Colorado Daily Snow

Light snow through Friday, details still uncertain

Summary

Following Tuesday’s dry weather, Wednesday will bring light snow to the northern mountains. Then all mountains will see times of light-to-moderate snow between Wednesday night and Friday night with the best chance for moderate powder (4+ inches) in the southern mountains on Friday. The upcoming weekend and early next week will be dry, then snow returns on Wednesday and Thursday, December 12-13.

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Short Term Forecast

State of the Snowpack

Many mountains in Colorado have seen snow for 3-5 days in a row, and I wanted to briefly check in to see how our early-season snowpack is shaping up.

Across the state, most river basins have a snowpack that is above average (the white numbers show the percent of average). The southern mountains are 10-20% below average, but they should move closer to average during the storm later this week.

Often (but not always), the snowiest spot in Colorado is the Tower SNOTEL weather station site in northern Colorado, about 7 miles north of the Steamboat Resort.

Nicolai Bencke, from the National Forest Service, was kind enough to share this picture, which provides visual proof of the snow depth at the Tower site. The depth is about 60”, which is a bit higher than the 50" summit base depth at Steamboat Resort.

The snow water equivalent (the amount of water you would measure if you melted a column of snow) right now at the Tower site is 14.0 inches. That is 17% above the median for this date (12.0 inches), and 80% above last year’s measurement on this date (7.8 inches). Hurray for a great early season!

Wednesday’s weather

On Wednesday morning, a new system is pushing into Colorado with light snow over the northern mountains. 

Radar shows a bit of snow arcing east from the main storm over California and hitting the northern area of Colorado.

On Wednesday, the northern mountains could pick up 1-3 inches of snow, mostly during the morning and midday. 

Also on Wednesday, warmer air is moving into Colorado, but this warming will first be felt at the higher elevations, where temperatures are in the teens and 20s. At the lower elevations, the cold, dense air will be hard to move, and temperatures are still in the single digits below and above 0F.

Wednesday night to Friday night brings more light snow

I still do not have much confidence in the snow forecast for this storm.

The storm will track well to the south of Colorado, but it will push enough moisture into Colorado that snow will be possible during a 48 hour stretch from Wednesday night through Friday night.

My estimate is that most mountains will see 2-4 inches over 48 hours, and the southern mountains have a chance for 4-8 inches. I think that the best chance of riding softer conditions with some powder will be on Friday.

Here’s how the forecast breaks down.

Wednesday night, just spotty light snow.

Thursday, again, just light snow.

Thursday night, a better chance of snow, with higher amounts possible in the southern mountains.

Friday, more snow possible, with scattered, intense cells (thanks to instability) that could randomly drop a quick 1-2 inches.

Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday

Saturday could start with lingering clouds and snow showers, then we should see dry, sunny, and warming weather for the rest of Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Tuesday will likely stay dry as well, though there could be more clouds streaming into Colorado ahead of the next storm.

Extended Forecast

For one week, we’ve talked about how the next chance for snow will be around Wednesday, December 12th. This storm is still in the forecast, though it will likely be pretty weak as it moves through, so I am not expecting a lot of snow. Still, it’ll be good to see flakes once again.

Looking a many models, it appears that there could be a slightly stronger storm just after the first one, with snow around Thursday, December 13th.

And then there is a bit of model consensus pointing to the next storm arriving during the weekend of December 15-16.

All of this is still 7-11 days away, so we still shouldn’t worry about the details of the forecast. The main take away is that our upcoming dry spell should only last 3-4 days, and then chances for storms will return.

The last thing for today – it’s amazing that the forecast for the next 1-2 days (Thursday and Friday) can be so uncertain but models have been super consistent in their forecast for a storm around Wednesday, December 12th ever since this storm was 13-14 days away. Some storms are easier to see coming, and some are not!

Thanks for reading!

My next update will be on Thursday, December 6.

JOEL GRATZ

Announcements

 My upcoming presentations about the winter forecast and tips for chasing pow! 

* December 5 in Denver at the Denver Athletic Club in the "Centennial Room". Start time is 600pm and admission is $5 which includes a complimentary beer. Details here. 

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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