Steamboat’s foot of snow well behind 30-year average, and this week doesn’t get much better |

Steamboat’s foot of snow well behind 30-year average, and this week doesn’t get much better

Snow guns were in full operation last week at Howelsen Hill, as both the city run ski area and Steamboat Resort try to make up for a lack of snow as planned opening days approach.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The sea ice in the Bering Sea is still looking strong, and storms are coming out of the Gulf of Alaska, but the jet stream is flowing north of the Yampa Valley, keeping the cold and the snow away.

Steamboat Springs has seen just a foot of snow in town so far this season, below the 30-year average of 21 inches by Nov. 20, and less than each of the past four years.

“We’re just not in a favorable pattern,” said Mike Weissbluth, a local meteorologist who runs the forecasting website “The Pacific Northwest is getting hammered, and the storms are just not quite making it to us. It’s disappointing, because the storm track is just to the north; the cold air is really not making it to us, either.”

While the area was in a better pattern in October, when over 8 inches of snow fell, beating the 7 inch average, November has not been good, with just an additional 3.4 inches of snow through Nov. 20, according to climate data from the National Weather Service.

Historical snowfall and temperatures through Nov. 20
30-ear avg.20212020201920182017
Oct. (Inches)
Through Nov. 2014.03.410.
Avg. Temperature (F)42.952.447.746.538.450.6

This far into November, the average temperature is about 46 degrees over the past 30 years, but this November has been about 9 degrees warmer than average, with that warmth hampering both Steamboat Resort and Howelsen Hill Ski Area in their efforts to make snow.

Steamboat Resort is set to open Nov. 27 and Howelsen Hill on Dec. 4.

Apart from a grazing chance for snow Tuesday night into Wednesday, Weissbluth said it doesn’t look like the weather is going to cooperate.

“The cold air has been dumped into the northern Pacific; it’s just the storms are impacting the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver coasts, and it’s just not descended here,” Weissbluth said. “We just haven’t seen a favorable storm track in the last weeks, and it looks like for the next couple weeks.”

After a couple of cold days, temperatures will be in the 50s to start the week before things get cooler Tuesday evening when a system will split as it moves through.

“It will bring cold air; we’re just not going to see much moisture with it,” Weissbluth said.

Chris Sanders, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, agreed, saying the moisture coming from the south likely won’t get this far north, and the storm from the northwest doesn’t have much either.

“It’s not looking like a good system if you’re wanting some snow in the mountains,” Sanders said.

The lack of snow isn’t just hitting Steamboat, and Sanders said the northern part of the state is actually faring better than farther south. While the Yampa, White and Little Snake river basin has 84% of the snow water equivalent it would typically have at this point, basins further south, like the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan river basin, are at just 38% of average.

“Even the Steamboat area being below normal, you’re still doing the best out of the state in terms of snowfall,” Sanders said. “Steamboat down to Vail over to Breckenridge and then along the Front Range has been the best Colorado has seen thus far.

“It’s just been a La Nina pattern that really hasn’t been fairly active,” Sanders said.

After the system moves through Wednesday, Sanders said things would be similar to how they were early in the week. After a high of 41 expected Thanksgiving Day, it will continue to warm to near 50 through the weekend.

The weather pattern after Thanksgiving had looked better, but models have adjusted to show a continuing trend of the jet stream being north of the Yampa Valley, Weissbluth said.

Some models are showing something significant around the first weekend in December, Weissbluth said, but cautioned that could easily change.

“It’s really going to be snowmaking that saves the beginning part of the season, again, but I’m optimistic they will be able to get open,” Weissbluth said of the resort’s Nov. 27 opening date. “Lets keep our fingers crossed for a wet and cool pattern.”

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