Colorado Daily Snow
By Joel Gratz, Founding Meteorologist Posted 3 months ago November 30, 2023
I now have decent confidence in the details of the upcoming storm. Snow will start on Thursday night and cross the state in waves, continuing through Sunday night. It now appears that the deepest snow totals will be in the central and northern mountains with 6-16 inches for many areas, and amounts in the southern mountains should be a little lower, in the 6-10+ inch range.
Short Term Forecast
**I will be giving a presentation tonight (Thursday night!) in downtown Denver, along with a special guest appearance by one of our forecasters. Come on out! Details about timing and location are at the end of the post.**
Wednesday was a dry and partly sunny day with high temperatures in the 20s and 30s.
Now on Thursday morning, we are seeing a few snow showers across the southern and western mountains, but accumulations should be little or nothing during the day.
Storm Thursday night through Sunday night
The upcoming three-day storm will move through in multiple waves, and while uncertainty always exists about exactly which mountains will see the most snow from each wave, I now have decent confidence about some of the details of the storm, so let's dig in.
The summary is that the storm will likely bring the most snow to the northern and central mountains with 6-16 inches of accumulation, and the southern mountains will likely be in the 6-10+ inch range. The best chances for powder will likely be on Saturday and Sunday, with gusty winds and perhaps a thicker snow quality on Sunday.
The image below shows the multi-model average forecast for total snowfall across the state. Compared to yesterday's forecast, this current forecast has shifted more snow to the northern and central mountains and lowered snow totals a bit in the southern mountains.
With the storm coming through in multiple parts, I'll break things down by each day and night.
Thursday should bring little snow to the state, with a higher chance for snow showers over the far western and southern mountains.
Thursday night should bring the first wave of snow with 1-3 inches of accumulation across the state, favoring areas farther to the west and the south.
Friday is when the storm will ramp up and the central and southern mountains should receive 4-8+ inches during the day on Friday. The wind direction will shift around a bit, though I see an average wind direction from the west-southwest, and this can bring significant snow to Wolf Creek, Telluride, Silverton, Crested Butte, Monarch, and Snowmass. In the past, Crested Butte and Monarch have received higher amounts compared to the forecast with a wind from the west-southwest, so I'll be watching for that. With snow falling throughout the day, there should be softer turns by the afternoon.
Friday night will bring continued snow to the southern and central mountains with snow ramping up in the northern mountains later in the night as the wind direction shifts from the west-southwest to the west and likely the west-northwest. Another 3-6 or 4-8 inches is possible in favored areas on Friday night.
On Saturday, many mountains should enjoy some morning powder (likely still on limited terrain), and snowfall of 3-6+ inches during the day should favor the central and northern mountains with a wind direction from the west-northwest shifting to the west. The coldest temperatures of the storm will occur on Saturday so the snow quality should be reasonably fluffy.
On Saturday night, the next phase of the storm will begin with gusty winds, slightly warming temperatures, and a LOT of moisture moving into Colorado. This combination often leads to more erratic snowfall amounts and some upside and downside surprises. At the moment, the forecast models show an additional 3-6 or 4-8 inches across the central and northern mountains on Saturday night.
On Sunday, the phase of the storm with gusty winds, slightly warming temperatures, and a LOT of moisture will continue and should target the northern mountains. Due to the gusty winds and high amount of moisture, the snow quality could be thicker and more windblown. This is actually a good thing, I think, as this often helps pack in the base and likely makes more terrain ridable.
On Sunday night, the storm will gradually move to the north and east of Colorado. A few mountains far to the north and the east could see decent snowfall, though there is higher uncertainty with this part of the storm, so my expectations for new powder by Monday morning are rather low.
In the past, I've been surprised both on the upside and the downside when we had high-moisture + windy phases of storms across the northern mountains, like we'll see on Sunday.
Sometimes we get more snow than expected as the initial cold air at the surface hangs around even as warmer air above moves in, and this colder air at the surface helps to lift the incoming air and create more snow.
And sometimes, some lower-elevation northern mountains get less snow (Steamboat, Beaver Creek, Vail) due to the incoming warmer air, with the highest snow amounts confined to the higher elevations near and along the divide from Eldora to Winter Park, Loveland, A-Basin, Keystone, Breckenridge, and Copper.
To summarize, all mountains will see snow with the best chance for 8-16+ inches in parts of the central mountains and maybe some northern mountains, snow amounts will likely be in the 6-10 inch range in the southern mountains, all areas should see some powder from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon, and the northern (and maybe a few central) mountains could also see powder on Sunday with the snow quality perhaps being thicker due to fast winds and higher moisture.
After this weekend's storm, any lingering snow will wind down on Monday, and then Tuesday through Thursday will be dry, with the warmest day of the week being on Wednesday when high temperatures likely hit the 40s.
Our next chance for snow will be sometime in the December 8/9 to December 12/13 timeframe. All models now show a storm moving into the west coast. Some forecasts track this storm far to the southwest, some track the storm over us, and some track the storm a little too far to the north and east. It still appears to be about a 50/50 chance for our mountains to see decent snow during this time.
Thanks for reading!
Please join me at one of these community talks. I'll discuss the season ahead and new weather forecasting technology, as well as answer all of your questions as best as I can. I'll also hand out OpenSnow swag:-) Let's get excited for winter to return!
- Thursday, November 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Denver Athletic Club in downtown Denver. The cost is $5 a person, with food and beverages available for purchase at the bar (next room over). Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the presentation will start at 6:30 p.m.
- Saturday, December 2 at 6:00 p.m. is the CAIC Benefit Bash. I am NOT presenting at this event, I just wanted to promote the event because it's a super fun night that supports the excellent work done by the CAIC. Buy tickets here.
- Friday, December 8 at 7:00 p.m. at Angry James Brewing in Silverthorne. Organized by and supporting the Keystone Ski Patrol.
Book of Chairlift Pictures
Greg Smith is a Colorado local who published a book called "Altitude Adjustment".
As he describes it, "Altitude Adjustment grew during a decade of toting a camera while riding chairlifts and mountains. I offer it as a gentle counterpoint to “powder porn,” the extreme snow and feats that often advertise snow sports. This collection documents the actual experience most of us have in-bounds at accessible, safe—but stoked—resorts."
It's a cute coffee table book and a fun way to start getting excited for the season ahead.
Greg has offered OpenSnow readers a $5 discount by using code OPENSNOW23 at https://www.mayrivermtn.com
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
Aspen, Snowmass, 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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