Colorado Daily Snow

Heads up, there may be fresher snow! Read the latest Colorado Daily Snow

By Joel Gratz, Founding Meteorologist Posted 2 months ago December 2, 2023

Saturday storm update - it's looking good out there!

Summary

As of Saturday morning, many mountains have received 5-10 inches of snow, with the highest totals of about 20 inches at Telluride and Irwin. On Saturday, we'll see snow in the morning, a lull in the afternoon, then intense snow and gusty winds will arrive between Saturday night and Sunday night with 10-20+ inches of snow for the northern 2/3rds of Colorado. The best riding could be Monday morning.

Short Term Forecast

It's now Saturday morning and snow totals are already looking good across the state.

On Thursday night, Friday, and Friday night, most mountains saw on-and-off snow showers, and the deepest totals were at Irwin (21") and Telluride (20"). Telluride is a tough place to forecast, because, often, the good factors of moisture and storm energy compete against a poor wind direction, and it's hard to know which factors will 'win'. In this case, the snow won:-)

Below are the snow totals through Saturday at 5am. The first number is the total, the second is the report as of Friday morning, and the third is the report as of Saturday morning.

Northern Mountains

10” (5+5) Vail
9” (3+6)) Copper
9” (2+7) Steamboat
8” (4+4) Breckenridge
8” (2+6) Winter Park
6” (3+3) Beaver Creek
5” (3+2) Cameron Pass
3” (1+2) A-Basin
3” (0+3) Keystone
3” (1+2) Loveland
2” (1+1) Cooper
2” (0+2) Eldora

Central Mountains

21” (6+15) Irwin
11” (4+7) Monarch
8” (4+4) Aspen Highlands
8” (4+4) Aspen Mountain
8” (4+4) Buttermilk
8” (3+5) Powderhorn
8” (4+4) Snowmass
6” (1+5) Crested Butte

Southern Mountains

20” (6+14) Telluride
12” (8+4) Red Mountain Pass (low confidence)
10” (2+8) Wolf Creek
9” (2+7) Purgatory

On Saturday morning, snow conditions should be fun on still limited terrain, and the snow that has fallen is generally pretty light and fluffy. There are snow showers now on Saturday morning, we'll likely see 1-4 additional inches through late morning, and then we will likely see a break (or a lull) in the snowfall on Saturday midday and Saturday afternoon. Temperatures on Saturday will be chilly, in the single digits and teens, and this will keep the snow quality soft and fluffy.

Coming up, we will see a more intense and wild part of the storm from Saturday night through Sunday night.

Snow totals from Saturday night through Sunday night will be impressive with 10-20 inches likely for the northern 2/3rds of Colorado. 

I have pretty high confidence in these high snow totals for a few reasons:

  • There will be a lot of moisture
  • There will be a lot of storm energy
  • The jet stream will be overhead
  • All versions of all models show significant snowfall

Let's go to the graphics!

The CAIC 2km high-resolution model shows 10-20+ inch totals from Saturday through Monday morning.

The OpenSnow 3km high-resolution model shows 10-20+ inch totals from Saturday through Monday morning. The slight difference is that this model (below) shows less snow over the northern San Juan mountains around Telluride and Silverton...there's more uncertainty with the southern part of the storm.

The consistency of the last few forecast updates is also looking good. Below is the snow forecast for Steamboat from the last six runs of the OpenSnow 3km high-resolution model.

The progressively darker lines show more recent runs of the model.

We can see a model average of about 5 inches of snow from Saturday night (12/02 12z) and then a model average of about 25 inches of snow as of Monday morning (12/04 12z), which yields a model average of 20 inches between Saturday morning and Monday morning. While the lines are not perfectly placed together, they are reasonably close (aside from the oldest model run, the light green line) for high-resolution modeling of an intense storm.

Let's break this down by day and night…

Saturday will bring 1-4 inches of snow in the morning, likely a lull or slow down of the snow from late morning through Saturday afternoon, and then snow ramping back up on Saturday evening.

Saturday night is when the storm will crank up. We'll see intense snow and gusty winds across the northern 2/3rds of Colorado with 5-10 inches likely by Sunday morning-ish.

Sunday will bring another 5-10+ inches of snow to the central and northern mountains. The jet stream will be overhead and this will create a narrow-ish band of snow that's very intense, 1-3 inches per hour, and the combination of the intense snow and gusty winds will reduce visibility, make driving difficult (some roads may close, including I-70), and operations at ski areas may be reduced due to winds affecting lifts.

Also, the fast winds and warming temperatures during this part of the storm will likely make the snow quality thicker, which is good in a way because it should 'fill in' our base.

Sunday night will bring more snow to the northern half of the state. The winds will gradually slow down overnight, there should be at least another few inches of accumulation by Monday morning, and perhaps more than "a few inches" if we get a lucky combination of moisture and wind direction at some spots.

Monday could be a good day to ride. The storm will mostly be over, mountain operations crews will be able to dig out and hopefully/possibly start opening more terrain. In the backcountry, avalanche risk will be something to pay attention to based on a LOT of new snow and a LOT of wind. You can use this map on OpenSnow to see the avalanche risk, and tapping each region will bring up more details with direct links to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecast.

A few days ago, I doubted whether this storm could bring our snowpack back closer to the median. With solid snow totals already and a lot more snow in the forecast, it's now possible that we could get close to the median by the time the storm ends early next week. We'll see. 

To summarize, driving will be difficult or not possible at times on Sunday, and snow conditions could be funky on Sunday due to denser snow and gusty winds, and calmer conditions and perhaps more open terrain could make Monday a nice day to be out.

Extended Forecast

Following the storm, we'll see dry weather from later Monday through about Friday, December 8.

Then snow will be likely during the weekend of Saturday, December 9 to Sunday, December 10. Most versions of most models now show the weekend storm moving just to the south of Colorado, which could bring decent snow totals to many mountains and perhaps higher-end snow totals east of the divide.

After that, I have low confidence in the exact forecast for the week of December 11-15, though the overall trend in the longer-range models is for somewhat stormy weather across the western U.S., so I am hopeful that we'll see a few more storms during mid-to-late December.

Thanks for reading!

Joel Gratz

Upcoming Events

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!

  • 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

Announcements

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, Snowmass, 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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About Our Forecaster

Joel Gratz

Founding Meteorologist

Joel Gratz is the Founding Meteorologist of OpenSnow and has lived in Boulder, Colorado since 2003. Before moving to Colorado, he spent his childhood as a (not very fast) ski racer in eastern Pennsylvania.

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