More than 15K vacationers expected in Steamboat on Feb. 15; 14K expected this weekend |

More than 15K vacationers expected in Steamboat on Feb. 15; 14K expected this weekend

— Steamboat's snow conditions promise to pack guest rooms in Steamboat Springs the next two weekends.

Steamboat Ski Area was reporting 5 inches of new snow at midmountain Wednesday morning and 8.5 inches in 48 hours for a season total of 242 inches, and vacation reservations seem to be responding.

The lodging barometer, an unscientific poll produced by the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, is projecting 13,902 visitors will spend Saturday night here, up from last year's forecast of 12,600 for the corresponding Saturday in 2013. And tourism is expected to go higher a week from Saturday on Feb. 15 when Valentine's Day and Presidents Day weekend converge. The Chamber already is forecasting that 15,324 visitors will be in town that night.

If recent trends are an indication, the actual number of visitors both weekends could go higher. The Chamber was expecting 10,175 guests to stay in local lodging properties Feb. 1, and a second poll confirmed that an additional 1,400 showed up.

Snow forecaster Joel Gratz, of OpenSnow, wrote in a report Wednesday afternoon that the Colorado Rockies will continue to see significant snow Friday through Sunday.

"From Friday night through through Sunday night, the flow will be from the west. This favors Steamboat, Beaver Creek, Sunlight, Powderhorn, Aspen and perhaps Monarch," Gratz wrote. “These are the areas that I think will see the deepest accumulations."

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Gratz is not forecasting one single big snow event but rather a steady 2 to 4 inches accumulating every 12 hours until the intensity of the storm ramps up modestly to produce perhaps 3 to 6 inches overnight Sunday into Monday.

The current snow pattern also represents good news for flows in Northwest Colorado's rivers and streams this summer. The 19.7 inches of water contained in the snowpack at the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass on Wednesday was 137 percent of the median for the date of 14.4 inches. That is according to remote sensing devices maintained by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Buffalo Pass above 10,000 feet is 105 percent of average, however.

The NRCS was reporting Wednesday afternoon that the snow at 9,400 feet elevation on Rabbit Ears was 73 inches deep. At 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass, the standing snow was 106 inches, or a little less than 9 feet, deep.

The National Weather Service is forecasting that daytime temperatures here will moderate, reaching the mid-20s on Friday when the chance for snow will be 70 percent. By Sunday, the afternoon high in the valley could reach 33 degrees,and a mix of rain and snow could fall before the temperature dips to 16 degrees overnight.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1