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2016-17 Colorado Weather Discussion - Page 23

post #661 of 1552
Made it up to winter Park today. Staying at the Zephyr until Friday. Kind of a warm and wet, upper lifts didn't run today due to wind. Tomorrow should be pretty good.
post #662 of 1552

@ski otter I don't think it ever got below freezing at the base last night.  It was warm.  I'm curious.  What skis were you on today?  I didn't get to ski today and probably won't tomorrow either.

post #663 of 1552
Skied vail today. Visibility was poor but snow was amazing. Morning rain at base turned to snow at the fifth gondola tower.

Cat tracks near base were icy or slushy. Up top was incredible. Stoked for tomorrow. It's snowing hard right now.
post #664 of 1552

Vail pass closed due to Avy, think I'm going to Breck today.  Doesn't matter where you ski this week in CO, it's gonna be good

post #665 of 1552

Just for a little clarification, Vail Pass is closed indefinitely.  CDOT says they now have about 15' of snow to clear from I70 after the avalanche.  Thankfully only one was hurt.  There was 1 semi caught in it and the driver got out ok.

 

Crested Butte is closed because of all the snow.   Be careful where ever you ski today. 

post #666 of 1552
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike78 View Post

 

Crested Butte is closed because of all the snow.   Be careful where ever you ski today. 

Thanks for this, you just saved me a bunch of time.  Looks like I'm working today but tomorrow should be ridiculous.  Have fun all! 

post #667 of 1552

Whew, that alotta snow!  Not to worry, I'll bring the sun next week =)

 

I plan to be at the Jane Tuesday-Friday then the boat for a few days and I'd love to meet some of y'all or see ya again so holla if you're available to make some turns:ski

post #668 of 1552

All this snow... and I couldn't even get to the mountains because I-70 is shut down. Hung out in Georgetown for 3 hours.

post #669 of 1552
Quote:
Originally Posted by NonNativeRado View Post

All this snow... and I couldn't even get to the mountains because I-70 is shut down. Hung out in Georgetown for 3 hours.

What a bummer, damn do I hate i70. It's a shit show right now on Summit with everyone trying to leave, glad I'm not dealing with that

Hit Breck today, tons of snow, but they had most lifts shut down bc of the wind. I've never experienced wind like this before, few times the gusts felt like they were gonna pull me off the lift. Got one run on Falcon on peak 10 which was amazing off Mustang, but then they closed the lift right as I was about to get lap two. Went to peak 6, complete whiteout and couldn't see a thing up in that bowl. For all the snow, you really couldn't enjoy it, but there will be plenty of leftover tomorrow, just hope the wind dies down.

Stay safe out there everyone, the avy risk is no joke right now
post #670 of 1552

Exactly  it's no joke right now.  I'm sure some were surprised to see this today: 

 

@Arapahoe_Basin

 

Due to avalanche concerns on Loveland Pass, we are CLOSING ALL SKIER SERVICES STARTING AT 1:00 p.m. 1/10/17. Stay tuned for updates.

post #671 of 1552
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike78 View Post
 

@ski otter I don't think it ever got below freezing at the base last night.  It was warm.  I'm curious.  What skis were you on today?  I didn't get to ski today and probably won't tomorrow either.

I was on two skis Monday, K2 Pettitors 120 189 (right wax) and Volkl V-Werks Katanas 112 184, briefly (wrong wax).

post #672 of 1552

Went to Loveland today - much snow, much lighter and colder, maybe 18 to 20*.   High wind up high on 4 and Ptarmigan. Whew.   But wonderful snow.   Deep.   Did not suck.  Light snow, not like Monday.

 

Snow still falling when I left @ 2.  Wednesday may be very good too.  

 

I had the strangest drive back down to Denver.   I-70 had been closed eastbound over in Silverthorne, I gather. And for miles there were no or almost no cars on the road, not until Empire.

post #673 of 1552
Quote:
Originally Posted by ski otter View Post
 

I was on two skis Monday...

 

My thought when reading that was "Aren't we all on two skis when we ski?"

post #674 of 1552
Vail was epic today. Thigh/waist deep in places. Mostly knee deep in game creek and sun up bowl. Got first tracks lots of places, guess because people can't get here? Lift lines were nonexistent... ski right to chair.

A bit windy on some lifts and ridges, but not down lower.

Feeling bad for those who can't ski this stuff. I am on a trip with lots who can't ski the stuff... they get hurt and frustrated.

Anyway, having a blast myself. Hear it's going to snow even more tonight? I'm in ski heaven.
post #675 of 1552
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ski otter View Post

Went to Loveland today - much snow, much lighter and colder, maybe 18 to 20*.   High wind up high on 4 and Ptarmigan. Whew.   But wonderful snow.   Deep.   Did not suck.  Light snow, not like Monday.

Snow still falling when I left @ 2.  Wednesday may be very good too.  

I had the strangest drive back down to Denver.   I-70 had been closed eastbound over in Silverthorne, I gather. And for miles there were no or almost no cars on the road, not until Empire.

Was @ Luv, too. I left home at 6:00 am, beat most of the traffic up, plenty of first tracks. Awesome day. Everything I skied off 4 was crazy deep, could have used plenty more ski for sure.

Was definitely weird going home on an empty interstate. Mission? slid west of the tunnel due to control work and burying the interstate and then Bethel slid on its own just east of the tunnel extending the full closure back to Beaver Brook. Was very glad to have stopped the trip @ Luv.

Pics are chronological.








Edited by NayBreak - 1/10/17 at 9:48pm
post #676 of 1552
Thread Starter 






Wind picked up even more around 11:00, which started a wind refill to wind buff cycle on Chair 1 that was just awesome.

post #677 of 1552
Thread Starter 




post #678 of 1552
Thread Starter 


Wind cycle providing a bit of a 'floor' with perfect buff...



The Nix-Nox bump run winding down the day...

post #679 of 1552
Thread Starter 
Home...



post #680 of 1552
Winter Park started off okay but the wind was a sumbitch. Shut down all but 2 lower lifts around 11 am. Tomorrow should be better?. Panoramic hasn't run in awhile. Eagle wind might open in a few days. Heard the Pioneer Express lift is busted, crapped out, needs a new Flux capacitor?
post #681 of 1552
Thread Starter 
I've completely stopped going to WP for serious storm skiing because their upper mountain lifts are all detachables and they shut them down quickly in the wind, even base lifts that take exposure only at the very top.

Loveland was brutal above treeline like everywhere else, but they'll run the fixed grip lifts like Chair 4. You can't really ski up there and just have to get down to shelter in the trees, but it's really the difference with a resort built for high wind. A-Basin will also run everything in really nasty conditions.

Copper also seems much more willing to run detachables that are mostly free protected and just take wind at the very top than WP, so it's a great storm skiing mountain. I'm not sure why WP is so conservative even with lifts like Zephyr.
post #682 of 1552

9/10, if there’s a snowflake in the air and a little puff of wind, Panoramic & Eagle Wind will shut down. 

post #683 of 1552
Thread Starter 


What a ten days.
post #684 of 1552

Yesterday was great at Keystone. Made the call to go up to Silverthorne the night before, which turned out well. Only my second time at Keystone and had tons of fun in the Outback trees. For that much snow I was wish it was steeper and not so flat at the bottom, but an amazing day all around!  

 

 


My attempt at a video haha

https://youtu.be/FdOoTrOUbOc

post #685 of 1552
Thread Starter 

This is for @bamaman in asking for an overview of how snow is most likely to fall in the mountains.

 

Colorado is a perfect state to discuss this, because we have what should be considered multiple mountain range climate zones vs. say a single linear range like the Sierra Nevada.  Within a single range, there are micro-climates such as the Continental Divide in Colorado, Little Cottonwood Canyon in the Utah Wasatch range, etc.  But let's start with the macro.

 

The overriding factor in high mountain precipitation is orographic lift.  A perfectly decent definition from wikipedia:

 

Orographic lift occurs when an air mass is forced from a low elevationto a higher elevation as it moves over rising terrain. As the air mass gains altitude it quickly cools down adiabatically, which can raise the relative humidity to 100% and create clouds and, under the right conditions, precipitation.

 

In simple terms, rising air leads to precipitation and falling air does the opposite.  The issue of falling air plus moisture content draining from nearby mountains results in what we can call "shielding".  So when you land at DIA, and everything is brown, that's because the Front Range shields the plains, i.e. air comes down off the mountains absent its moisture and drying out as it descends.  In order to get big storms on the Colorado Front Range urban corridor, we need systems passing to our south that pull gulf moisture and wrap a westerly flow back up agains the Front Range, which then shields Summit County and west.

 

Because of shielding and direction of wind flow, orographic lift is never in a single preferred direction for all Colorado resorts.  If you look up "Colorado relief map", which I won't post here for copyright considerations, take a look at Steamboat Springs at the base of the Park Range, Wolf Creek outside of Pagosa Springs in the eastern San Juan Range, and then look at Summit County west of Denver.  

 

A strong storm flow from the southwest, will run up against the eastern San Juans and Park ranges are deliver big totals, while the Summit mountains are relatively shielded by other ranges that will draw out the moisture first.  Invert this into a northwest flow, and Wolf is relatively shielded with Steamboat still doing ok, and the Summit resorts tend to do quite well with storms dropping in from the northwest with relatively little shielding.

 

A very strong and very moist near due westerly flow (maybe a bit southwesterly) like we have been seeing this season is more interesting for I-70.  There is more shielding - the 10 mile range where Breck and Copper are located would shield Keystone and A-Basin, but not Loveland, for example - but at the higher elevations as the moisture reaches the Continental Divide are still being heavily impacted.  The lower parts of mountains are both more likely to be shielded and have less orographic lift component - so your base report totals vs. upper mountain are often very different.  Loveland and A-Basin both start out near 11K, so if a storm is basically all going on above 10K, those two are going to get hammered while at other resorts you might be wise to 3" reported will be a foot up top.

 

It's unusual for the three Continental Divide resorts (Winter Park, and more predominantly Loveland and A-Basin) to be "winning" in a westerly flow.  We'd expect the western slope (Vail, to a lesser extent Aspen and CB) and definitely Steamboat to be winning (and Steamboat maybe is...) because anything coming from the west is going to flow up there first.  But along I-70, this is unusual mid-winter for the more eastern areas along the Divide to be maxing totals.  The primary advantage of the Continental Divide resorts over the entire season is that as spring storms pass to the south, they benefit from orographic lift (upslope) from east to west more than any other part of Colorado.  If you look at statistical totals in April and May, this becomes obvious.

 

There are factors that can counteract orographics, including storm dynamics (the core of the storm and the lift it provides is in a favorable location), high moisture content, and jet stream strength and position.  Colder air is better for snow production than warmer, but again, the strength of the moisture feed, which is close to off the charts right now, can overwhelm this even 1,000 miles inland.  Typically, though, it's very much a orographic lift and storm dynamics function and both storm flow direction and cold air tell most of the story.  The nuking this week and last hasn't been about big storm energy, but rather a 140-150 kt jet stream laying over the state feeding Pacific moisture continually in a very strong orographic flow.

 

​At the micro-climate level, which to me is more "why a ski area sits exactly where it does", things like lake effect can matter, although this is not true in Colorado, along with more specific orographic factors.  But if you look at A-Basin and Loveland, Loveland is pretty much unshielded in its local proximity (everything inland is shielded by coastal ranges, Utah's Wasatch gets many storms first, the Park Range second, etc.) except to the south/southwest whereas A-Basin has some shielding to the northwest (Loveland Pass and its associated mountains).  Copper gets partially shielded by Vail, which is why Vail reports a lot more snow despite them being only 6 miles apart at their borders.  Nothing in Summit County or along I-70 in general does well in a more southerly flow, because everything is shielded by the southwestern and south central mountains.

 

So in a typical year, Loveland probably gets between 15-20% more snow than A-Basin.  This is also why Keystone is statistically deprived of higher totals - it's basically in a "brown hole" because it is shielded from pretty much every direction.  This year, however, A-Basin has been getting more snow than Loveland.  This flow pattern of just south of west to west with very strong jet stream dynamics and heavy moisture seems to be running up the south side of Loveland Pass and just nuking A-Basin, with Keystone at times beating Breck and Copper and even Loveland (Loveland is finally fully in the game these past two storm cycles).

 

As a skier, I'm going to look at direction the storm is coming from, any pattern of "strong moist westerly flow" with an associated strong jet stream that just slams moisture up against the mountains in a long duration event (something coastal ranges benefit far more from than continental ranges typically), and probably some degree of persistence (it's been happening and here it comes again, just like this week as a repeat of last week).  As this week's forecast talked about that strong moist westerly flow again but with light snow total projections, my thought was "wait until the models can pin down energy timing in the flow and you'll get some huge days" and then the timing for Tuesday was pretty obvious (and again tomorrow for sure and probably Friday).  So learning when the models get specific is really important as the 5-7 day will predict the broader pattern, 3-4 day seems to disappear in a vacuum of computer generated numbers, and then 1-2 day hones in on the specifics of timing and amounts.

 

From there, you get "zone" forecasts.  Zone 34 in Colorado is Copper, Breck, Keystone, A-Basin, Loveland, & Winter Park.  Any winter weather highlights will be for the entire zone, so what you can infer there is the "zone" is the macro and mostly direction of the flow, broad scale storm energy, etc.  Steamboat is Zone 31.  Not sure about the western slope resorts as their NOAA forecast office is Grand Junction instead of Boulder, but highlights will go up for the entire zone.

 

Within Zone 34, which is where most DIA destination skiers are likely headed, you get into those micro climate considerations, but again, they are all generally favored in similar flow so it comes down to things like Winter Park perhaps exceeding in a northwest flow because of its lack of shielding from the northwest, Loveland getting nuked in a springlike convective pattern and dropping 15" while A-Basin gets 3", and what has happened this year with A-Basin at times getting double what a western slope resort got in a strong westerly flow, which suggests that cold air impact for snow growth was much more efficient above 10K when there was WAA (warm air aloft).

 

That's a lot to chew on.  At the biggest picture level, the southwest CO mountains cheer a El Nino as there tend to be big storms on the subtropical jet stream and the north central cheer a La Nina as storms come out of the northwest.  This year is nuts - we have a weak La Nina but huge energy on the subtropical jet stream.  It seems almost like a lag effect of last year's huge El Nino now coming ashore...


Edited by NayBreak - 1/11/17 at 2:25pm
post #686 of 1552

TLDR version:

 

Barrier ranges in CO make a crescent shape in western CO, from N-S, it’s Zirkel Range, Park Range, Flat Tops, West Elks, San Juans at Wolf Creek Pass. Those areas are in the high 300s to 500 inch range. Anything east of that receives less and less snow, except in far northern CO (Never Summers & Medicine Bow Range). The barrier range areas (Wolf Creek, Steamboat, Irwin cat ski, Silverton) are less fickle about a perfect wind direction, anything past them and all bets are off.

 

It’s reasonably well documented what the “sweet spots” are for each mountain (Ex. CB is WSW flow, hence the reason they are getting absolutely hammered), but weather is never that simple. 

post #687 of 1552
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by COBillsFan View Post
 

Anything east of that receives less and less snow, except in far northern CO (Never Summers & Medicine Bow Range).

 

Good TLDR :).

 

The Continental Divide and the elevation aspects of the north central I-70 resorts contradict a pure west to east reduction in snow totals - it's hard for a 11-12K range to completely shield a 14K range and the southern track storms make the Front Range the barrier range if they are strong enough to create flow to mountaintop.  

 

That's why it's really only SW flow that tends to really not favor the I-70 resorts at all.  The barrier ranges are high and there's more than one along the way.

post #688 of 1552
Thread Starter 

I-70 is closed both directions Georgetown to Vail.  It's nuking again.  Wish I could get out tomorrow.

 

A-Basin couldn't open until 1:30, and only ran Pali and BMX.  The amount of snow that should be back in Zuma right now, just for starters...

post #689 of 1552

@NayBreak.  Thank you very much for taking the time to write all that.  I greatly appreciate it.  That was very informative to me and made a lot of sense.  I guess I never really knew the reason why snow totals were drastically different just a few miles apart and WHY certain mountains were favored by certain winds.  Now I do.  :)

post #690 of 1552

Pretty good year so far... here's hoping it continues!

 

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