Tuesday and Wednesday will be dry, then expect light snow in the northern mountains on Wednesday night and again on Saturday night, with a chance for a bit of powder on Thursday morning and Sunday morning. The next storm may arrive on or around December 21-23, and the final 10 days of December does look stormier around the western US, though it's too soon to know how this new weather pattern will translate to snowfall here in Colorado.
Load up for the lodge at Molly's Spirits
Steep mountain prices and narrow selections will have you wondering why you didn't stock up on wine, beer, and spirits before you hit I-70. Molly's Spirits is 4 minutes off I-70 & Sheridan and is a great first stop on your mountain adventures. Check out holiday specials worth stopping for here: http://opsw.co/2jtQ5Ub
Short Term Forecast
The current bluebird weather sure is gorgeous, but I would happily trade the sun for cloudy skies with billions of snowflakes accumulating on the group. At least current temperatures are chilly, with highs in the 30s and lows in the 20s. If you're wondering about the amount of terrain open at each ski area, click on over to our snow report comparison page for Colorado: http://opensnow.com/state/co/reports
Looking ahead to the next few days, we'll see two chances for snow this week.
The first storm will clip northeastern Colorado from Wednesday night into Thursday morning. A few days ago, most models showed this storm staying to our east with no snow, and now most models are showing a coating to three inches of snow. This will not be a big storm, but every flake counts, and there could be a bit of fresh snow to enjoy on Thursday morning.
The second storm will again clip northeastern Colorado from Saturday afternoon through Sunday midday. Some models show this storm taking a more direct path over Colorado, but for now, I am going to keep my expectations low and forecast another coating to three inches for the northern mountains.
The European ensemble forecast (a collection of 51 versions of the model) shows the following for Berthoud Pass in the northern mountains. A few inches on Wednesday night and another inch on Saturday night.
The American and Canadian model ensemble forecasts are a bit more excited about the snow on Wednesday night and Saturday night, though you can see a massive range between about a dusting and 13 inches as a total across these two storms.
Bottomline is that the northern mountains should see flakes on Wednesday night and Saturday night with a coating to three inches falling during each storm and a chance to ski a bit of soft snow on Thursday morning and Saturday morning.
As I've said for the last few posts, I am cautiously optimistic that a snowier pattern will return later in December and into early January, though pattern changes often take longer to fully materialize than what many models show, hence the 'cautious' part of my optimism.
The main weather models that forecast out to 15 days show the next system dropping into the western United States on or around December 21-23. This will be the next chance for snow for Colorado. Anything is possible with this storm, from a system that once again clips the northern mountains to a slow-moving storm that pumps moisture into Colorado from the southwest and produces days of snow. We'll see.
Beyond this next storm, here is a series of maps that show the pattern shift later this month. These maps are from the CFSv2 long-range model, which is not known as an accurate model. However, the longer-range European model, which forecasts out to 45 days, somewhat agrees with the CFSv2, and with the European model backing up the CFSv2, I'm happy to show the graphics from the CFSv2.
The precipitation forecast for December 12-21. Not a lot for Colorado.
The precipitation forecast for the final 10 days of the month, from December 22-31. More precipitation along the entire west coast of the US and more making it into Colorado.
The precipitation forecast for the first 10 days of January. Again, more precipitation moving directly west-to-east onto the US west coast and heading toward Colorado.
This forecast signals to me that the weather pattern will become more favorable during late December and January. Keep in mind that a more favorable pattern does not automatically mean that Colorado will be a lot of snow, but at least it increases the odds.
Finally today, I am going to recommend that you do something that I never thought I would recommend – check out the comment thread from yesterday's post (December 11). Here is the direct link: http://opensnow.com/dailysnow/colorado/post/9307?comments=true#disqus_thread
While most internet comment threads lack sanity and kindness, and at times that includes the thread here on the Colorado Daily Snow, there is a ton of great information in yesterday's comments.
I want to thank @Jeff_LDEN for presenting a detailed analysis of the long-range forecast and answering reader questions. I know Jeff personally and can vouch that he knows his stuff.
Also, I want to thank @wildisreal for answering a question from a reader, an intermediate skier, who is bringing his family to Colorado on a ski vacation around New Years. The reader was concerned about the lack of snow, and here was the reply from @wildisreal:
"You have made a great decision introducing your family to this fine sport and clawing your way back in as well. For the skill levels you describe conditions are completely irrelevant, the only thing that matters is they have a good time. Strategically your job is to maximize stoke and smiles because it will mean more trips with better conditions down the road. You already know this, but it is 100% true.
That effort begins today. The very worst thing you can do is bemoan forecasts. Your family will pick up on this and imprint skiing as an unpredictable and stressful activity. The conditions are likely to be well below average, yes. Own it, anticipate it, and then let it go. Look forward to skiing groomers in the Colorado sunshine and most importantly mentally itemize other possible activities (drive to road closures and hike/snowshoe around the glory, take in some hot springs, spa, etc...)...
Bottom line is your vacation can no longer be about anticipating skiing, it must be about enjoying the mountains with your family. That will serve you well in the long run. ENJOY!!!"
I completely agree with @wildisreal. If your main goal for a ski vacation is to ski powder, then the only way to consistently accomplish this goal is to plan trips within 7 days. Otherwise, you can hope for powder, but ensure that you base the success of your ski trip on other factors, like time with friends and family, exploring new terrain, activities other than skiing, etc.
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see some Boulder/Denver folks at my 10-year anniversary party on Monday, December 18th (see below for details)!
10-Year Anniversary Party!
Monday, December 18th at West Flanders in Boulder, CO at 700pm
* I wrote my first snow forecast email titled "Colorado Powder Forecast" on December 18, 2007.
* Ten years (and lots of powder days) later, let's party.
* I will give a talk to start the night off.
* Wear your Colorado Powder Forecast t-shirt and I'll buy your drinks:-)
* Happy hour prices all night
* Details and RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/836050909911243/
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