After storm, unsettled weather expected through the week around Steamboat

Matt Belton drives a sled pulled by Percheron horses while his wife Christy and ranch hand Kendall Daniels feed hay to the livestock they own along the Elk River. The Beltons have traditionally used horse power to feed the livestock because it is more reliable than a tractor in cold weather.
Matt Stensland

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A storm Saturday provided some much-needed snow, but Colorado mountain snowfall for the season remains well below average.

It is difficult for longtime area ranchers to remember a winter that has been so dry.

Matt and Christy Belton use two Percheron horses to pull a sled and spread hay for horses and bulls that they own at a ranch along the Elk River.

The traditional way of feeding can be more reliable in cold weather when tractors have trouble starting.

The Beltons have seen sub-zero temperatures this winter, but by this time, the snow is usually up to the second wire on the fences that enclose the pastures.

While feeding Thursday, the snow was still below the first wire on the fence.

“It’s unbelievable,” Christy Belton said.

While low snow levels make ranching life easier, the Beltons know snow is an important driver of the local economy during the winter.

Another storm is expected this week, and there could be a more promising change in the weather pattern.

Steamboat saw its first significant snowfall on Saturday and Sunday morning since the Christmas holiday, when 32 inches of snow fell in a five-day period.

The most recent storm brought 6 inches at the Steamboat Ski Area’s mid-mountain measuring location.

At lower elevations in the Steamboat area, between 3 and 4 inches of snow accumulated.

To the south, a weather observer in Oak Creek reported 6 inches of snow.

To the north in Clark, 2 inches of snow fell.

An automated measuring station on Buffalo Pass measured about 6 inches of new snow, bringing the snowpack there to 68 percent of average.

Mountains to the south were hit hardest by the most recent storm.

Joel Gratz, who runs, reported Vail, Crested Butte, Snowmass and Aspen Highlands saw between 8 and 11 inches of snow.

Before the next storm approaches, mostly sunny skies are expected today with temperatures reaching 40 degrees.

According to Steamboat meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who runs, cold air from Canada is expected to move into the region Wednesday along with the possibility of significant snow.

“Interestingly, part of the just-past storm left some energy off the southern California coast, and this has warmed and moistened and will be absorbed into the leading edge of the coming storm,” Weissbluth wrote. “Along with some very good moisture, warm temperatures and energy ejecting out of the storm will bring low-elevation rain showers and high-elevation snow showers on Tuesday.”

Weissbluth is expecting 1 to 4 inches of new snow at the ski area by Wednesday morning.

Then, more snow.

“There is considerable uncertainty with the track of the southern part of the system, and this may affect the amount of moisture and snow over our area,” Weissbluth wrote. “Moderate to heavy snow is looking likely, and at this point, I’ll guess 6 to 12 inches of snow by Thursday morning, with that forecast subject to change as this complicated storm evolves.”

Another storm could bring another 3 to 6 inches of snow from Thursday night through Friday night.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.


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