Atmospheric river brings warmer weather, snow to Steamboat this week

Water was flowing in the Yampa River on Christmas as Steamboat Springs saw warmer temperatures than the frigid digits from last week. Things are expected to continue to warm this week ahead of more snow.
Dylan Anderson/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Springs is in for more snow this week as an atmospheric river brings more moisture and milder temperatures to the Yampa Valley.

As many parts of the country experienced extreme cold temperatures on Thursday, Dec. 22, Steamboat warmed up to 3 degrees, a cold mark that still falls short of the minus 11 degree record set in 1990.

“We have one of those atmospheric rivers impinging on the West Coast and it’s going to make its way inland,” said local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth. “We’re going to have warm temperatures for Monday, (Dec. 26), Tuesday, (Dec. 27), and into Wednesday, (Dec. 28).”

Those looking for snow are likely to wake up with 1 to 4 inches around mid-mountain on Monday, Weissbluth said. The National Weather Service predicts closer to a half-inch in town.

Weissbluth, who writes about Steamboat’s weather at, said there is a low-pressure system in the Gulf of Alaska right now, and below that is the thin channel of very wet air bringing moisture up from the tropics. That channel of moisture, or river, looks to make landfall in the form of rain before it continues further west.

A high-pressure ridge looks to set up over Northern Colorado ahead of moisture from the atmospheric river behind it. Weissbluth said this looks to keep things cloudy with the best chance for sun on Tuesday morning. That night is when he expects the snow to start.

“I do think we’re going to get some significant snow,” Weissbluth said. “The storm is definitely going to start warm. … Since it’s so warm, I would say maybe 2 to 5 inches by Wednesday morning of fairly dense snow.”

The highest quality snow is expected to fall on Thursday, Weissbluth said, potentially adding another 4 to 8 inches. After a slight break in snowfall — probably lasting just half a day on Thursday — Weissbluth said he expects more snow to close out the year. 

“We have more snow coming in for the weekend, starting later Friday in another couple of waves early in the weekend and later in the weekend,” Weissbluth said. “It seems like we have a lot of storms around New Year’s Day, so right now that is still on track.”

Avalanche conditions are expected to be moderate in the mountains around Steamboat Springs on Monday, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. This is lower than last week, as avalanche activity in general is decreasing. The last slide activity reported near Steamboat was on Dec. 12, with an avalanche near Slater Park.

Persistent slab avalanches are the main culprits locally right now and low-density snow over the last few days may hide surface cues that could signal a weak slope.

“Northerly and easterly-facing slopes at all elevations are the most suspect,” the center wrote. “Stick to slopes less than about 30 degrees that are not connected to steeper slopes above for safer travel options.”

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