Snow expected starting Wednesday, as valley in more ‘unsettled’ weather pattern
Steamboat Resort reported 17 inches at mid-mountain after the season’s first significant snowfall last week, but it doesn’t rank high when compared to previous December dumps.
When looking back to 2016, the National Weather Service’s measurement location near Steamboat Springs High School has recorded 5 or more inches in a single day 10 times, with last Friday barely passing that mark at 5.1 inches.
“For us to get over 4 inches in town, it’s not that common,” said Mike Weissbluth, a local meteorologist who runs the forecasting website Snowalarm.com.
Weissbluth said the storm ended up coming in later in the day than initially expected, but it did deliver the expected snow and allow the resort to open up the gondola a day earlier than initially expected. Additionally, cold temperatures that came in with the storm is good snowmaking weather.
|Top 10 December snowfalls in Steamboat Springs since 2016|
|Dec. 27, 2017||17|
|Dec. 13, 2019||9.2|
|Dec. 29, 2020||8.5|
|Dec. 11, 2016||8.2|
|Dec. 9, 2016||7.1|
|Dec. 23, 2016||6.9|
|Dec. 28, 2018||6.5|
|Dec. 15, 2019||6.5|
|Dec. 14, 2019||5.8|
|Dec. 10, 2021||5.1|
Part of that cold air is being trapped at lower elevations because of an inversion, where temperature rises with altitude, that has set in through the Yampa Valley. For example, Steamboat Springs Airport recorded a low of 3 degrees Sunday morning, where the top of Mount Werner reported 9 degrees.
“The sun is just not very efficiently warming the surface because of the low sun angle, No. 1, and then No. 2, a lot of the sun is reflected off the fresh snow cover,” Weissbluth said.
It is expected to warm up slightly Monday and Tuesday, with highs in the mid-40s and maybe even warmer on the mountain due to the inversion. Clouds will likely move in later Tuesday ahead of another storm, but Weissbluth said it likely won’t start snowing until Wednesday.
The storm is coming in over the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, where some forecasts are showing up to 100 inches of snow in some spots. The winter storm warning from the National Weather Service in Reno, Nevada, predicts anywhere from 2-5 feet above 5,000 feet.
That storm will dry out quite a bit before it makes its way to Colorado but should still pad the base at the resort and Howelsen Hill.
“They’re going to kind of steal our moisture is one way to look at it, but there is plenty,” Weissbluth said. “Looks like it will start during the day Wednesday as the front passes, and it’ll probably linger and start tapering off overnight.”
By Thursday morning, he expects there to be anywhere from 4-8 inches of new snow at mid-mountain.
After that, another storm is tracking for the area, but Weissbluth said the storm looks to be splitting, which generally means the storm will be weaker.
“That’s always indicative of less than optimal strength for our area, but it does look like we we’ll get something out of it from Thursday night through Friday, and that will probably be not nearly as productive as the midweek storm,” he said.
Meteorologist Joel Gratz with OpenSnow.com wrote Sunday that he doesn’t have a lot of confidence in the forecast for Wednesday through Friday, saying it could total anything from negligible amounts to more than 6 inches.
The area is getting into a more unsettled weather pattern than it has been of late, and longer-range forecasts are showing storms starting next weekend and running through Christmas.
“I have high confidence that there will be storms around the western United States, but I have low confidence if those storms will bring a lot of snow to us here in Colorado,” Gratz wrote.
“Hopefully, a parade of storms heading into Christmas,” Weissbluth said. “And more behind that, so we’re in a good, unsettled pattern.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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