Colorado Daily Snow

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By Joel Gratz, Founding Meteorologist Posted 2 months ago December 9, 2023

Under forecasted

Summary

Friday offered soft early morning turns, then a wave of intense snow fell on Friday late afternoon with 2-9 inches of accumulation, and most of this new snow should be untouched as of Saturday morning. Enjoy the powder for now because the next 10-ish days look mostly dry.

Short Term Forecast

Friday morning offered fun, soft-ish turns in the northern and central mountains thanks to 2-6 inches of new snow. While our snowpack is mostly below the median for this date, coverage is decent (I measured a 33-inch snowpack depth on a high-elevation northerly aspect inbounds at Vail).

On Friday midday and afternoon, we were expecting a few snow squalls with 1-4 inches of accumulation across the northern and central mountains. That is the amount that most mountains received, and some high-side outliers saw a lot more snow.

The high-side outliers were Steamboat (11"), Winter Park (10"), Crested Butte (9"), Vail (9"), Powderhorn (8"), Beaver Creek (7"), and Irwin (7"). Most of these high-end totals occurred due to the luck of the storm's energy creating intense squalls directly over these mountains, while the higher-end Powderhorn total occurred due to a favorable wind from the north on Friday evening and the higher-end Winter Park total likely resulted from spillover from the snowfall just east of the divide that was much more intense than expected (some models showed intense snow east of the divide, but only one model, the German ICON model, showed it spreading so far east and west). And at Steamboat...that was a solid surprise. The wind direction and temperature were in the range for a "Steamboat Surprise" though I thought that we wouldn't have nearly enough moisture for that to happen.

The most outrageous snowfall rate was 4 inches per hour at Vail. The mid-mountain snow stake measured 4 inches between 3-4pm and another 4 inches between 4-5pm. Wild!

Below are the storm totals, with the second number showing the 24-hour snowfall ending on Friday morning, and the third number showing the 24-hour snowfall ending late on Friday night.

Northern Mountains

16” (6+10) Winter Park
15” (6+9) Vail
13” (2+11) Steamboat
11” (4+7) Beaver Creek
7” (4+3) Copper
6” (3+3) Keystone
5” (2+3) Breckenridge
3” (1+2) Eldora
3” (2+1) Loveland
2” (1+1) Cooper

Central Mountains

13” (5+8) Powderhorn
12” (3+9) Crested Butte
12” (5+7) Irwin
11” (7+4) Aspen Highlands
11” (7+4) Aspen Mountain
11” (6+5) Snowmass
8” (6+2) Buttermilk
6” (1+5) Sunlight
5” (1+4) Monarch

Southern Mountains

3” (0+3) Red Mountain Pass
2” (0+2) Silverton
2” (0+2) Telluride

I thought that this storm would deliver 4-8 inches to the northern and central mountains, but most of these mountains exceeded the forecast range due to some additional snow on Thursday night from an unforecasted narrow band of snow, and the intense squall on Friday afternoon.

A lot of the snow that fell on Friday afternoon accumulated just after lifts closed and just as the sun set, so there should be fun powder on Saturday morning. For Saturday, dress warmly as temperatures will be in the upper single digits to low teens for a high and some clouds might hang around.

Extended Forecast

Looking ahead, it's going to be a quiet 7-10 day stretch.

The good news is that temperatures will be chilly (highs in the 20s), the sun angle is low, our snowpack will stick around, and we might eke out some flakes over the northern mountains on Monday and over the central mountains on Thursday. And based on the recent snowfall of 5-15 inches, we should be riding new terrain during the coming days.

The bad news is that our snowpack will generally flatline for the next 10 days, with no chance of a significant storm.

The next chance for a significant storm continues to be around December 18-20, which is 10-11 days into the future. I'll keep expectations low for now and hope for the best.

Thanks for reading!

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, 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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