On Wednesday morning, light snow fell in the northern mountains, then another round of light snow hit the northern and central mountains on Wednesday night. On Thursday and Friday, the focus should shift to the southern mountains were 4-8 inches is possible through Friday midday. Looking ahead, the weekend and early next week will be dry, then we should see chances for snow on December 12-13 and again next weekend, December 15-16.
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Short Term Forecast
State of the Snowpack (clarified)
In yesterday’s post, I showed the image below, which presented the percent of average snowpack by river basin. The southern mountains appear to be about 15-20% below average.
The reality is that the situation is more nuanced in the southern mountains (not unexpected since snow and weather is usually about nuance!).
The map above, showing one number for the snowpack for each river basin, is compiled based on many backcountry SNOTEL weather stations. The map below shows all of these stations, color-coded based on each station’s percent of average snowpack.
Below, I’m going to zoom into the northern part of the southern mountains, shown by the blue box in the graphic above.
When we look at the northern part of the southern mountains, around Telluride and Silverton, we can see five nearby SNOTEL stations with percent of average snowpack ranging from 67% to 105% (the black numbers).
When we average the stations to estimate the snowpack at Telluride and Silverton, weighting the stations higher that are closer to Telluride and Silverton, we arrive at an estimated snowpack of about 102% for each of these ski areas.
The graphic below for Silverton (which is created and updated daily by us here at OpenSnow, is available for every ski area and backcountry area in the western US and Canada, and can be seen by OpenSnow All-Access subscribers) shows that the estimate for Silverton’s snowpack is about 102% of average.
The reason I am writing all of this is to remind myself and all of us that there is significant variation in the snowpack within each region, and looking at the details of some southern mountains areas show that snowpack is much closer to the average than the simple basin-wide graphic suggests.
Snow recap from Wednesday and Wednesday night
One wave of light snow hit the northern mountains on Wednesday morning, dropping 1-2 inches of flakes. Then another wave of light snow hit the northern and central mountains on Wednesday night, and this wave dropped 1-4 inches.
Below are the 24-hour snow reports from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning. The majority of the reported snow fell on Wednesday evening.
Arapahoe Basin: 4”
Aspen Highlands: 4”
With the addition of these few inches of fresh snow, conditions will stay soft over the central and northern mountains on Thursday. Let the good times roll!
Thursday through Friday night
The next round of precipitation should bring light to moderate snow to the southern and central mountains from Thursday midday through Friday afternoon.
The southern mountains will likely see the most snow with 4-8 inches of accumulation, while the central mountains could be in the 1-4 inch range, and the northern mountains could be just a few inches.
The snow forecast for the entire storm, from Wednesday morning through Friday evening, shows that eventually the southern mountains should come out on top with 6+ inches in spots.
More specifically, this latest forecast for precipitation for just the period from Thursday morning through Friday afternoon shows the most precipitation falling over the south. Since the graphic below is a precipitation forecast, multiply by about 14 to estimate snowfall.
While the northern and central mountains will see soft snow and low-end powder amounts Thursday and maybe again on Friday, the deepest powder should be on Friday in the southern mountains.
Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday
Saturday will be a tweener day. The latest storm will be departing and we should be dry for most of the day, but low clouds and maybe flurries will linger through the day.
Then Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday should be mostly sunny with warm temperatures in the 30s on Monday and Tuesday.
The next chance for snow will be from a weakening system on Wednesday, December 12th.
Right on the heels of that storm, a potentially stronger storm could bring snow for Thursday, December 13th, mostly targeting the northern and central mountains.
It appears that Friday, December 14th could be dry, then another system is possible during the weekend of December 15-16.
And after that, the week of December 17-21 has the potential for another storm or two, but now we’re out in fantasy land (the 10+ day forecast) and there is no use in discussing details that far away.
NOAA’s 8-14 day outlook, from December 13-19, has Colorado in either “equal chances” for below or above average precipitation, or maybe erring just a bit toward better than equal chances for above average precipitation.
In the map above, I drew the general storm tracks that we might expect in two weeks. The northwest should continue to see good snow, and we’ll hope that some of those storms over the northwest head toward Colorado, or maybe a storm or two will swing in from the southwest.
Thanks for reading!
My next update will be on Friday, December 7.
Thanks for a great turnout at my early-season presentations!
Wednesday night's event at the Denver Athletic Club was super fun. We cheered for a great early season and got a little geeky about the details of the weather. Thanks for coming out!
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
Aspen, Sunlight, Monarch, Crested Butte, Irwin, Powderhorn
Telluride, Silverton – north side of the southern mountains | Purgatory, Wolf Creek – south side of the southern mountains
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