Mixed bag of weather during run-up to Steamboat Resort opening Nov. 22
November 17, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As a gentle rain fell on the floor of the Yampa Valley at midday Friday, there was reason for skiers and riders to dig their gear out of the closet in anticipation of Opening Day at Steamboat Ski Area five days away on Nov. 22.
The overnight forecasts of Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth and the National Weather Service were in agreement – significant snow was due to accumulate on the upper reaches of Mount Werner overnight accompanied by ideal snowmaking temperatures continuing overnight Saturday and Sunday.
Weissbluth, who publishes the SnowAlarm blog, predicts "several inches" of snow will accumulate on the valley floor. But his forecast for the upper reaches of the mountains is more robust.
"I would expect 8 to 16 inches of snow at higher elevations," he said.
As of 2 p.m. Friday, the ski area was reporting rain and a temperature of 41 degrees at the base. It was 10 degrees cooler at 9,080 feet at Thunderhead summit. By 3 p.m., rain was changing to wet snow on the valley floor and was beginning to accumulate on the roof of the gondola building and the ski area’s live cam.
Complicating the forecast for Friday night, according to the National Weather Service, was the likelihood of strong winds at the higher elevations of the Park Range and the ski slopes, as well in the Elkhead Mountains west of Steamboat. Winds will begin to blow 15 to 25 miles per hour, with gusts up to 45 miles per hour, but the gusts are expected to diminish modestly after midnight. Those winds can be counted on to redistribute the snow accumulation.
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Sunshine returns for the weekend, but Weissbluth said there is a less-certain second chance for snow early next week in advance of Opening Day.
"Another Pacific Northwest storm approaches the coast on Monday and splits, with the southern branch traveling over Steamboat Springs on Tuesday," he said. "There is uncertainty with respect to how much energy and moisture," might accompany the two branches of the storm, "but snow showers are currently advertised for late Monday into early Tuesday."
With clearing skies later in the weekend, Friday's overnight low of 20 degrees was expected to slip to 14 degrees Saturday night and 18 degrees Sunday night.
Wind chills will be frigid in the high country early Saturday – 8 below to 2 above in the morning hours, according to the Weather Service.
And that's what Steamboat Ski Area needs most during the run-up to Opening Day – overnight snowmaking temperatures between now and Scholarship Day benefiting the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club on Nov. 22.
Steamboat opened ski season 2016-17 on Nov. 23, 2016, with limited skiing on the lower mountain served by the Christie Peak Express. But by Nov. 28, 2016, the Monday after Thanksgiving, a fresh storm allowed the ski area to open the gondola and the Heavenly Daze Trail with 2,000 vertical feet of terrain.