Is the Vail Valley finally on the ’storm train?’ |

Is the Vail Valley finally on the ’storm train?’

Get ready for some powder days

It has been a sunny few weeks, but Eagle County should see some snow in the coming days.

The National Weather Service is predicting snow in Vail between Thursday evening and Saturday night. Better yet, there’s another chance of snow showers between Monday, Dec. 14, and Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Sam Collentine, a forecaster with, is predicting between 4 and 8 inches of fresh snow from the first storm.

It’s still too soon to predict how much snow the storms early next week might bring.

“After a very slow start to the winter season, it finally looks like the storm train will begin to roll through the Western U.S. and Colorado,” Collentine wrote in an email.

Mark Miller, a forecaster at the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service, agreed. In a phone interview, Miller said the western U.S. is starting to see a weather pattern shift.

“We’re looking at disturbances starting to swing (this way) out of the Pacific Northwest,” Miller said. Miller added that there’s been a persistent high pressure system in the western U.S., with a low pressure system to the east. That’s kept the Mountain West dry.

Weather forecasts only go about a week out with any confidence. But Miller said there are “hints” that the dry pattern may shift over the coming days.

But, he said, forecasters have an old saying: “When you’re in a drought, forecast drought.”

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center’s outlook for the next eight to 14 days is calling for Colorado to see below-average precipitation and above-average temperatures for that period.

But, Collentine wrote, the longer-term outlook “is starting to favor a typical La Nina pattern. That would be great news for northern Colorado if consistent storms can continue into early 2021.”

There is a La Nina pattern in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, meaning water temperatures are cooler than normal. Those patterns tend to bring storms through the Pacific Northwest. El Nino patterns — warmer-than-average water temperatures in the same area — generally bring storms in from the southwest.

In general, La Nina patterns will favor Steamboat Springs and El Nino patterns tend to bring snow to Wolf Creek Pass.

But, Miller said, both La Nina and El Nino serve to indicate weather tendencies, and don’t have much predictive value.

There can still be short-term fluctuations with either pattern in place, Miller said.

Given the dry cycle that for months has kept western Colorado in serious drought, Miller said forecasters are waiting for a definitive change in weather patterns.

Until then, get ready for some powder over the next week or so.

The forecast for Vail

Dec. 10: A 60% chance of snow showers, with a low of 19.

Dec. 11: An 80% chance of snow showers, with a high of 29

Dec. 12: A 60% chance of snow showers, with a high of 24.

Dec. 13: Mostly sunny, with a high of 28.

Source: National Weather Service.

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