Colorado Daily Snow
By Joel Gratz, Founding Meteorologist Posted 2 months ago December 5, 2023
Tuesday through Thursday will be dry, and our next storm will bring snow from Thursday night to Friday night. The storm's timing means that snow reports could be close to zero on Friday morning, then snow will accumulate and conditions will get softer throughout the day on Friday and perhaps through Saturday morning. For now, I'll stick with my 4-8 inch forecast.
Short Term Forecast
Before moving on, I have one more note about the storm during the past weekend. Based on automated data, the top snow report across the state appeared to be 30 inches at Irwin, a cat skiing operation about 6 miles west of Crested Butte. I just received an official measurement from them which indicated they received 44 inches from the storm, and this is believable as the mountains west of Crested Butte and west of Aspen can receive significant snowfall with the many wind directions that occurred during the storm (and not just a singular specific wind direction).
Okay, moving on…
Following the storm, Monday was a mostly sunny, calmer, and warm day across the state, while gusty winds and some clouds hung on around the northern continental divide.
The automated snowpack measurements from SNOTEL sites increased nicely during the storm, and our statewide snowpack is now at 84% of the median as of Tuesday, December 5. We'd love to be at or above 100%, but at least this is a solid improvement from last week's 50-60% range.
Looking around the state, most areas are in decent shape, while parts of the southern mountains need more snow to catch up.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will bring dry and sunny weather with high temperatures mainly in the 30s. There will be times of gusty winds along the divide, and on Thursday, we may see more clouds in advance of the next storm. During these days, mountain operations crews should be able to open more inbounds terrain, and in the backcountry, avalanche conditions are "considerable" across most of the state.
From Thursday night to Friday night, snow will fall across the entire state. I think snow reports as of Friday morning will be pretty close to zero or just a few inches, and then snow accumulations will ramp up during the day, so conditions should become softer during the daylight hours, and especially during Friday afternoon. Temperatures on Friday will be in the teens and the winds should NOT be that gusty, so the snow quality should be pretty light and fluffy.
I am going to stick with my 4-8 inch snow forecast for most mountains as there is still too much uncertainty in the storm's exact track to lock in higher or lower expectations for specific locations.
For an example of the uncertainty, while the European model shows around 2-6 inches across many mountains, with a stripe of 6-10 inches along the eastern foothills…
…our OpenSnow high-resolution 3km model, which is not based on the European model, shows around 7-10+ inches for many mountains.
Based on the uncertainty, I'll take a middle-of-the-road approach and stick with 4-8 inches from Thursday night to Friday night, with the best chance for the softest snow being on Friday midday, Friday afternoon, and perhaps on Saturday morning.
On Friday night into Saturday, we'll see cold air (temperatures in the single digits) and limited moisture, so I think we will NOT see much additional snowfall later on Friday night into Saturday.
Following the storm from Thursday night to Friday night, we will transition into a more uncertain weather pattern between Sunday, December 10, and Wednesday, December 13.
Below, the 51 versions of the European model show scattered chances for snow during the 10-13th window as we might see storms clip us from the north, and/or move from north to south across the state. None of these systems appears to have the opportunity to provide a lot more snow, but perhaps we can keep flakes in the air and eke out some additional accumulations.
After that, we will likely see a few dry days later next week and into the early weekend, and then our next chance for a storm should be sometime in the December 17-20th timeframe.
This forecast makes me think that we'll stay near or below the median snowpack, so inbounds terrain will still be somewhat limited through about the 20th, but at least we'll be chipping away at our snowpack deficit, even as the overall weather pattern is only marginally favorable for storms. We'll take it (as if we have a choice!).
Thanks for reading!
Please join me at my last community talk of this early season. I'll discuss the season ahead and new weather forecasting technology and answer all of your questions as best as possible. I'll also hand out OpenSnow swag:-) Let's get excited for winter to return!
- Friday, December 8 at 7:00 p.m. at Angry James Brewing in Silverthorne. Organized by and supporting the Keystone Ski Patrol.
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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