Colorado Daily Snow

All ski areas are closed / Tuesday morning update

Summary

STATUS: All Colorado ski areas are closed. WEATHER: On Monday afternoon and Monday night, we saw 2-5 inches of snow. Tuesday and Wednesday will be mostly dry. Thursday will become showery, especially over the southern mountains. Friday and Friday night will bring a moderate-to-strong storm with 4-12 inches of snow for most mountains. Then we’ll transition to a generally calmer weather pattern into early April.

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Short Term Forecast

The Virus

All ski areas are closed, some for the season and some until further notice. A few ski areas are allowing uphill travel, but many are not. Local community leaders and first responders have emailed me personally to ask/request/beg people not to come to their mountain communities to chase powder. If you do want to get out and enjoy the new snow,  please stay close to home and be extra responsible and cautious so that you’re safe and do not cause a burden to healthcare workers.

The Weather

Monday started dry, then from Monday midday through Tuesday morning, a weak-to-moderate storm brought snow to most mountains. We went into this storm thinking that 2-8 inches would be the range, and the actual amounts that I could find were on the lower half of that range. Below are the snow totals as of Tuesday morning.

5” Loveland
4” Beaver Creek
4” Vail
3” Copper
2” Aspen
2” Steamboat
2” Sunlight
2” Telluride

Now on Tuesday morning, we are seeing lingering clouds and snow showers over the central and northern mountains (see the view from Beaver Creek below), and most of these showers should eventually dissipate later in the morning.

For the rest of Tuesday and all day Wednesday, I expect mostly dry weather with some sunshine. There could be a few showers each day, especially over the far northern mountains (north and west of Steamboat) as moisture and energy push into the northwestern corner of Colorado ahead of the main storm that will be over the west coast.

For Thursday, we will still be ahead of the next storm, though we could see showers develop over some mountains, especially around Wolf Creek. There could be accumulating snow from these showers, but the main storm will NOT arrive on Thursday.

From Thursday night through Saturday morning, I am expecting 4-12 inches for many mountains as the main storm finally moves over and to the east of Colorado. The best chance for steadier, intense snow will likely be during the day on Friday. There could be an upside surprise on Friday night in the northern mountains thanks to lingering moisture, lingering energy, a favorable northwest wind, and temperatures around -10°C at the mountain top, which is favorable for dendrite snowflakes to form. The University of Utah's multi-model forecast for the northern mountains captures both the potential and the uncertainty of this storm.

As of the time of this writing (Tuesday, March 24, 700am), there is no Colorado-wide stay at home order.

But, from everyone I’ve talked to in mountain communities, they do NOT want people coming in to ride powder. If you do head outside for exercise, please stay as close to home as possible and make decisions that have the highest odds of the best outcome (safe terrain, places you know, don’t huck cliffs, slow down, etc).

Some people have emailed me saying I should tell everyone to not ski, which is likely the right thing to do for public health but I also know that this isn’t realistic. Some people have emailed me saying that they’d go nuts sitting at home not being able to get outside and don't tell them what to do. I understand all points.

My main reading of the situation is that we should take the virus seriously, but I understand that people are going to go outside, and if you do, please be as safe as possible. Do not congregate in groups, and do not be that person who gets hurt and puts an avoidable strain on our healthcare system.

Extended Forecast

Following the fresh snow on Saturday morning, we will head into a period of drier, warmer, and calmer weather during the final days of March and into early April. Yes, we could still see a storm or two during this time, but the odds will turn to be against a consistently stormy scenario.

The chart below shows the Pacific North American Oscillation (PNA). The simple reading of it is that negative values (below the black horizontal line) signal a better chance for colder and stormier weather around the western United States, and positive values (above the black horizontal line) signal a better chance for warmer and drier weather around the western United States.

The current value of the PNA is negative, though forecasts show it trending toward neutral and positive as March turns into April, which is why I am trending my forecast toward "less stormy". But we all know that snow will continue through April, so "less stormy" does not mean "no storms".

Thanks for reading!

Stay healthy, stay happy.

My next post will be on Wednesday morning.

JOEL GRATZ

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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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