Skiers can't be choosers: Wet snow covers valley


— The snowflakes that fell over Steamboat Springs Sunday night and Monday weren't of the famed champagne powder variety, but they were a welcome relief following more than a week of dry, mild weather.

A strong Pacific storm system moved into the area Sunday and teamed up with a cold front to turn rain to heavy, large snowflakes that piled up quickly in downtown Steamboat, with up to 10 inches reported in areas by the time Monday's morning commute began.

The storm picked up its intensity Monday afternoon after a midday lull, and the snowfall, heavy at times, was expected to leave between 12 and 16 inches by the time it moved out of the area late Monday night or early this morning, meteorologist Jim Daniels said.

A winter storm warning for the area was in effect until midnight Monday. The warning forecast heavy snow -- up to 2 inches an hour in places -- to possibly continue overnight in mountainous areas.

The heavy, water-packed snow was the result of a cold front that lacked punch, Daniels said.

"The warmer temperatures allowed for the larger growth of snowflakes, which tend to clump together and be heavier," he said.

It's hard to complain about snow quality, especially after more than a week of dry weather, ski area spokeswoman Cathy Wiedemer said.

"It's just what we need for the terrain that's not open," Wiedemer said. "This type of snow is great for a base. It wasn't the lightest, driest snowfall to date but it was well-received."

The ski area reported 14 inches of new snow in the 24-hour period from 12:30 p.m. Sunday to 12:30 p.m. Monday. At times Monday, the snow fell at a pace of nearly 2 inches an hour at the summit of Storm Peak, Wiedemer said.

"It's snowing, and that's what counts," she said.

The storm brought the ski area's cumulative snowfall total to more than 90 inches -- more than any other major Colorado resort, Wiedemer said. The ski area also has more terrain open than any major state resort.

While good for skiers and snowboarders, the snow left area roads icy and snowpacked and caused several two-vehicle accidents Monday, Steamboat Springs Police Department Assistant Chief Art Fiebing said. None of the accidents that occurred through Monday afternoon resulted in injuries.

"People need to slow down," Fiebing said. "But it hasn't been too bad today considering how much snow there is."

Routt County Sheriff John Warner said his deputies responded to several reports of cars sliding off of slick roads.

Two more winter storm systems could blow into the area by the end of the week, Daniels said. Though neither is considered to be as powerful as the one that moved through Steamboat Sunday and Monday, prevailing unstable conditions could continue to bring precipitation to the area through the middle of next week.


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