The weather will be too pleasant through Thursday, and then on Friday things get puzzling.  Saturday afternoon’s run of the American Model called for 42” of snow for this Friday in the Brainerd Lake grid.  Sunday afternoon’s run of the same American Model grid called for 0” of snow for this Friday.  I’m not making this up.  So what’s going on?

A giant low pressure will pull in moisture from both the Pacific Ocean west of Mexico and simultaneously pull in moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.  So we have a ton of warm moisture headed to somewhere in the Southern Rockies.  (FYI, the Southern Rockies extend from Ski Santa Fe in the South to Snow Range in the North, and from Powderhorn in the West to our great Patrol Zone in the East.)  However, where the low pressure ends up means the difference between our Patrol Zone getting skunked and getting an unbelievable huge storm.  Somewhere will get a lot of snow.  But will it be us? 

Now that we’re four days away from the storm (or potential storm), hopefully we’re getting a little more clarity.  Unfortunately that clarity is looking at a half to foot to foot, as opposed to feet, of snow.  That said, this is still a wildly unclear storm.  Here are the various medium term model forecasts totals for the weekend storm in our Patrol Zone:

12” – Canadian Model (Friday through Sunday snow)

10” – European Model (Friday through Saturday snow)

8” – American Model (Friday through Saturday snow)

5” – UK Met Model (Friday through Sunday snow)

I know this looks rather predictable now – half a foot to a foot.  But this storm is still a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.  The Monday evening University of Utah Downscale Guidance (which is usually too optimistic and doesn’t have a point forecast in our patrol zone) has the most pessimistic ensemble model run for Berthoud Pass at 5” and the most optimistic ensemble run at 85”.  Again, I’m not making this up.  And even if we take out the most optimistic five and pessimistic five ensemble runs, we’re still looking at 15” to 42” at Berthoud Pass (but again don’t forget this downscale guidance is usually too optimistic).  Yes, this forecast is getting too unnecessarily geeky, but it’s getting that way as I’m really stumped at what’s going on.

Let’s simplify.  Fingers’ crossed we see a real dump this Friday and Saturday, but who the heck knows?

Retrospective Discussion:

The last system brought roughly 2”, so the NAM Model was spot on, with the WRF Model pretty close.  The RDPS and Canadian Models were way too high, and the American Model was way too low.


-Jordan (Monday 1/29/24 Evening)

Geeky Notes:

References to the American Model are to the American (GFS) Model grid including Brainerd Lake with an average elevation of 9,439’.  References to the Canadian Model are the Canadian (GDPS) Model grid including Brainerd Lake with an average elevation of 10,253’.  References to the WRF Model are the CAIC WRF Hi-Res Model point forecast for Eldora Ski Area with an elevation of 9,189’.  References to the European Model are to the European (ECMWF) Model on a point with my cursor at my best estimate of Eldora Ski Area.  For big picture overviews, I tend to rely on the American Model, not because I think it is the most accurate, but because (i) it is free and (ii) I like its interface. 

If you want more details on these forecasts, feel free to buy my Hunting Powder book at Hunting Powder: A Skier’s Guide to Finding Colorado’s Best Snow: Lipp, Jordan, Gratz, Joel: 9780578838533: Books.  How is that for an absolutely shameless plug?  Or, the next time you see me at a patrol function, just ask me any questions on how I put together these non-professional forecasts.  Cheers.