Snowstorms forecast for Northwest Colorado could help Steamboat Resort open more terrain

Storms prompt avalanche warning in Northwest Colorado

Olivia Ryder, 8, and Odin, 5, are antsy while waiting for mom Pei and dad Ben on opening day 2022 at Steamboat Resort on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. With more snow in the forecast, the resort could have more terrain open soon.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Springs is in line for more snow Friday, Dec. 2, and a series of storms headed to Northwest Colorado could help open more terrain at Steamboat Resort.

The first wave will move over the Yampa Valley late Thursday, Dec. 1, and pass through the area pretty quickly with the heaviest snow starting Friday morning, according to local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth.

“I would not expect a lot of snow on the (Friday morning) report, but it’s going to be blowing and snowing probably around lift opening time,” said Weissbluth, who writes about Steamboat weather at “Between 5 a.m. and the afternoon is when things are going to really be accumulating.”

By the end of the day Friday, Weissbluth forecasts mid-mountain at Steamboat Resort could see as much as 10 inches of new snow, while downtown Steamboat could see as much as 8 inches throughout the day, according to Norv Larson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“We definitely have an eye on the incoming storm, and this weekend looks to be fruitful in terms of snow,” said Loryn Duke, communications director for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. “We definitely expect to open up a lot of terrain here in the next week or so.”

The storm is expected to come with significant winds, which could have gusts near 70 mph at higher elevations just after midnight Tuesday, Dec. 6. Larson said that following those winds, a cold front will bring instability to the weather pattern and could lead to a snow squall or two on Tuesday.

“These are small-scale features that are really hard to ferret out as far as where they will actually develop, but there’s a very strong likelihood,” Larson said, referring to a potential squall, which can bring whiteout conditions and extremely heavy snow over a short period of time. “Strong winds bring visibility down to almost zero when those occur.”

Larson said the wind should be less intense at lower elevations and in Steamboat, but that could still mean sustained winds of 15 mph and gusts up to 25 mph, with that picking up through the day. Hayden farther west could see sustained wind up to 25 mph with gusts reaching 45 mph.

Duke said wind can be a bit of a double-edged sword, as it signals a storm will bring more snow, but that can also hamper lift operations.

“We just ask for everyone to give us a little grace as we handle Mother Nature and her powers,” Duke said, adding the status of trails and lifts will be updated at and on the resort’s app.

Snow looks to continue on Saturday, Dec. 3, but Weissbluth said this would come from a different storm that has been circulating off the West Coast and will move over the Sierra Nevada Mountains on Friday.

“It looks like we will have some warming and light snow beginning as early as Saturday afternoon,” Weissbluth said. “That could be a 3 to 6 inch event between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning.”

The mountains around Steamboat Springs are under an avalanche warning that is slated to continue until Sunday, Dec. 4. Storms that led to powder conditions earlier this week created a situation where avalanches can be easily triggered, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

Mountains around Steamboat Springs are under an avalanche waring until Sunday, Dec. 4, as much of Colorado is seeing increased avalanche risk.
Colorado Avalanche Information Center/Screenshot

“High winds accompanying this storm will continue to build thick slabs on top of old, faceted November snow,” the CAIC wrote in its northern mountains forecast late Thursday. “Small avalanches in the new snow can break into the older layers creating a much larger avalanche than you anticipate and avalanches can be triggered from below and far away.”

Avalanche experts recommend backcountry travelers avoid avalanche terrain, instead sticking to safer areas with slopes less than 30 degrees and areas that are below tree line and sheltered from the wind.

“You can very easily trigger avalanches large enough to bury you and many will release spontaneously,” the CAIC wrote. “Travel in backcountry avalanche terrain is not recommended.”

The avalanche warning is currently set to expire on Sunday, which is when Weissbluth said he expects to have a break in snow, though forecasts are still uncertain as the storm looks to move across the West in pieces. Currently, Sunday and Monday, Dec. 5, look like they will be clear days, he said.

While how the pieces will pass over Steamboat is yet to be seen, Weissbluth said he currently expects it to have a local impact on Tuesday, Dec. 6, and there may be more storms coming behind that.

“We’re in a great winter pattern with lots on tap,” Weissbluth said.

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