Colorado Daily Snow
By Joel Gratz, Founding Meteorologist Posted 8 years ago December 11, 2015
A narrow band of intense snow will bring healthy accumulations to Steamboat on Friday while other mountains see just an inch or two. Heavier snow will fall later on Friday night and especially during the day on Saturday, so I think Saturday will be the best powder day for most mountains with free refills throughout the day. After one dry day on Sunday, another storm will bring 4-8 inches to most mountains on Monday and Tuesday.
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The first batch of snowfall is already falling, but as we’ve discussed, the heaviest snow today on Friday will be limited to the Steamboat area.
The narrow band of intense snow extends from southwest Utah into northwest Colorado. It is one continuous band, however the gaps in radar coverage makes it look discontinuous.
The narrow band of intense snow is due to a combination of the jet stream at 30,000 feet and a stalled cold front at the surface. Both of these features help to lift the air and create precipitation.
The graphic below shows the wind streamlines at 10,000 feet. Notice how the streamlines converge along the cold front (dotted black line). The warmer air from the south is forced up and over the colder air moving in from the north.
Source: University of Wyoming / OpenSnow.com
The result of this convergence is moderate snowfall right over Steamboat. The summit snow stake camera shows 4 inches of new snow between about 1am and 6am on Friday morning.
On Friday, the narrow band of intense snow should sit over Steamboat through at least midday, then it may move or weaken. Cameron Pass should also see moderate snowfall from this band. Areas just south of this band of snow should also get light accumulations, including along I-70. The highest elevation areas along the divide (Berthoud Pass, Winter Park, Loveland, Abasin, Keystone) might be somewhat more favored than other locations, but I still think were talking about just 1-2 inches today. If these areas receive more than this, it’s a bonus in my mind because the wind direction and storm energy (lift) is not aligned to produce big snow.
The brunt of the storm will move through all mountains on Friday night and Saturday. The storm has slowed down by perhaps 6 hours, so now it looks like the heaviest snow should fall for most areas during the day on Saturday, and Saturday will be the best powder day.
On Friday night, southwest winds will turn on the snow machine for the southwest mountains. Wolf Creek could get one foot over night, with 3-6 inch totals for other areas of the San Juans (see the geography key at the bottom of this post).
Other locations on Friday night will need to contend with yet another band or two of snow, now oriented from south-southwest to north-northeast. Most models agree that this band will hang to the west of most ski areas on Friday night, so I lowered totals on Friday night except for areas that are further west (San Juans, Powderhorn, Steamboat, Sunlight, Aspen and Crested Butte are on the edge).
On Saturday, the best storm energy and lift will push across all mountains, so look for moderate to times of heavy snow during the day. Aside from mountains in the south and far west, you might see very low snow reports on Saturday morning at 5am, but don’t fret as we should see snow accumulate through the day. It’ll be storm skiing with times of free refills.
Here is the forecast radar, showing precipitation, from Friday morning through Saturday night. You can see the band of snow in northern Colorado on Friday, then additional bands on Friday night, then heavier snow fill in on Saturday.
When the snow stops on Saturday evening, most mountains should have tallied at least 6 inches, with perhaps a foot or more at Steamboat, Telluride, Silverton, and Wolf Creek. Remember that I forecast snow amounts for each mountain, which you can view on that mountain’s page.
Sunday morning may offer some left-over pow from Saturday with perhaps an inch of fluff on top from snow showers that fall after lifts close on Saturday.
Another storm should bring 4-8 inches on Monday into Tuesday morning. I think Monday afternoon will offer the best powder for areas from Aspen south to the southern mountains, while Tuesday morning could be best from Aspen north to I-70 and Steamboat.
The rest of next week looks cold with some flurries and only light accumulations (due to the lack of moisture in the cold air).
The next chance of a storm will be sometime during the week leading up to Christmas.
Enjoy the snow over the next few days and look for another update on Saturday morning. If there is a big change to the forecast, I will update on Friday evening.
Thanks for reading!
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— Geography Key —
Steamboat, Granby, Beaver Creek, Vail, Ski Cooper, Copper, Breckenridge, Keystone, Loveland, Abasin, Winter Park, Berthoud Pass, Eldora, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cameron Pass
Along the Divide
Loveland, Abasin, Winter Park, Berthoud Pass
East of the Divide
Eldora, Rocky Mountain National Park, Cameron Pass
Aspen, Sunlight, Monarch, Crested Butte, Irwin, Powderhorn
Telluride, Silverton, Durango, Wolf Creek (Telluride and Silverton are on the northern side of the southern mountains)