Steamboat Resort could see up to 2 feet of snow by Saturday, with more powder Sunday
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — While the light snow Thursday morning in Steamboat Springs didn’t lead to much accumulation, the storm system coming later in the day is expected to kick off a weekend of near constant snow.
“It’s going to be pretty heavy,” said Mike Weissbluth, a Steamboat-based meteorologist who runs the forecasting website snowalarm.com. “We have Friday, Saturday and Sunday, three days of snow with two storms, and it is going to be very significant.”
The system has already led to multiple winter weather advisories locally and could bring as much — if not more — snow than last weekend. The incoming system will start late Thursday afternoon and last until Saturday morning.
Weissbluth said he expects to see between 3 to 6 inches at midmountain of Steamboat Resort by the Friday morning. Then he expects 4 to 8 inches more during the day Friday and another 5 to 10 inches that night.
“That is basically 1 to 2 feet by Saturday morning over the two-day report,” Weissbluth said.
In town, there will likely be 4 to 8 inches from the storm by Saturday morning, said Mathew Aleksa, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
The National Weather Service has issued three winter weather advisories for the area. The Boulder office issued an advisory for Rabbit Ears Pass, which could see between 10 to 18 inches of snow and gusting winds as high as 35 mph. Travel is expected to range from very difficult to impossible from 5 p.m. Thursday to early Saturday morning, when the advisory is set to expire.
The Grand Junction office also issued two local advisories, one for the Flat Tops and Upper Yampa River Basin that will start at 11 p.m. Thursday and continue until early Saturday morning. About 5 to 10 inches of snow is expected for that area, with some parts of the Flat Tops getting more. The other advisory was issued for the Elkhead and Park mountains, which will start at 5 p.m. Thursday and continue until Saturday morning. Between 6 to 12 inches is expected in those mountains with more than a foot of snow expected above treeline.
The Steamboat and Flat Tops region is considered to be at a level 2 moderate risk for avalanches, but that will jump to level 3 on Friday and could go higher depending on snowfall this weekend, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
Avalanches are likely to break deep, capable of wiping out all the snowpack in an area like an avalanche on Buffalo Pass did Tuesday. While they are not as easy to trigger, a slide like that could easily bury a backcountry traveler deep in the snow. Tuesday’s avalanche was either natural or snowmobile triggered and did not lead to any people being caught in it, according to the center.
There will be a calm period Saturday afternoon before a much colder storm moves in Saturday night. Weissbluth said highs at the top of the mountain will be in the single digits on Sunday.
Aleksa said the temperature will drop from a high of 34 degrees Saturday to a high around 18 degrees Sunday as the cold air descends on the area. That cold air will likely stick around until Tuesday, but the Yampa Valley won’t see as cold of temperatures as Denver, which is expecting highs Sunday from 0 to 6 degrees and lows closer to -15 degrees.
The colder air in this storm will produce fluffy powder that isn’t as dense as the snow that will come earlier in the weekend.
“Sunday morning, we should have the fluff,” Weissbluth said.
How much snow this storm will bring is still a bit uncertain, as the storm will likely split, he said. Most of it will pass over the area, but how much snow it drops will depend on whether the storm makes it into the northwest flow that often produces heavier snow over Steamboat.
If the storm makes it into that flow, Weissbluth said it could be between 6 to 12 inches by Sunday morning. If the storm doesn’t become as intense, it might be about half of that.
Aleska said the weather service is forecasting about 3 to 6 inches of snow in town and along lower elevations in the valley from the Sunday storm.
“Right now, I would probably err to the heavier side just because so much of the storm looks to be passing very close to us,” Weissbluth said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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