for the northern and central mountains on Tuesday afternoon and Tuesday night, then another storm from Thursday night through Saturday morning with 2-5 inches for most mountains and the chance for 10-20 inches east of the divide.

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Short Term Forecast

On Saturday morning, most models forecasted that a weak wave of energy would bring snow showers to the northern mountains on Saturday night with scattered accumulations of perhaps a coating to an inch.

I woke up on Sunday morning and the snow stake cameras showed the following – much more snow than I expected to find!

Arapahoe Basin – 4”
Loveland – 4”
Breckenridge – 2”
Copper – 2”
Eldora – 2”
Vail – 1”

Forecast models generally do not miss a big storm, usually picking up on it 5-10 days into the future. However, it seems like we are surprised by at least a few weak systems each year when they happen to come in a just a bit stronger, or with a bit more moisture, or a bit further south/north than expected, and that slight change can make the difference between a dusting and 4 inches.

For the system on Saturday night, the moisture content of the atmosphere was pretty high, and it looks like the jet stream was either a bit stronger or a bit further south than what the models thought about one day ago, and that combination led to the ‘extra’ snowfall.

The graphic below shows three snow forecasts for Saturday night from the high-resolution CAIC WRF 4km model. The forecast on the right was made on Saturday early afternoon, the forecast in the middle was made six hours later on Saturday evening, and the forecast on the left was made six hours after the one in the middle, on Saturday night. Notice that the older forecast made Saturday early afternoon (on the right) predicted very little snow, and then each subsequent forecast increased totals, eventually getting the storm right with 2-4 inches closer to the divide.

These type of surprises (or last-minute adjustments) frustrate me, but we’re never going to complain about more snow than expected!

The northern mountain snow on Saturday night is now about finished on Sunday morning at 700am, and the rest of Sunday should be partly sunny and warmer with highs eventually rising into the 30s.

Monday will also be dry, with warmer temperatures topping out in the 40s.

The next storm will bring snow from Tuesday late morning or midday through Wednesday morning with the deepest accumulations in the northern and central mountains. This storm will be rather strong but it will lack moisture, so I’ll keep the snow forecast on the conservative side with 3-6 inches of accumulation. You should find a few inches of new snow on Tuesday afternoon, and then Wednesday morning will likely be softer and deeper.

Below is a list of mountains that will be open during the coming week, or, in other words, where you’ll be able to ski the fresh snow on Tuesday and Wednesday. I believe the list is correct, though sometimes resorts throw in bonus days or weeks, so please double check.

Arapahoe Basin
Breckenridge
Eldora
Loveland
Winter Park

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Extended Forecast

Wednesday and the first part of Thursday will be dry.

Then I am still keeping a close eye on a storm that will bring snow from Thursday evening through Saturday morning. Most forecast models agree that this storm will take a general track along Colorado’s southern border.

This track will mean that all mountains should see 2-6 inches of snow, but by far the deepest totals should be near and east of the divide, favoring places like Cameron Pass, Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks, Eldora, and the Palmer Divide (the higher-elevation land south and southeast of Denver and north and northeast of Colorado Springs).

For the favored areas I mentioned above, we could see 10-20 inches of accumulation. Temperatures will be in the teens in the foothills, and likely just below freezing on the plains, so powder quality could be good at elevation, and even the plains will likely see snow as well, though due to the higher April sun angle, many lower-elevation roads will be just wet.

There is still plenty of uncertainty with the exact amount of snow, as you can see in the graphic below for Eldora. Each of the 51 horizontal lines on the top part of the graphic show the precipitation forecast for a different version of the European forecast model. If the color of each line matched, then all versions would agree and we’d have high confidence in the forecast. In this case, only about 50% of the model versions show the deeper accumulations, with about 50% showing lighter amounts.

Some part of Colorado will see a lot of precipitation on Friday into Friday night, but it’s still a bit too soon to know if this will include skiable terrain in the eastern mountains and foothills, or if the storm will move a bit too far to the north and a bit too fast, which would push the more intense precipitation to the east, out over the plains.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

JOEL GRATZ

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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, 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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