Steamboat Resort on pace to have first 400-inch season since 2010
Fueled by the best December since 2007, Steamboat has only seen this much snow before New Year’s Day one other time in the last 36 seasons
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Steamboat Resort received 489 inches of snow in the 2007-08 season.
Steamboat Ski Resort is on pace for its first 400-inch season in more than a decade after the snowiest December since 2007 has the slopes at the middle of Mt. Werner blanketed by 190 inches of snow.
That 190 inches is the most snowfall Ski Town USA has received in a season before Jan. 1 since 1996, according to a Steamboat Pilot & Today analysis of historical snowfall data from Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.
Just seven seasons since 1986 have hit the 400-inch mark — three in the 1990s, three more in the 2000s and one in 2010.
Over the 36 years of data analyzed, Steamboat received about 37% of its snow prior to Jan. 1. If that holds true for the remainder of this season — potentially wishful thinking — not only would Steamboat surpass 400 inches, it would top 500.
“We’re in a really good pattern,” said local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth who runs the forecasting website SnowAlarm.com. “However the atmosphere decided to represent this La Nina, it’s been great for us. … The Pacific is very active and we’re doing really well out of it.”
La Nina weather patterns — a large-scale cooling in Pacific Ocean temperatures that have weather impacts across the globe — can be a mixed bag for Steamboat Springs, as the dividing line of what regions see more moisture and which ones see less often splits across central Colorado. For example, last year was a La Nina pattern too, but Steamboat fell short of average snowfall.
But this year’s iteration of the weather phenomenon is the third La Nina year in a row, said Erin Walter, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. This is only the fourth time a so-called “triple-dip” La Nina has happened since the 1950s, so there is limited data on what it causes, she said.
“There’s just not a lot of statistics to have any confidence on what would happen, but sometimes within the northern mountains of Colorado it trends wetter,” Walter said. “In this case, you guys have done well and have started off on a good foot. I hope that continues.”
The most snow Steamboat saw before January in the last 36 years was in 1996 with 212.5 inches. That year saw the same 108 inches Steamboat received this December and followed it up with nearly 120 inches in the first month of 1997. Steamboat best season over the last 36 years was 2007-08, with 489 inches, including 126 inches in December.
For Steamboat to hit 400 inches, Weissbluth said the snowy trend would need to continue in January and February, Steamboat’s first and third snowiest months over the last 36 years, respectively.
It does look to continue for at least the next month, as the January outlook from the Climate Prediction Center expects Northwest Colorado to see above average moisture. Weissbluth noted that areas over Nevada look to see below average temperatures on the January outlook too, which is also a positive sign for Steamboat powder prospects.
“What that is basically telling me is a trough of low pressure over the West,” Weissbluth said. “That means a stormy pattern.”
The storm that helped Steamboat’s productive December looks to continue to start the New Year, with the weather service predicting Steamboat Springs could receive another 5 to 10 inches of snow by Wednesday evening, Jan. 4.
Weissbluth noted that there is significant disagreement among models for this snow though, with some saying that the middle of Mt. Werner could see 3 inches by Tuesday morning, Jan. 3, and others saying it could see 14 inches.
“My feeling is it is going to be one or the other, and I’m inclined to think on the lower end at this point,” Weissbluth said.
The uncertainty is because this storm is so strong, Weissbluth said. While it could drop significant snow as it moves over the Yampa Valley, it could also incorporate more dry air from the southwest that could turn off the snow tap. Weissbluth said he is more confident about the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, which could add 3 to 6 inches at mid-mountain.
“When the storm intensifies as it moves overhead, weird things can happen,” Weissbluth said. “We’re just going to have to see what happens here.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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