Smoke in Steamboat Springs area caused by controlled burn | SteamboatToday.com

Smoke in Steamboat Springs area caused by controlled burn

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The smell and sight of smoke in the Steamboat Springs area can be blamed on a controlled burn east of the city.

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Mel Stewart said a ranch on Routt County Road 24 is burning slash piles. Because of a temperature inversion, the smoke is staying low in the valley and not dispersing.

Stewart said this is not an ideal time to conduct controlled burns because of the temperature inversion.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

Record-breaking snowmaking occurring at Steamboat Ski Area despite natural snow

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When Mother Nature does not cooperate with bringing down the natural snow, snowmakers get to work at Steamboat Ski Area.

To open more terrain, snowmakers have been hard at work cranking up the snow guns and breaking records.

"What we've been doing in the last seven days is unheard of," said Dave Hunter, vice president of mountain operations.

The ski area has invested millions of dollars in snowmaking infrastructure and highly-efficient snow guns in recent years, and it is paying off during the early season when the natural snow sometimes does not fall.

They have been tracking how much snow is being made, and the amounts are breaking records.

The ski area has seen ideal snowmaking conditions in the past week, with overnight humidity measuring in the teens, as well as low temperatures. That has allowed them to pump more water into the snowmaking guns than air.

"That's when you're producing the most amount of snow," Hunter said.

He attributed the productive snowmaking to cooperative weather, the staff and the modern infrastructure.

"We have a lot of terrain that's ready to get popped open this next week," Hunter said.

As of Monday, the ski area was operating four lifts and 16 trails covering 64 acres.

The ski area, as well as businesses that support Steamboat's visitors, are looking for the snow.

Sunny skies are expected for the rest of the week, but the ski area's weather experts are expecting a change and more weather activity between Dec. 15 and 26.

"It looks like there are systems that are teed up," Hunter said.

While parts of the Yampa Valley have just a coating of snow, conditions are different at the top of the ski area.

"What we are seeing at the base area and on the lower mountain isn't indicative of what we see up high," Hunter said.

Snowmaking conditions are expected to remain favorable through the week before chances of natural snow starting this weekend.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

Steamboat area snowpack tops other Colorado mountain passes

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As much as Steamboat Ski Area would like to be able to report more natural snowpack for skiers and riders this week, the snow situation in the Yampa Valley is better than in some other areas of Colorado.

The overall snowpack — technically the water stored in the snow — for the combined Yampa and White river basins stood at 72 percent of the median for Dec. 11.

The snowpack across Northwest Colorado was boosted by robust numbers  in specific locations. That includes snow moisture that is 137 percent of median at the Bear River measuring site on the headwaters of the Yampa River in the Flat Tops, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Closer to Steamboat, at the snowpack measurement site on Rabbit Ears Pass, where the snow on the ground measured 17 inches on Monday morning, the moisture in the standing snow represented 61 percent of median.

On the upper Elk River, the standing snow measured 13 inches and the snowpack was 81 percent of median.

Above 10,500 feet on the Continental Divide just northeast of Steamboat, at the Tower measuring site on Buffalo Pass, the snow depth was 33 inches, and the water content was 65 percent of median for the date.

In Southern Colorado, some of the snowpack measurements aren't as robust. Wolf Creek Pass, which often rivals Buffalo Pass for the deepest snow in the state, had just 4 inches of snow on the ground Sunday, and the snowpack was just 27 percent of median.

On Lizard Head Pass, just south of Telluride, the snow depth was just 2 inches deep on Monday.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

Sunny skies through the week before weekend weather hits

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The cold has arrived in the Yampa Valley, and many are hoping it is just a matter of time before the big snowfalls arrive.

Mike Weissbluth, who runs snowalarm.com, thinks it might be on the way.

This week, high pressure will bring sunny skies and chilly starts to the days with temperatures in the single digits and teens, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

Weissbluth expects a change in the weather pattern around Saturday after a storm approaching from the Pacific Ocean encounters the high-pressure ridge.

"It is not yet clear how much of the Pacific storm will survive the battle with the ridge, but some clouds and snow showers are currently advertised for next weekend," Weissbluth said.

Following the unsettled weather for the coming weekend, he is optimistic about a much stronger storm that will move over California during the middle of the following week.

"While forecasts generally become far more uncertain after about a week, there is agreement that this storm will mix with some cold air from Canada," Weissbluth said. "This may allow wintry weather to settle over the western states heading into Christmas weekend, especially if the West Coast ridge rebuilds further west into the Gulf of Alaska as is currently advertised."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

Gorgeous weekend weather on tap for Steamboat Springs

The current wintry conditions in Steamboat Springs will last through Thursday before the sun returns for most of the next week. Several more inches of snow are possible through about midnight Thursday night as more cold air slides southward along the eastern periphery of a large and dominant ridge of high pressure centered over the West Coast.

With the new snow cover, temperature inversions, where temperatures increase with elevation, have formed in the Yampa Valley and will continue for the next several days as clear nighttime skies will allow the surface to efficiently cool. Additionally, the West Coast ridge is forecast to expand eastward, bringing warmer air to the higher elevations. The combination of a low sun angle, cold surface temperatures and warm mountain temperatures makes the atmosphere very stable and inhibits any vertical mixing that may bring the warmer air aloft down to the surface.

The end result will be the Yampa Valley will be slower to warm than the mountains under the sunny skies that are forecast for Friday and the weekend.

There are three waves of energy traveling over the top of the ridge that may help to drag some cooler air into northern Colorado on Monday, Wednesday and later Thursday as the West Coast ridge periodically retreats to our west. The Monday wave will bring a slight cool down under mostly sunny skies, while the Wednesday wave may only bring some clouds.

The strongest and moistest of the waves is currently timed for later Thursday and is advertised to bring some light snow to our area. It should be noted that the boundary between the warm and dry air to our west and the cold and moist air to our east will be very sensitive to the track of these waves, so the forecast can easily move to either the warmer and drier side or the cooler and moister side, especially after the dry Monday wave. In fact, the European ECMWF has the late Thursday wave much further west than the American GFS, so the forecast is quite uncertain for the end of the work week.

This of course leads to further forecast uncertainty for the following weekend. While the West Coast ridge is forecast to rebuild for a time, there are indications of a pattern change after that as incoming Pacific energy start to break down the dominant West Coast ridge. This may allow for a more active weather regime starting around that weekend or the following work week.

Wintry weather returns to Steamboat night of Dec. 3, intensifying by morning

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The National Weather Service in Grand Junction issued a special weather statement Dec. 1, alerting the region to the possibility of building winter weather late Sunday, Dec. 3, with the possibility of "significant snow across higher elevations of northwestern and west central Colorado."

"Precipitation is expected to begin during the day Sunday (with rain showers on the valley floor)," meteorology intern Andrew Lyons wrote. "Snow levels will start around 9,000 feet Sunday, dropping to valley floors Sunday night into Monday morning. The heaviest snow is expected to fall early morning."

Lyons added that the trend of above-normal temperatures will end as temperatures return to near normal for this time of year.

Steamboat Springs-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth of the SnowAlarm blog also called for modest snow amounts Monday through Tuesday.

Intellicast rates the chance of precipitation here the night of Dec. 3 at 80 percent and beginning with rain as high temperatures reach 49 degrees in the afternoon. Overnight temperatures dip into the high teens overnight. Intellicast said to expect 1 to 3 inches of snow from the storm, but that doesn't take into account high elevation accumulations.

The storm is expected to clear out beginning  Tuesday, Dec. 4 with sunshine and overnight snowmaking temperatures in the teens overnight through Dec. 10.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

Snow on the way? Latest forecast calls for cold front to hit Steamboat

Forecast provided by snowalarm.com

Ahead of a long-overdue storm that will begin affecting the Steamboat Springs area this weekend, more above normal daytime temperatures are expected. A sunny day today will be followed by a cool front that will graze northern Colorado on Friday, slightly lowering temperatures and increasing winds a bit.

Meanwhile a large storm in the Gulf of Alaska moves southeastward, crossing the central West Coast on Sunday. Winds will back to the southwest and moisture will increase bringing some clouds for Saturday in still above normal temperatures.

Rain showers at the lower elevations and snow showers at the higher elevations are possible by Sunday afternoon as some energy ejecting out of the storm travels over our area. Showers will turn to all snow when the cold front sweeps through the area Sunday night or Monday morning.

Numerical forecast models have struggled mightily with this storm, so there is even more uncertainty than usual for snow amounts early next week. We will have a better chance for accumulating snows as compared to the last 2 disappointing storms, with at least an inch or two likely for Monday through Tuesday, and possibly more if the storm tracks further south or west.

The forecast for cold air, however, has been far more consistent, with cooler temperatures hanging around through at least Tuesday.

Behind this storm, a building ridge of high pressure is forecast over the West Coast as this storm eventually mixes with some cold air from Canada and brings very cold temperatures to the eastern two thirds of the country. The Rocky Mountains will probably delineate the boundary between the warm and dry air under the western ridge and the much colder but still dry air to our east.

Our weather for next week will likely vacillate between warmer as the West Coast ridge expands eastward, and cooler as the West Coast ridge retreats westward. Right now, the forecast calls for some slight warming around midweek before a grazing storm may bring some more cold dry air over our area later Wednesday or Thursday.

The currently advertised eastward expansion of the West Coast ridge brings warming and more dry air to our area for the following weekend.

Despite little snowfall, avalanche caution still advised in Steamboat backcountry

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Avalanche danger was listed as moderate Tuesday for the Steamboat Springs area, and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center urged caution even though it is early in the season.

CAIC expected to downgrade the danger to low Wednesday for the Steamboat area.

According to CAIC, there is little snow in the immediate forecast, which leads them to believe avalanche conditions will improve.

"There are still isolated shady slopes at high elevations where you can trigger a potentially dangerous avalanche," CAIC wrote on its website Tuesday. "These slopes have both weak snow near the ground with a stiffer slab overlying the weak layers."

CAIC urges people to use caution on those slopes in the backcountry.

The Steamboat area saw an active avalanche season last year.

A snowmobile triggered an avalanche on Rabbit Ears Pass on Dec. 11. Three riders were buried, but everyone had avalanche safety equipment and survived.

On Jan. 12, an avalanche in the Fish Creek drainage injured a Routt County Search and Rescue member who was on his way to rescue two lost skiers.

On Feb. 14, Steamboat resident Jesse Christensen was killed in an avalanche while riding a snowbike in the Flat Tops Wilderness. Another man Christensen was riding with survived the incident.

The avalanche season has already been deadly in the United States.

Hayden Kennedy, a renowned climber and Carbondale native, committed suicide after his girlfriend Inge Perkins died Oct. 7 in an avalanche while the pair was skiing in rugged Montana backcountry.

On Nov. 18, a snowboarder was caught and partially buried but not injured in an avalanche in the area of Greg Mace Peak in central Colorado.

"He couldn’t see, couldn’t get above the snow and thought he was going to hit a tree and die," CAIC wrote in their report. "He estimated he was moving at highway speeds."

Avalanche danger was listed at low and moderate Tuesday in the Colorado mountains.

"Watch for obvious signs of instability like shooting cracks or the sound of collapsing," CAIC wrote. "You can reduce your risk by avoiding slopes steeper than around 30 degrees that have a stiff enough surface slab to support your weight."

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

Late-November temperatures close to record highs in Steamboat

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — With a mid-afternoon temperature of 60 degrees Sunday at Steamboat Springs Airport, Yampa Valley residents were walking around in T-shirts and soaking up the sun.

The record high temperature for the same date was set in 1995 at 61 degrees.

"Above normal temperatures have been sticking around here for awhile," said Dennis Phillips, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

The average high temperature for Nov. 26 is 34 degrees.

The National Weather Service high-temperature prediction for Sunday was 56 degrees. On Monday, it was expected to be 57 degrees, which is three degrees lower than the highest-recorded temperature of 60 degrees in 1914.

Change is on the horizon though.

According to Steamboat meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, a quick-moving storm will arrive with a cold front Monday afternoon or evening.

"Clouds and southwest winds will increase on Monday before snow showers begin and last through the night, with 1 to 4 inches of snow expected for the Tuesday morning snow report," Weissbluth wrote in his Sunday report.

Unsettled weather will continue into the week.

It will be sunny Tuesday but much cooler, with a forecasted high temperature of 41 degrees.

Weissbluth said another 1 to 4 inches of snow was expected at the ski area Wednesday evening through Thursday morning.

The weather is then expected to dry out from Thursday through Saturday with above-average temperatures.

Weissbluth said there is a chance for warm and unsettled weather this weekend.

"The track of this West Coast storm will play a large part in our weather for the next work week, with a cold and snowy period just as likely as a warmer and drier period at this point in the forecast," Weissbluth said.

Snowmakers who work overnight at Steamboat Ski Area should get some help this week.

Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-20s Monday and Tuesday night and then drop down to 16 degrees Wednesday night.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.

Steamboat Ski Area announces terrain for Opening Day on Wednesday

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Ski Area will start spinning the lifts Wednesday with access to the slopes via the Christie Peak Express lift.

The ski area then plans to open the Gondola on Thursday providing access to Heavenly Daze.

Thanks to snowmaking, the ski area will be able to open on schedule.

"Our system and our team are so prepared for taking advantage of those little cold windows," said Dave Hunter, vice president of mountain operations.

Wednesday is Scholarship Day, and season passes cannot be used. Tickets will be sold for $25, with proceeds going to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

Since its inception more than 25 years ago, Scholarship Day has generated $1 million for the Winter Sports Club.

The Outlaw Mountain Coaster will also be making its winter season debut Wednesday. Coaster tickets will cost $20, and the ride will be open from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Skiers will have access to five trails Wednesday — Sitz, Sitz Back, Jess' Cut-Off, Vogue and Stampede, as well as a pocket park.

Free parking will be available at the Meadows and Knoll lots, and SnowSports School will be offering lessons.

To celebrate the start of the season, the first 100 skiers to load Christie Peak Express will receive a free T-shirt.

The ski area has seen 35 inches of pre-season snow at mid-mountain. Over the weekend, 5.5 inches of snow fell on the ski area.

Snowmakers at the ski area have been waiting for the cold weather to arrive so they could get to work.

"The big game-changer for us was the last 48 hours," Hunter said Monday.

Other ski areas have not been so fortunate.

For the second consecutive year, Vail announced it was delaying its opening by a week. Vail will now open Wednesday.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.