Colorado Daily Snow
By Joel Gratz, Founding Meteorologist Posted 2 months ago December 6, 2023
Wednesday and Thursday will be warm and dry, and then we will see snow from early Friday morning through later on Friday evening. I will continue to stick with 4-8 inches of accumulation for this storm, and some upside/downside surprises are possible. The best chance to ride softer snow will be Friday during the day and also first chair on Saturday morning.
Short Term Forecast
Throwing it back to Sunday, it was fun to see the snow and ride powder, even if the powder was thicker due to the wind effect.
The weekend storm was helpful in that it produced solid snowfall totals of 1-3+ feet, and the wind 'blew in' the snow which helped to create a decently supportive base, even though the snowpack is still not that deep in many areas. But the continued wind near and east of the divide on Monday, as well as the warmth on Monday, Tuesday, and now on Wednesday, can lead to funky snow conditions on terrain that is not north-facing and shaded from the sun and/or the wind.
I guess we can't be too upset, though, as at least we're riding on snow, and resorts are gradually opening more inbounds terrain.
Below is the screen of Colorado resorts ordered by the percent of open terrain. Wolf Creek leads the pack (as they often do following any early-season storm). The full list is here.
Wednesday and Thursday will continue our dry midweek weather. Wednesday will be the warmer and sunnier day with a high temperature in the 30s and 40s, and Thursday will bring more clouds with a high temperature in the upper 20s to mid-30s.
Storm on Friday
The next storm will move through rather quickly and will have only a moderate to low amount of moisture, so I continue to think that snowfall will be in the 'moderate' category, roughly 4-8 inches for many mountains.
For the northern and central mountains, the snow should start early in the day, with perhaps a few hours of moderate snowfall during the morning and midday, and then more showery-type snowfall on Friday afternoon and Friday evening.
For the northwestern part of the southern mountains (Silverton, Telluride), the snow may start on Friday midday and continue through the afternoon, with more showers in the evening.
And for foothills east of the divide, it now looks like the best chance for snow will be during a shorter period later on Friday afternoon into Friday night.
The map below, which shows total snowfall from Friday morning to Friday night, comes from the OpenSnow high-resolution 3km model.
The spatial pattern of snowfall looks about right and is similar to other model forecasts, and I think the snow amounts shown below represent the upper bound of possible accumulations - with moisture decreasing after Friday evening, I do NOT think many areas will see double-digit snowfall, with most spots in the 4-8 inch range, and a few areas likely coming in below 4 inches.
For timing and snow quality, I think Friday will offer softer conditions throughout the day, with perhaps some soft powder on top of groomers for the first chair, and conditions getting softer throughout the day. Temperatures on Friday will be in the teens with light winds, so snow quality should be fluffy.
On Friday night, we may see some snow showers hang around, but due to limited moisture, I think accumulations will be limited on Friday night, leaving Saturday morning as a time to find softer snow but maybe not a lot of new snow. Saturday will be a chilly day with high temperatures in the upper single digits to low teens.
The longer-range forecast continues to look 'meh'.
Following the storm on Friday into Saturday morning, we will likely see cool weather and a few chances for snow showers during the following seven days, from roughly Sunday, December 10 to Sunday, December 17. With decent moisture and storm energy roaming around the Rockies, perhaps a few spots will eke out decent snowfall now and then during these seven days, but my confidence about the details is low and I think our collective expectations for snow should be low as well.
Most of the longer-range forecast models show that the next storm should arrive on the west coast around December 17th, with a decent likelihood that this storm will arrive here in the Rockies sometime between December 18-20.
This 15-day forecast leads me to think that our snowpack will stay below the median through at least December 20th, though with a low sun angle and reasonably cool temperatures, our snowpack will stick around (at least on non-south-facing slopes) and more terrain will slowly open over the coming 10+ days.
It'll be at least another few days before we can start to take a glimpse into the forecast beyond December 20th, so what will happen for the last third of the month is still up in the air - hopefully, a significant storm (or two) will be in our future.
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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