Wednesday will be windy, then a cold storm will bring snow to all mountains on Thursday. Friday through the weekend will be dry, then storm number two will bring snow next Monday and Tuesday. After Thanksgiving, we may see winter really return with many cold storms.
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Short Term Forecast
I am excited for snow. It’s been a while since I’ve had this feeling, and it’s good to have it back!
Wednesday will be a dry and windy day. The next storm is still to our west.
Starting Wednesday morning, the wind speeds have increased over much of the higher terrain across Colorado. This weather station from Aspen Highlands shows wind gusts from the southwest increasing into the 40mph range.
Thursday will bring the real fun as a cold storm hits Colorado. Snow should begin for most mountains during the morning and will continue through about midnight on Thursday night.
The snow forecast from the American GFS model tells a reasonable story, with 3-6 inches for most mountains and perhaps up to 10 inches for some areas of the central and especially northern mountains.
The high-resolution CAIC WRF forecast shows about the same thing, with 3-6 inches as a general rule, and amounts up to 7-10 inches.
There are a few things to think about when forecasting snow amounts with this storm.
First, the storm will be strengthening as it moves over and east of Colorado. This rapid strengthening can produce surprises as the models don’t handle this situation perfectly.
Second, the initial phase of the storm, during the day on Thursday, will be driven by some convection, which will produce cells of heavier snow and corresponding areas of lighter snow. If your favorite mountain gets lucky and experiences a pocket of heavier precipitation, then snow amounts will be higher.
Third, the final phase of the storm on Thursday evening and night will be driven by cold northwest flow and orographic precipitation (air hitting a mountain and being forced to rise). Orographic precipitation is tricky to forecast as sometimes snow doesn’t fall heavily, but at other times, then we get a LOT of snow. It comes down to minute differences in temperature and moisture.
And fourth, we will NOT have a lot of moisture to work with during the storm. Moisture is the fuel for snow, so without a lot of moisture, our snow amounts will be limited. This is one reason why I think looking at the lower to middle end of the snow forecast range might be best. However, with a strengthening storm, we could be surprised on the high side.
Here are a range of forecasts for a few locations around Colorado (thanks to the University of Utah):
In summary, about 4-8 inches is a good forecast for most mountains, with the best potential for higher amounts in the eastern mountains (because these mountains will be closer to the storm as it strengthens to the east of Colorado).
Expect the Thursday storm to bring snow to all mountain passes and most valleys, so you’ll finally get to drive in the snow (it’s been a while!). Roads will be snowiest from Thursday mid-morning through Friday morning. Also, temperatures will be cold all day on Thursday and bottom out in the low single digits on Friday morning, so it’ll really feel like winter. This is good news for snowmaking teams across the state.
The best powder will be on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. Go get some!
Friday will start off chilly (0-10F) with lingering clouds and snow showers in the northern mountains. Eventually, all mountains will see a sunny day by late morning.
Saturday & Sunday will be dry and sunny. Enjoy!
Some resort opening dates are being pushed back. Abasin and Loveland are open, Keystone and Copper open on Friday, and Breckenridge opens on Saturday. Many mountains are still attempting to open during the week of Thanksgiving. This storm will help, but with limited time between now and then to make snow, it’s going to be tough.
But, good news in the long range…
We will have two chances for snow during Thanksgiving week.
The first storm will likely bring snow later on Monday (Nov 21) through Tuesday (Nov 22). This will be a warmer storm and may focus more on southern Colorado (see below)
A second storm is possible during or just after Thanksgiving. This storm may miss Colorado entirely, but it’s worth mentioning and we can hope for the best.
The really, really good news is that the atmosphere might be setting up something special for us during the week after Thanksgiving and the first week of December. During that time, the longer-range models are showing consistent cold air and storminess across the west. That could be the time when winter really kicks into gear.
It’s still too soon get super excited about this long-range forecast, but if it were to come true, it would mean that many resorts would have significant terrain open by mid-December. As I said yesterday, fingers and toes crossed!
Stay tuned and thanks for reading!
I will be giving a talk at Tin Shed Sports at 112 E 2nd St. in Nederland on Thursday, November 17th. Come at 630pm to eat tacos (their food is great!) and have a beer, then I’ll start my talk at 700pm. Be prepared for snow-covered roads around Nederland...yay snow! We’ll chat about this week’s storm, the outlook through early December, and a few thoughts on the season. More event info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1711488562505488/ and link to Tin Shed Sports: http://www.tinshedsports.com/
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)
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