Tuesday is likely last chance for fresh snow before Steamboat Resort closes for season
Near record warm temperatures have led to an unstable and avalanche prone snowpack across Colorado.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The last week of the ski season at Steamboat Resort is starting off flirting with record high temperatures for early April. Saturday was just a degree shy of beating a high of 66 degrees recorded in 1943.
The record for both Sunday and Monday is 67 degrees, and temperatures both days will be closer to the record than the average of about 50 degrees for the Yampa Valley in early April.
But by Tuesday a cold front moves in, bringing what could be the last chance for fresh snow before the end of the ski season.
“It is going to be quick, but it is kind of a compact storm that looks to strengthen as it moves over our area,” said Mike Weissbluth, a local meteorologist who runs the forecasting website SnowAlarm.com.
Some breezy winds will precede the storm, but it wont be as strong as winds ahead of the storm that blew through early last week. This storm will get into the northwest flow weather pattern that generally does lead to some snow for the area, and Weissbluth said he expects between 2 to 5 inches at midmountain between noon Tuesday and noon Wednesday.
At lower elevations, this storm could come in the form of a rain-snow mixture depending on how cold it gets.
“Pretty minimal really, but just kind of a quick fresh layer of snow,” said Scott Stearns, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “Could be a little bit of snow down low, but for as warm as it has been the last few days, I wouldn’t expect a lot of snow to accumulate.”
The storm will temper the high temperatures seen early this week, and highs for the rest of the week being slightly above normal for this time of year.
“(Steamboat will) be just below normal for Tuesday’s temperatures; then we will warm back up just slightly through the rest of the week,” Sterns said.
The weather for Closing Day is somewhat uncertain, Weissbluth said, as there are a few storms that could potentially bring snow but, right now, seem like they will miss the area. One will likely pass well north of the valley Thursday and another for the weekend has yet to develop.
Typically this time of year, the snowpack generally goes through freeze and thaw cycles, where the top layer melts throughout the day, with skiing conditions getting worse as that layer gets deeper, Weissbluth said. There is often still good skiing early in the day he said, especially on northern facing slopes.
When it gets warm enough where it doesn’t freeze at night, it can make for poor skiing conditions the next day, he said. It can also make for dangerous avalanche situations as well, and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center has warned of warm weather leading to an uncertain snowpack across the state.
Every region of the state is at level 3 — considerable risk — and there have been 77 avalanches reported to the center in the first few days of April, two of them in the Steamboat and Flat Tops region. There was one smaller slide in Fish Creek Canyon on Friday and another near Hahn’s Peak on Saturday, with both reports mentioning warm temperatures before the slide. No one was caught in either slide.
“As the warm-up penetrates deeper into the snowpack, avalanches that start small can gain significant mass as they gouge through weak snow,” wrote Kreston Rohrig, who focuses on the northern mountains for the center, in his Sunday morning forecast.
Rohrig recommends planning to be away from potentially questionable slopes earlier in the day before the snow has a chance to melt in the afternoon sun. Steep slopes, those with lots of rocks and those facing east, south and west are the most likely to be unstable.
“Rollerballs, soggy snow surfaces or wet unsupportable snow are all great indications that your time is up, and you need to find shadier slopes or call it a day,” Rohrig said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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