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Colorado Snow???

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Should I be getting worried yet about the lack of snow in Colorado for my Christmas ski trip? Is it pretty normal to have no snow to speak of in early November?
post #2 of 23
No you shouldn't worry yet
post #3 of 23

time will tell

I would say that over the last several seasons we usually have a lot more snow at this time, but x-mas is 6 weeks out, so there is quite a bit of time before you need to worry too much.

Hopefully the storms will start hitting soon.

the long range forcast is that the storm cycle will start affecting CO this weekend-next week-with snow in the forecast

http://www.snowforecast.com/ColoradoSkiResorts is usually fairly accurate.
post #4 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roadrash View Post
Should I be getting worried yet about the lack of snow in Colorado for my Christmas ski trip? Is it pretty normal to have no snow to speak of in early November?
Don't worry at all. Snow doesn't normally start accumulating at my house until mid-November. While there isn't enough natural snow to ski on yet there is some and the ground at the ski area is frozen so what falls won't melt much from here on. One HUGE storm and the ski area could have enough snow to open 100%. More likely is we'll soon get in a pattern of regular small snowfalls, but either will likely happen before Christmas. Plus it's snowing right now.
post #5 of 23
On the local Denver news the other night, they explained that the long range (90 day) models are predicting that it is LIKELY that the warm, dry weather will continue. The jet stream is way north of CO...that's a real bad sign. Sure it can change, but even for early season skiing conditions suck.

If you can, I'd hold off booking the trip and check on conditions in early/mid Dec.
post #6 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jay_p View Post
they explained that the long range (90 day) models are predicting that it is LIKELY that the warm, dry weather will continue.
Mountain weather can't be forecasted with any reliability more than a few days in advance.
post #7 of 23

Why Not?

Quote:
Originally Posted by breckview View Post
Mountain weather can't be forecasted with any reliability more than a few days in advance.
But can't precipitation potential be forecasted pretty accurately out to about 2 weeks in advance??? Where does CO get most of its moisture? Pacific storms isnt it? If there is no forseeable development of pacific storms, can't a semi long-range (1-2 week) prediction be fairly accurate on above/below normal likelihood of snow?

I'm not arguing with you as you live there and know way more than I do about your own weather. Am just curious.
post #8 of 23
It's nearly impossible to predict the weather here. Moisture can come from the North, swing up from southern CA/Mexico, and the West. The mountains make things even more complicated. Where the moisture ultimately winds up is a crap shoot - could be CO, WY, or NM. Wild weather swings are common. Upslopes can happen unpredictably. The models are slowly getting better here but still too many variables.
post #9 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by bamaboy View Post
But can't precipitation potential be forecasted pretty accurately out to about 2 weeks in advance??? Where does CO get most of its moisture? Pacific storms isnt it? If there is no forseeable development of pacific storms, can't a semi long-range (1-2 week) prediction be fairly accurate on above/below normal likelihood of snow?

I'm not arguing with you as you live there and know way more than I do about your own weather. Am just curious.
What daysailer1 said. Also, because storms here are usually starved for moisture, how much snow any given spot gets is very highly dependent on the storm track. A fifty mile difference can mean 12+" at Breck or 2". The exact storm track usually can't be accurately forecasted even a day in advance.

The amount of snow we get is very heavily influenced by the direction of the upper level flow.

If a storm goes south of Summit County by even a few miles it can turn into an upslope which may mean 0" for Summit County or 50" if the upslope is strong enough to push over the divide. This is what happened when Denver had it's record snow a few years back. We at Breck were forecast for little to none in an upslope but got about 50" instead.

Sometimes the storm track sets up a due north moist upper flow on the backside as the storm hangs on the divide in which case it can snow feet at Breck day after day. This sets up every couple years. One storm like this can dump 80+" in a week and push Breck 30" above normal from 50" below.

Having said all that, the daily snow total forecasts one day prior are almost never close and appear random to me. When we are forecast for big amounts we often get none and vice versa.

I guess the exception to all this is when we get massive wet storms and snow dumps everywhere. Those are relatively easy to forecast. Unfortunately, we don't get a lot of those. Our snowfall tends to be often but spotty and light.

And, we can get snow without any real storm or system. If the upper level winds are blowing the right direction a cloud can just sit over the ski area and snow lightly for days or even weeks.

People probably don't realize that the town of Breckenridge only gets about half what the ski area gets and is only about 1/2 mile away. This same effect causes parts of the Breck ski area to almost always get at least 50% more than at the stake.
post #10 of 23
Informative comments from breckview. I've always found Colorado the most difficult region to generalize. The mountains are oriented in many different directions and there are a whole lot of microclimates.

I think the simplest way to look at dry early seasons anywhere is to say how far behind normal are we? If we're 2 weeks behind, that means with average snow going forward the expectation for the holiday week would be like Dec. 10-15 of a normal year. So yes, if you haven't committed $ yet, I would wait. Unless you're going to Whistler.
post #11 of 23

great site

Quote:
Originally Posted by cal to colorado View Post
I would say that over the last several seasons we usually have a lot more snow at this time, but x-mas is 6 weeks out, so there is quite a bit of time before you need to worry too much.

Hopefully the storms will start hitting soon.

the long range forcast is that the storm cycle will start affecting CO this weekend-next week-with snow in the forecast

http://www.snowforecast.com/ColoradoSkiResorts is usually fairly accurate.
I could also suggest www.weatherunderground.com
post #12 of 23

wait

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
Informative comments from breckview. I've always found Colorado the most difficult region to generalize. The mountains are oriented in many different directions and there are a whole lot of microclimates.

I think the simplest way to look at dry early seasons anywhere is to say how far behind normal are we? If we're 2 weeks behind, that means with average snow going forward the expectation for the holiday week would be like Dec. 10-15 of a normal year. So yes, if you haven't committed $ yet, I would wait. Unless you're going to Whistler.

As I sit at my desk in Steamboat it is almost 60 at 1 PM do nothing at least until the next weather front passes next week.
post #13 of 23
Any more than 24-48 hours out is basically useless. That said, I am believing the current forecast outlook for next week since they are predicting snow mon-wed. All does look in place for snow. Keep the faith and it will come. It's the whole t-day coming a week early this year that makes it seem so bad.
post #14 of 23
50", 80" storms in Colorado?...Let's get back to reality, CO is no Utah, Tahoe or PNW as far as snowfall, especially Breck and the rest of Summit Co. The average storm seems to be in the 6-8" range and we will need a lot of those and cold weather to catch up. In CO a 30" storm total over a 3-4 day period is very rare. Hopefully, next weeks storm actually materializes. G
post #15 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jay_p View Post
50", 80" storms in Colorado?...Let's get back to reality, CO is no Utah, Tahoe or PNW as far as snowfall, especially Breck and the rest of Summit Co. The average storm seems to be in the 6-8" range and we will need a lot of those and cold weather to catch up. In CO a 30" storm total over a 3-4 day period is very rare. Hopefully, next weeks storm actually materializes. G
So I'd guess you weren't in Steamboat last season, when approx 100 inches fell in a week! The best stretch of powder I skied in my life. You should have been there.

post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jay_p View Post
50", 80" storms in Colorado?...Let's get back to reality, CO is no Utah, Tahoe or PNW as far as snowfall, especially Breck and the rest of Summit Co. The average storm seems to be in the 6-8" range and we will need a lot of those and cold weather to catch up. In CO a 30" storm total over a 3-4 day period is very rare. Hopefully, next weeks storm actually materializes. G
A few years ago I skied roughly 50" at Breck one day and 80" at Mary Jane the next. Both days were big fun but I'd say that was a little bit too much snow for MJ. The first bunch of runs we had to straight line from top to bottom.

That much snow doesn't fall at one time all that often (I believe 80" in 80 hours is the standing record for WP/MJ) but huge storms do dump on CO every now and again.
post #17 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by jay_p View Post
50", 80" storms in Colorado?...Let's get back to reality, CO is no Utah, Tahoe or PNW as far as snowfall, especially Breck and the rest of Summit Co. The average storm seems to be in the 6-8" range and we will need a lot of those and cold weather to catch up. In CO a 30" storm total over a 3-4 day period is very rare. Hopefully, next weeks storm actually materializes. G
Since you don't live here it's impossible for you to actually know. A 30" snowfall in 24 hours is very rare, the record 24 hour total for Breck of 38" occurred a few years back a week after the ski area closed, which didn't count in our snow total. We climbed Peak 8 to ski it. True, I can only remember a few 50" two-day totals in the last 10 years. But a "storm" can dump snow for a few days and that often adds up. Two-three day totals of 30" happen all the time. It's not "very rare".

I follow the weather religiously and watch it happening. I also plow my 500 foot long driveway so I have to be very aware of how much has fallen and forecasts.

As I said, our snow tends to be "often, light, and spotty". But it's rare that we don't get into a heavy snow pattern that dumps 50-100+" over a week at least once a year. Whether it materializes or not is usually the difference between a low, average or big snow year.
post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by bumpfreaq View Post
A few years ago I skied roughly 50" at Breck one day and 80" at Mary Jane the next.
That sounds like the record upslope storm. Breck got 46" in the first wave over two days and then another 30" a day or two later. It was epic as no one could get up here. Those who were here couldn't leave. The town did run out of food though...
post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by breckview View Post
That sounds like the record upslope storm. Breck got 46" in the first wave over two days and then another 30" a day or two later. It was epic as no one could get up here. Those who were here couldn't leave. The town did run out of food though...
Yeah, that's what everyone was saying but with a little creative use of park roads (around the reservoir) I made it to the other side of 70, took 9 to 40 and into Winter Park. When I went to check into the hostel they looked at me like I had risen from the dead because they thought no one could get there. They had given away my reservation so I ended up sleeping on a couch for free.

Subarus with snow tires rule!
post #20 of 23
One reason those in Denver don't get a true representation of what's happening up here is that storms don't line up with ski area measuring schedules. If a big storm starts up at 2:00am and dumps 8" of snow by the time patrol checks the stake at ~5:00am, the report will state 8". If the storm continues lighter and dumps another 8" by 2:00 am the next day and then stops, the next report will state 8". The actual 24-hour total is 16".

What makes matters worse is that since storms move in from the west, it hits Aspen, then Vail, storms then hang on Vail pass and it takes a couple hours before they hit Breck. Since front rangers are anticipating the forecasted storm they'll see, Aspen 15", Vail 12", Breck 8" in the first days report. Then, the back-end of the storm is often ignored so it appears Breck gets less. Breck also benefits from the backside northly flow and so the storms tend to hang on longer snowing small amounts for a couple more days that adds up.
post #21 of 23
For those who don't think big snow doesn't happen in Colorado......Welcome to Colorado you are going to like living here and are in for a whole new experience.

Last winter was fantastic. We had 9 weeks in a row where we had over 1 foot of measureable snow per storm in the metro region. Several of those had over 39 inches per dump in the metro area. I know, I shoveled it off my driveway, sidewalk, and out to where the snowplow made one pass down the street. My body felt it for months. I do have pictures if proof is needed. Giant piles of snow were in the streets around my house from Dec to March. One company that was relocating from CA suddenly found it couldn't get any of it's employees to relocate to Boulder.

The people up in Nederland/Jamestown/Rollinsville area have it worse off? They can get 10-12 feet per storm.

Big snow happens in Colorado..where it happens can vary......it doesn't usually make national news except when the airport closes down to due extreme blizzard conditions.
post #22 of 23
Quote:
But it's rare that we don't get into a heavy snow pattern that dumps 50-100+" over a week at least once a year.
I would say that's an overstatement. I have 163 months of Breckenridge snowfall data, and only 8 of them (5%) had as much as 90 inches. Sierra areas with comparable average snowfall (260-290 inches, Northstar, June, bottom of Squaw, midway at Heavenly) have at least twice as many 90-inch months.

The generalization that Colorado snow tends to be moderate and consistent is correct. That is a positive for keeping mid and late season surfaces refreshed. But bottomless powder is less frequent than in some other regions..
post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
I would say that's an overstatement. I have 163 months of Breckenridge snowfall data, and only 8 of them (5%) had as much as 90 inches. Sierra areas with comparable average snowfall (260-290 inches, Northstar, June, bottom of Squaw, midway at Heavenly) have at least twice as many 90-inch months.
That may be true but it doesn't disprove my statement that it's a rare year that we don't get one 50"+ inch week. You'd need daily data. One problem with your data is you are missing part of April and October and part of November in some years because snow isn't usually measured when the ski area is closed. I can remember many big weeks in April in the BC after the ski area closes. Unlike lower areas we get no rain in October or April. It was raining in Steamboat today...
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