What a season!  Who would have guessed in November or December that by late March we would have an above average season?  This winter was really a story of three big storms – one in early December (twenty inches), one in mid-January (four feet), and one in mid-March (four feet).  While November was an awful disappointment, and there were slow times in December, February, and April, it was still a great year.  January was a strong month – nothing wrong with a four-foot dump right in the middle of it, and March, a typically snowy month, was 160% of already outsized average.  That’s huge! 

Forecasting was a challenge considering a majority of our total snowfall came in three bursts, all three of which the models underpredicted.  And, none of the three big storms followed the classic pattern of a huge dump for our patrol region (i.e., a closed or cut-off low over the Four Corners slowly moving east northeast).  Moreover, the usual first place winner for our patrol zone among the models, the Canadian Model, performed dismally this year.  And the American Model, which has my favorite interface, likewise performing rather poorly.  I’m reminded of the old joke – don’t give weather forecasters a hard time, they successfully predicted nine out of the last four storms.

Adding up the performance of eight models I looked at this winter, the best model by a hair was the WRF Model, with a 44% accuracy percentage, and being wildly off only 25% of the time.  A close second was the UK Met Model, also with a 44% accuracy percentage, and being wildly off (usually way too pessimistic) 35% of the time.  The worst model was the NAM, 60% of the time being wildly too pessimistic, and only predicting one snowfall correctly the entire winter.  Overall, I’d rank the models this year in the following order: WRF, UKMet, European, Icon, American, RDPS, Canadian, and NAM.

Have a great summer everyone!  The above average March snowpack should hopefully translate into a good late season ski conditions in the backcountry.  Hope to see some of you at this Saturday’s Mt. Russel ski day.  All the best, and here’s for hoping for at least one more snowstorm before July.

-Jordan (Monday 6/3/24 Afternoon)

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: Amazon.com: 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.