Just how much snow can Steamboat expect this week?

Northwest Colorado leads state in snowpack with 152% the 30-year average

A traffic sign warns drivers making their way on U.S. Highway 40 Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023 that winter weather is moving into the area, along with challenging driving conditions.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

A strong series of atmospheric rivers that has helped propel Steamboat toward aboveaverage snow so far this season is winding down, with the last shot of moisture from that pattern landing in the Yampa Valley this week.

While Northwest Colorado is doing better than the state as a whole in terms of snowpack — the Yampa, White and Little Snake river basin is at 152% of its 30-year average right now — this storm looks to hit southern Colorado and the Front Range more than Steamboat Springs.

“It looks like the storm is still evolving,” said local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth. “(Southern Colorado) is going to do far better and ironically, so is the Front Range.”

Weissbluth, who runs the forecasting website, said he had initially been projecting 4 to 8 inches at mid-mountain of Steamboat Resort by Wednesday morning, Jan. 18, with another 2 to 5 inches through the day, but as the storm moves in he is tempering those expectations.

The storm looks to swing across the southern part of the state on Tuesday night, Jan. 17, and then work its way north, with it rapidly intensifying Wednesday to the east of the Yampa Valley.

If enough moisture is pulled up, the storm could produce decent snow for Steamboat on the backside of it, Weissbluth said. If the storm doesn’t intensify as expected, it could lead to an easterly flow off the Park Range, which tends to lead to a drier pattern.

“It’s tough forecast for us,” Weissbluth said. “I’d probably say 3 to 6 at mid-mountain and maybe another 2 to 5 during the day.”

Steamboat Springs resident Jack Cheesebro makes his way through the snow while riding along the Yampa Valley Core Trail Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. A winter storm is expected to bring more snow to the area Tuesday night into Wednesday.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Dave Byers, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction said the storm looks to be strong enough for the Yampa Valley to warrant winter weather advisories through 5 p.m. on Wednesday. By then, Rabbit Ears Pass could see up to 12 inches of snow, though it will likely taper off after Wednesday night.

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“Through Friday morning, it’s looking like five inches for Steamboat proper (and) 12 inches up on the mountain,” Byers said.

The weather service warns roads could by icy, slick and snow-packed and suggests drivers leave plenty of space behind other vehicles.

The National Weather Service issued a winter weather advisory for areas around Steamboat Springs until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18, as Rabbit Ears Pass could see up to a foot of snow.
National Weather Service Grand Junction/Courtesy image

Byers said the next storm could land in Steamboat on Friday, though it is out of the northwest and looks to be much drier than the atmospheric river fueled systems. He said it could amount to “maybe an inch or two,” for Steamboat, with more on the mountain.

Another system is expected to land on Sunday, Jan. 22, and could continue to bring snow for a few days. That storm is picking up a lot of cold air from northern Alberta, which will likely bring temperatures about 10 degrees colder than average, Byers said.

“Maybe around the 20s or high-teens starting Monday, (Jan. 23) and the rest of the week,” Weissbluth said, referring to the expected high temperature.

Weissbluth said the next week looks like it has strong snow chances as well, as winter continues to see an active pattern headed toward the Yampa Valley.

The Yampa, White and Little Snake river basin is leading the state in snowpack, with 152% the 30-year average.
Natural Resource Conservation Service/Screenshot

As of Tuesday, the Yampa, White and Little Snake river basin had the strongest snowpack of any basin in the state with snow water equivalent measuring at 152% the 30-year average. Some notable snotel sites were even higher, with Dry Lake measuring 183% the average and Elk River at 178%.

The basin overall measured at 15.7 inches of snow water equivalent, where on average the basin wouldn’t hit that mark until the end of February.

“When I look out 16 days I still see an active pattern and that’s into February,” Weissbluth said. “Winter is certainly gearing up for another push here.”

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