Wolf Creek ski area leads Colorado snow derby, but Steamboat is close behind | SteamboatToday.com

Wolf Creek ski area leads Colorado snow derby, but Steamboat is close behind

— The sun shone briefly on the slopes of Steamboat Ski Area the afternoon of Christmas Day, but by early afternoon Wednesday, the latest snow storm was holding sway.

Steamboat meteorologist Mike Weissbluth predicted Mount Werner would continue to receive fresh snow during each 12-hour cycle from Wednesday to the last weekend of 2012.

"I would expect about 1 to 4 inches of snow for each 12-hour period with the largest accumulations occurring (Wednesday night) before the last impulse travels over the area Friday afternoon," Weissbluth wrote in an email at midmorning Wednesday. "We may see another foot of light and dry powder accumulations over two or three days by the time the storm wraps up late Friday or early Saturday."

Weissbluth added that the storm flow would shift near midnight Wednesday and begin flowing out of the northwest. That's considered to be ideal for the orographic snow that results when an oncoming storm runs into large terrain features like Mount Werner.

Weissbluth was sweating the numbers Wednesday while trying to decide whether a new storm would extend Steamboat's spate of snow through the weekend. He said mathematical models were unable to conclude whether the storm off the Pacific Coast would remain over the ocean or advance on the Pacific Northwest.

"If it does move inland, light snow may fall from Sunday afternoon into Monday afternoon, with very cold temperatures quickly following by Tuesday morning," Weissbluth wrote.

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The National Weather Service in Grand Junction was betting the storm would stay away, calling for mostly sunny skies Saturday through Monday with afternoon highs in the mid-20s.

Before Wednesday's snowfall slipped quietly into town, Steamboat already was near the top of the mountain in terms of snowfall accumulations at Colorado ski areas.

Wolf Creek ski area in the southern Colorado Rockies got a head start on the rest of the state this year and continues to reign as the leader in snow depth with a 39-inch base at midmountain. However, among the large destination ski areas, Steamboat claims the lead.

Steamboat was reporting 1 inch of new snow in the past 24 hours and 12 inches in the past 48 hours as of 5 a.m. Wednesday.

After Steamboat, Crested Butte and Winter Park are reporting midmountain snow bases of 36 inches. Breckenridge is a contender at 33 inches, and its cousins in the Vail Resorts empire, Vail with 24 inches and Keystone with 23 inches, have some snow to make up.

Other midmountain totals Wednesday, according to Colorado Ski Country USA, include: Arapahoe Basin with 21 inches; Aspen Highlands with 22 inches; Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and Telluride with 24 inches each; Copper Mountain with 26 inches; and Loveland with 30 inches.

The standing snow at 10,700 feet on the Continental Divide at Buffalo Pass northeast of Steamboat measured 52 inches Wednesday morning, according to an automated snow measuring station operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The National Weather Service was predicting an 80 percent chance that Steamboat Springs would see 1 to 3 inches of new snow overnight Wednesday.

Steamboat Ski Area is reporting a 43-inch base at the summit and season snowfall of 107.75 inches.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com