Residents dreaming of white may have to wait

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Those hoping for a white Christmas in the Yampa Valley will have to make do with the snow that fell across the area Wednesday evening and early Thursday.

The best chance for snow in Northwest Colorado during the holiday weekend will come in the form of a chance of flurries or occasional snow showers, National Weather Service meteorologist Jeff Colton said. No major moisture systems are expected to reach Colorado until the middle of next week, Colton said, and even that system appears more likely to affect the state's southern mountains.

But there is some good news for skiers and snowboarders -- the frigid temperatures that gripped the region overnight Wednesday are expected to subside by Christmas Day. Today's high temperature will be about 20 degrees, and the temperature will continue to rise during the weekend as a westerly flow ushers in warm air from the Pacific Ocean. Temperatures should reach the mid-30s during the weekend, Colton said.

The Steamboat Ski Area reported 4.5 inches of new snow overnight Wednesday with lesser totals reported in town. The snowfall certainly is welcome after a dry spell that lasted more than a week.

More than 10,000 visitors are in Steamboat for the holiday weekend, with even more tourists expected to arrive in the days after Christmas. To help lighten the rush of skiers heading up the slopes during the coming week, the resort is opening its lifts 30 minutes early next week. The gondola and other key lifts at the base of the ski area will open at 8 a.m. during a six-day period beginning Sunday. The Thunderhead Express, Burgess Creek and Four Points lifts will open at 8:15 a.m., and Storm Peak Express and Sundown Express will open at 8:30 a.m.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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