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What Weather System Makes Your Mountain DEEP?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

On the eve of “NW Flow” , the quintessential definition of deep blower across northern CO, specifically Vail & Steamboat, figured I’d ask if there’s any particular system that makes your mountain special.


A certain wind direction? Wrap around storms? Upslope events?

Interesting weather terms? Texas Hooker, ‘Noreaster and the Pineapple Express for starters.

Do you get a “cloud”? Jay Cloud and Monarch Cloud are the big names.

Crop circle theories?


Do share.:)

post #2 of 7

Best is the Alberta Clipper that stalls and strengthens off the New England coast.  Can get a surprise dump, usually cold temps with low density snow, and very little wind.


The famous 'Noreasters can be too windy, too disruptive, or too coastal.  Though sometimes it is the jackpot.


And the worst is an "inside runner," a system tracking to our west.  That's rain or freezing rain every time.

post #3 of 7

Mt. Baker has a geographic funnel that shoots wet ocean air directly at the ridge that the ski area is on.  When the air rises it makes a lot of snow.


The geographic track is from the Pacific, down the Straight of Juan de Fuca, up the Skagit River, and then the Baker River where it gets squeezed between Mt. Shuksan and Mt. Baker, and is forced into the ridge made up of Shuksan Arm, Austin Pass, and Table Mountain.  Austin Pass is inbounds at the ski area; the center of the vortex.


Stevens Pass Ski Area has two common meteorological patterns that I notice regularly effecting snowfall. Stevens has the fifth highest snowfall of ski areas in North America, so it's significant.


The first one is when cold air from the interior of the continent meets warm, wet air coming in off of the Pacific.  As the ocean air rises up to cross the Cascade Mountains it not only is cooled by altitude gain, but also by hitting the continental air mass.  Because it's cold and dense, the continental air slides under the warmer ocean air, cooling it even more and causing it to dump lots of snow.  Many times Stevens is the only only one having snow while everyone else has rain because of this, and it also makes the snow better on average than other regional places on the west slope.


The second one is called the Convergent Zone, which is a localized effect that moves around the central Puget Sound region.  Stevens Pass is located dead east of the Olympic Mountains which are on the west side of Puget Sound.  The Olympics are roughly a square which creates the distinctive shape of the NW corner of the state of WA.  The air from the ocean flows in around the south and north ends of the Olympic Peninsula and often during a wet weather cycle, those winds meet in the middle on the east side of the mountains.  When this happens there can be some very localized severe weather.  Stevens Pass is in the area where this happens, and when the Convergent Zone sits on the pass, there can be epic snowfall of sometimes great quality. 

post #4 of 7

AZ Snowbowl sits in a huge west facing bowl that turns into a orographic snow making machine with winds out of the west or southwest.  The storms seem to churn in the bowl while dumping and the snow has no where to blow away to. With NW flow they sometimes get skunked and NW winds often shut down the main lift due to the way it hits the top bull wheel.

post #5 of 7

Stowe is best when we get little waves coming in from the Northwest. 3-4" every night for a week really adds up and the crowds don't come invade like they do for a Northeaster.

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

So this “NW Flow” thing….


First, Vail. Under NW flow, storms seem to get deflected by the Gore Range and run parallel to the spine of the range. Vail is adjacent to the Gore, and there’s not too many big land masses to the north of the ski resort. Orographic lifting occurs and the snows coming over your shoulders in the back bowls.


Second, Steamboat. Under NW flow, big moisture blobs track through SW Wyoming, missing the major ranges near SLC and Jackson. The Yampa Valley acts as a giant funnel that sucks storms right toward Buffalo Pass and Steamboat. The Park Range near Steamboat Springs is pretty meh looking, resembling a flat forested plateau, but still represents an immediate 4000’ rise over the surrounding landscape. There is pretty much no orographic lifting between the Uintas and the Park Range, so when the wind lines with the natural orientation of the Yampa Valley, it nukes.

post #7 of 7

Mostly snow guns, but occasionally a freak winter tropical storm will blow up in to cool enough air to dump 20+" of snow on my porch, more up in the mountains..

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