Warmest weather yet this year to end week after dusting Monday night

The blanket of snow on slopes of Sleeping Giant just to the west of downtown Steamboat Springs will likely get much smaller this week, with temperatures reaching the 60s by Friday. (Photo by Dylan Anderson)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Friday night’s snowfall was two really intense storm fronts — one bringing 4 inches in two hours and the other dropping 3 inches in one hour.

But local meteorologist Mike Weissbluth said the wintery weather also came with a hint of spring in the form of a lighting strike. While they did bring snow, Weissbluth said these storms were similar to springtime thunderstorms.

“That is a sign of spring time, when we get these intense snow storm cells that can drop snow quickly along with some embedded lighting,” Weissbluth said, who also runs the forecasting website

Later in the week, the Yampa Valley is likely to see another sign of springtime: 60-degree temperatures.

After a warm and sunny Monday, with highs close to 50 degrees, a cold front will move in throughout the day bringing some strong winds with it.

“It will probably start kind of early. I wouldn’t be surprised if people wake up at 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning and say, ‘Oh, it is kind of breezy,’ and it will just continue through the day,” said Tom Renwick, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Renwick said it is a strong front, but not in the sense that it will bring a lot of precipitation. Instead, it will be below normal temperatures — a high of just 38 degrees Tuesday — and winds from 30 to 35 mph and gusts twice that.

Weissbluth said there normally is wind associated with these fronts moving in, but this one will be windier than usual. He suspects about 1 to 4 inches of snow from this storm from Monday night into Tuesday morning.

Then the sun comes out, and the week will continue to warm all week, potentially hitting the 60-degree mark Friday for the first time this year, Weissbluth said.

“It is like an infinite high pressure; it just stays warm and dry, and by the weekend, we are looking at highs in the upper 60s, believe it or not, where usually you are in the upper 40s, low 50s this time of year,” Renwick said.

While it is still a week out and could be cooler, Renwick said temperatures are projected to be above average all across the Western Slope.

Other than the Monday night dusting, the long-term outlook doesn’t really have anything that looks like it could bring snow to the valley or the surrounding mountains.

“I don’t think there is any danger of them having to close early or anything like that, but the chances for additional snowfall while the ski area is still open is not looking great,” Weissbluth said.

It is safe to categorize this season as a low snow year, Weissbluth said, with midmountain at Steamboat Resort falling nearly 90 inches short of an average of 320 inches. Steamboat Springs proper has seen about 30 inches below the average for this season so far as well.

With just under two weeks until the resort’s planned closing, Weissbluth said he is certain those deficits will be not be made up by then. Warm temperatures are likely to lead to considerable melting of the snowpack, which has lowered the avalanche risk across the state.

The Steamboat and Flat Tops region of Colorado is the only region in the state at the lowest level of avalanche risk, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Every other region is at the second-lowest, “considerable.”

While there were 107 avalanches reported to the center in the past week, none have them have been in the Steamboat and Flat Tops region. Still, persistent slab avalanches are a risk and more likely on north-facing slopes where wind has kept the snow pack from getting more than 4 feet thick.

“In these spots, the weak layers are closer to the surface making them easier to affect,” wrote Mike Cooperstein, lead forecaster for the northern mountains for the center in his Sunday morning update. “The big problem with these avalanches and our big concern is that you will not see signs of instability, and it’s really hard to know where the shallow spots are on a slope.”

Most of the time these slopes will be fine to travel on, Cooperstein said, but if triggered, a weak spot could “bring down the entire season’s snowpack.”

Wind slab avalanches are also a risk, and Cooperstein says a few of them have been reported in the past few days across the state, but that this risk is likely to subside when the weather gets warmer Monday and later in the week.

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