Weekend (11/23-24) forecast: Party cloudy and pleasant temperatures, with snow before the weekend and snow after the weekend.

Forecast discussion:

A powerful storm is approaching Colorado from the Southwest.  Snow looks to begin Wednesday afternoon in our patrol area and will last through Friday.  As this is a closed low, which are hard to predict, the models are giving a wide range of potential forecasts. 

There are a several favorable factors for this storm.  First, snowstorms that come in from the southwest (hitting Wolf Creek first and the hardest) tend to swing around and produce a lot of snow in our patrol area.  Second, winds form the eastern half of the compass (as one would expect from this type of storm) are favorable for orographic lifting in our patrol area.  Third, the ideal cloud temperature for snow production is between 0 and 15 degrees (and remember, the clouds that produce the best snow are only a few thousand feet above the mountain tops), so the cold (but not very cold) temperatures late Wednesday through early-Friday look favorable. 

On the other hand, there are a couple of concerns for the storm producing as much snow as we might like.  First, the winds appear weaker during the storm time than are ideal for orographic lift.  Second, the winds may end up being from the northeast (especially in the southern portion of our patrol zone), which is not as good of a snow producer as from the east or southeast.

The point forecasts for our patrol area from the NAM are in the 10” range, from the American (GFS) are in the 3-4” range, from the Canadian (GDPS) are in the 3-7” range, and from the CAIC WRF are in the 6-12” range (with more up north).  I’ll put my money on the higher resolution models, so here goes my role of the dice in light of the winds, topography, and model predictions.

I think Eldora, Caribou, and Brainerd will see a storm total of 4-10” (depending upon the storm path and winds) by the end of the day on Friday.  I think the higher elevations above East Portal will see a bit more (perhaps 6-12”), and the Rock Creek area will be the winner with 8 to 15”.

We have a warmer and sunnier weekend in store before more snow early next week.  I’ll focus on the snow next week when it gets closer.

As always, if you’re out skiing or snowshoeing in our patrol area, let me know what you see.

-Jordan (forecast as of Monday afternoon)