Forecasting Colorado Mountain Snow

Discussion in 'Advanced weather & chasing' started by Dean Baron, Nov 9, 2017.

  1. Dean Baron

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    I have a snowboarding trip planned in Vail, CO from December 13th through December 19th. The recent pattern for the Colorado mountains has been rather warm and dry and it looks like that pattern will continue for the most part for the foreseeable future. 384 hour GFS has been bleak with snow accumulation for anywhere in Colorado (while dumping snow in western Wyoming). GEFS has some of its members showing significant snow over the next 384 hours, but more than half of its 9 of its 20 members show little to nothing. Even members that show significant accumulations don't show anything until 200+ hours out so you have to take that with a grain of salt. The CFS is showing 850mb temps well above freezing out to early December. Granted, the resolution is probably not good enough to pick up the subtle influences of the mountains, but it's still not a good sign to be either cold enough to make snow or for a significant snow storm. Having said that, I am far from an expert at forecasting weather in the mountains or knowing what patterns to look for in long range models that could produce strong snowstorms for the Colorado Rockies. I know it's a ways out and things will likely change quite a bit, but just wondering if anyone on here has any insight I could use to give me some hope of having some decent snow in about a month because right now it's not looking good.
     
  2. Mark Blue

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    I wouldn't worry too much at this juncture Dean as it's always iffy before Thanksgiving but by Christmas things (snow) generally pick up in earnest. Vail has a state of the art snow making system, so I'd keep that in mind as well. The central mountains received snow just a few days ago and Beaver Creek right next door hosts the Birds of Prey FIS event during the first week of December every year, so they have it down pat. Ski resorts were picked way back when for having a way above average chance at snow when a few miles down the road there's nothing happening. I sure hope you have fun and be safe so you don't get hurt!
     
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  3. Dean Baron

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    Thanks for the optimism! It just makes me nervous seeing the pattern the models are showing. It would be nice to see some sign of a storm or two in the long range. I really don't want to hope for all of the snow to fall in the 2-3 weeks before the trip because that seems a bit unrealistic. But i suppose that's the risk of going earlier in the season. Here's to hoping!
     
  4. John Farley

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    It is certainly not a great pattern right now, but the models are not very reliable beyond 10 days or so (if that) and you are looking a long way out. Usually over a period that long, a storm or two will pop up that does not show up in the models that far ahead. The storm we just had, such as it was, was not evident in the models until a week or so ahead, IIRC. So not an ideal pattern, but usually a storm or two will pop up sometime in a time frame that long, and as Mark noted Vail does have extensive snowmaking. And if worst comes to worst, you could always ski a day or two at A-Basin or Loveland - they are right on the Continental Divide, climatologically get a lot of snow, and I believe both already have a couple lifts each open.
     
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  5. Dean Baron

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    Thanks for the insight. I think being a weather geek is working against me. It's the same thing as looking at the long range models in the spring hoping for a chase opportunity. You just assume the worst when you don't see anything. Right after I posted this thread the 12z GFS came out and shows some snow in the 162-180 time frame, although that could disappear just as quickly as it appeared. Long range GFS and CFS show a large ridge building in the west towards the end of the month. Not a good sign and if it happens hopefully when it breaks down it throws some storms towards the Rockies (and hopefully that happens before my trip).
     
  6. Jeff House

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    Colorado is a slam dunk! Don't worry. The West is so much different than Midwest, East or even New England. Worst case, not much natural snow, they will have an artificial base. Cold dry nights are excellent for making snow.

    Check the visible satellite now. Higher elevations are white, and will be so until early April. Colorado riding and skiing is breathtakingly beautiful. Have a blast and make riding great again!
     
  7. Bob Schafer

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    Jeff has it right. I want to make a couple points. First, you know that the bases (bottoms) of the ski areas in Colorado are at elevations of around 8000 to 9000 feet, right? Arapaho Basin's is something like 10,000. I once skiied A-Basin on the 4th of July. So, it's cold, and they are always able to make lots of snow in December.

    Also, if it doesn't (naturally) snow much, the really steep stuff might be too barren to ski/board, because they usually don't have snowmaking on that terrain, but I suspect you won't be interested in being on the double black diamonds anyway.

    I used to ski Colorado and New Mexico about 25 days per season, and did so for two decades.
     
  8. Dean Baron

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    Thanks for the info guys! A day or two after I posted this thread, the models started to show more snow. Looks like a good shot of at least a few inches by Friday then again in the long term. All 20 members of the GEFS show (and have been showing for a couple days now) at least a few inches through the 384 hour period. At least 10 of those members show significant (which I am defining as approaching or exceeding double digit totals) for the Colorado mountains by the end of the 384 hour period. I am definitely more optimistic now than I was last week and hopefully the active trend actually verifies and continues into December.
     
  9. Mark Blue

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    It’s a white out up at the Eisenhower tunnel right now with I 70 closed in both directions. I heard a forecast for up to 13” in nearby Eagle, CO, this morning, which isn’t too far from Vail. Just what the doctor ordered!
     
  10. Marc R. O'Leary

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    Yup...lots of snow in the mountains forecast. Up to two feet in places.
     
  11. Bob Schafer

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    I forgot to mention in my previous post that I'm not too sure if the models typically work well, or not, for precip in the mountains. Apparently not. Also, here is a great link (click on SNOW REPORT): http://coloradoski.com/index.php?url=snow-report
     

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