Snowy conditions forecast for holiday week
VAIL — The local mountains wrapped up a week of great conditions on Saturday as those out enjoying the snow eagerly eyed another snowy forecast for coming week.
Now officially out of the drought, the whole state of Colorado should see a snowy week starting mid-week as the state will be on the receiving end of what meteorologist Joe Ramey called a “pipe” of moisture coming from the Pacific Ocean.
“There’s a couple of different systems headed our way,” said Ramey, who works for the National Weather Service out of Grand Junction. “The one headed our way for mid-week should bring significant snowfall to all elevations.”
After receiving 19 inches of new snow in the last week, Vail Mountain should be in perfect condition for Christmas, said second-home owner Marc Beshany.
“The holidays really saw the snow this year,” Beshany said. “Thanksgiving was great, too.”
Beshany, a snowboarder, said he plans on staying in town while it’s snowy.
“It’s the best feeling in the world, floating your board over the powder,” he said.
Last week’s new snow was greeted by new terrain openings and an extended operating schedule Vail Mountain. Serviced by Chair 21 Orient Express, portions of the expansive Siberia Bowl opened, along with popular runs Red Square and Bolshoi Ballroom.
The openings brought the resort’s terrain total to over 4,000 acres and individual run total to 177.
“It was great to get in there right as it was opening,” said local Andrew Wight. “There were no tracks, and no people even. The snow was amazing, it’s been a great winter.”
‘LIKE IN BASEBALL’
Technically, winter has not yet arrived, with its first day being Monday this year. And despite the nearly 100 inches of snow Vail has so far recorded in its first month of opening, the Snotel data on the mountain shows the snow water equivalent to be at only 88 percent of the average for this time of year.
Snotel averages, however, can be tricky in the early season, says Ramey. Just reading the numbers doesn’t give you the whole story.
“All it takes is just a few inches plus or minus and those averages can go up and down considerably in the early season,” Ramey said. “Like in baseball, early in the season the batters are batting 1.000 and then you get into the season and the numbers start to go down and look like what a normal average would be.”
Also, just looking at Snotel information on Vail Mountain can be deceiving, as there are other sites in the area also examining the snow.
“In looking at the Upper Colorado River Basin, which includes Vail Mountain, the whole basin is just above average,” Ramey said. “This week I think will have a significant impact on those percentages, I think by the day after Christmas we’ll be seeing bigger numbers, probably across all of Western Colorado.”
EL NINO Reaches Maturity
So far, the climate signals that meteorologists such as Ramey have been examining have proven predictions for a snowy December to be true. Ramey says get out and enjoy the snow during the holiday week, as those same predictions have called for a dry January.
“The waters off the Ecuadorian Eastern Pacific are at near-record warmth,” he said. But it looks they’ve actually reached their peak number and will start to decline here by mid-winter. El Nino has reached its maturity.”
A true forecast can look at individual storms and forecast out a week or so, but after that it’s climate signals that give meteorologists their long-term predictions.
“In looking at strong El Ninos in the past, we see that we’ve had a wet fall, followed by a dry winter and then wet conditions again in the spring,” Ramey said.