After 60 inches of snow fell at the summit in 13 days, Steamboat skiers could soon see the sun
January 13, 2014
Steamboat Springs — If it feels like Steamboat Springs hasn't seen much of the sun thus far in January, perhaps it's because there only have been two mornings this month when the Steamboat Ski Area didn't report measurable snowfall.
The only days this month when there wasn't something fresh piled up on the snow stake at Thunderhead were Jan. 3 and 7.
"We're at 52.25 inches for the month, only two weeks into it, and zeroing in on the 10-year monthly average of 67.8 for all of January," Steamboat Ski Area spokesman Mike Lane said. "What a bonus today is as we continue to see some strong orographic lift," wringing more precipitation out of the latest storm.
The summit of Storm Peak has seen 62 inches of snowfall so far this month.
Beginning with 40 inches of snow that fell at mid-mountain in October 2013, and followed up by 47.5 inches in November and another 60.25 inches in December, the ski area now has reached a season snowfall of 200 inches.
Contributing National Weather Service observer Art Judson reports that since Sept. 1, 2013, his weather gauge between downtown and the ski mountain has seen 130.1 inches of snow.
But the weather forecast is about to change.
As abundant as snowfall has been early this month, with a half dozen powder mornings of 5 inches or more at mid-mountain, Steamboat might have to hustle in the last week of January to surpass the 10-year average.
Snow-caster Joel Gratz, of the Web page OpenSnow, is looking at long-range weather patterns and predicting that Wednesday will mark the first day of a dry and relatively warm spell expected to last "at least 10 days."
"During the stretch from January 15-25, there could be a weak storm or two that grazes Colorado, but it doesn’t look like we’ll see any significant precipitation," Gratz wrote before 7 a.m. Monday. "Some of the models are now hinting that things will change by the 26th or 27th, but the models often predict the pattern will change sooner than it actually happens."
Steamboat-based meteorologist Michael Weissbluth, of the SnowAlarm blog, said a significant ridge of high pressure moving in from the West Coast will take over the weather in Western Colorado in the near term. And some of the mildest weather will be above the valley floor on the ski slopes.
"A grazing cool and dry wave to our northeast on Thursday will knock temperatures down a bit, but it appears the ridge and its associated warm and dry weather will continue through most of next weekend," Weissbluth wrote. "Mountain slopes will substantially warm, though valleys will be on the cool side as temperature inversions reform and persist."
The National Weather Service isn't looking that far into the future in its Monday morning forecast but seems to support what Gratz and Weissbluth are seeing. The forecast for Wednesday through Sunday calls for mostly clear skies with daily high temperatures at or just above the freezing mark. There remains a 20 percent chance of snow before 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Could Steamboat endure a 10-day dry spell this month and still play catch-up? If the last few days of January 2013 are any measure, the answer is "yes.”
The ski area finished January 2013 with 56.5 inches of snow and a little more than 70 percent, or 41 inches of that total, fell in the last three days of the month. That snow event produced 29 inches in the 24 hours that ended Jan. 29, followed by 3 inches on Jan. 30 and another 14 inches on Jan. 31.