Pacific storm could bring powder to the people for Christmas | SteamboatToday.com

Pacific storm could bring powder to the people for Christmas

Skiers in Steamboat Springs are hoping a Dec. 23-24 storm will reverse the snow drought with a forecast that accumulations could exceed 12 inches. (file photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Nearing the end of one of the driest Decembers snow months in memory there is reason for holiday skiers and riders in the Yampa Valley to be optimistic about their powder potential for the holiday weekend.

Meteorologist Joel Gratz of OpenSnow.com predicted the morning of Dec. 22 that an arriving storm with winds from the west should deliver snow to Steamboat Springs and the ski area beginning Friday night. Gratz said the storm could deliver snow accumulations of 8 to 16 inches by the time it subsides Saturday evening.

"You will find powder on Saturday, and there could be a time of very intense snowfall on Saturday afternoon," Gratz predicted, "when a cold front passes or stalls over Steamboat. So, Sunday morning powder is a very real possibility."

Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth of SnowAlarm.com reported Dec. 21 that the incoming storm was moving to the southeast from British Columbia and is expected mix with Pacific air by the time it reaches Colorado.

After dry conditions during daylight hours Sunday, Dec. 24, Gratz expects another storm to affect Mount Werner beginning Sunday night, and bring another 4 to 8 inches Christmas Day, into the evening.

There's more good news — Gratz expects Steamboat to see chances for snow every one to three days into early January.

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Driest December since 2011

How dry has this December been so far? The snow measuring stake managed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service on the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass  reported 13 inches of standing snow on the ground Nov. 23, which settled to 12 inches as of Dec. 1.  And although Rabbit Ears saw snowfalls of 1 to 2 inches Dec. 5, 6, 8 and 10, and a nice 4 inches Dec. 19, the snow on the ground had settled to a 16-inch snowpack again by Dec. 21.

Steamboat Resort archives reflect that the month of December has been very kind to skiers over the past five ski seasons; December 2016 produced 89.25 inches at mid-mountain, and December 2015 was a banner month with 101 inches. December snowfall in 2014 and 2013 was 56.3 and 60.25 respectively. But December 2012 was another triple digit month with 105.25 inches.

The last time Steamboat endured scarce December snowfall like this month was in 2011, when just 24.5 inches accumulated during the first full month of the ski season.

The 20-year average December snowfall at mid-mountain is 71.64 inches, according to Ski Corp. records.

If you're curious, the all-time record for full-season snowfall is the 489 inches recorded in the winter of 2007/2008. And the single-month record is the 216.5 that fell in January 1996.

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