Snow likely to come in waves

Storm track expected to continue for another week

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The winter storm track that has gripped Steamboat Springs since Saturday promises to keep coming in waves.

"If you don't have enough, there's more," National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Frisbee said Tuesday afternoon. "The storm due Friday and Saturday will be quite significant for all of Western Colorado."

Even as he spoke of a weekend storm, Frisbee was predicting the Steamboat Ski Area would see double-digit snowfall overnight and into today.

"Steamboat will have another good day," Frisbee predicted. "We're expecting 9 to 18 inches of snow through tomorrow. It could be close to 2 feet. In town, you might see 5 to 11 (inches). The heaviest snow will fall before sunup," and begin to taper off into mid-morning.

Frisbee said the front's west-to-northwest flow was ideal for producing "terrain enhanced snow" in the Park Range, which includes Mount Werner and the slopes of Steamboat Ski Area.

Officially, the weather service was calling for snow and blowing snow Tuesday evening, but Frisbee said he thought the worst of the wind would blow south of Steamboat, closer to Yampa.

Late Tuesday afternoon, bef-ore the approaching storm, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center made a moderate downward revision in its estimation of the avalanche danger in the backcountry surrounding Steamboat.

On Monday afternoon, avalanche forecasters cautioned about pockets of high avalanche danger on slopes facing south to northeast at and above timberline. On Tuesday, the danger was rated "considerable across those aspects."

Forecaster Nick Logan said the snow pattern made calling avalanche conditions complex, and he continued to preach caution.

"Backcountry travelers should be aware of conditions in their area and practice good travel techniques," he wrote.

"This includes approaching steep slopes with caution and only exposing one person at a time to the potential of an avalanche," Logan wrote. "There will likely be good skiing and riding to be had after this storm. But let's wait to see how the snowpack reacts before jumping onto freshly loaded slopes 35 degrees and steeper."

Snow moisture data gathered by the Natural Resource Conservation Ser-vice indicates that on a percentage basis, Rabbit Ears Pass is receiving some of the heaviest precipitation in the state. The Columbine (east side of Rabbit Ears) and Rabbit Ears snowpack measuring sites are at 113 and 107 percent of average, respectively.

Snowpack measurements do not indicate depth but the amount of water in the snow.

The Tower site on Buffalo Pass (north of the ski area on the Continental Divide) holds substantially more water than Rabbit Ears, but it stands at 88 percent of average.

North Routt County has not received the same amount of precipitation as Rabbit Ears -- the Lost Dog site on Seedhouse Road is at 49 percent of average, and the Elk River site stood at 79 percent Tuesday.

To the south, in the edge of the Flat Tops near Phippsburg, the snowpack was 133 percent of average. However, deeper in the Flat Tops, at the source of the White River, the Trappers Lake measuring site was at 75 percent of average.

At the weather service, Frisbee's colleague, Jeff Colton, predicted skies would clear over Northwest Colorado tonight as the upper jet stream shifted to the northeast. However, in a report filed at 3:45 a.m. Tuesday, he predicted a series of snow events interspersed with brief clearing.

"Snowfall will likely be measured in feet over portions of the Colorado high country over the next week or so," Colton wrote. He foresaw a period of "enhanced precipitation" Friday night followed by a "stronger push of colder air" late Saturday accompanying another storm front. After conditions dry out Sunday afternoon through Monday, he anticipated another system in the region Dec. 6.

-- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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