Colorado Weather Forecast #159: Jan. 29, 2022 - Feb. 6, 2022

Mild weekend, storm Tuesday to Wednesday -- cold arctic air, but questionable powder potential.

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Updated Sat Jan 29, 2022 9:00pm MST | Published Fri Jan 28, 2022

By Thomas Horner

7-Day Snow Planner (Through Feb. 6)

Northern Mountains

Park Range and N Front Range: Steamboat, Buffalo Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass, Bluebird, RMNP, IPW, Cameron Pass

6am New Snow

0"

Mon

0"

Tue

0-8"

Wed

0-4"

Thu

0-1"

Fri

0"

Sat

0-1"

Sun

6am Powder Potential

0%

Mon

0%

Tue

28%

Wed

12%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

I-70 Corridor

Front Range, Gore Range, etc.: Winter Park, Berthoud Pass, Jones Pass, Loveland, A-Basin, Keystone, Breck, Copper, Vail Pass, Vail, Beaver Creek

6am New Snow

0"

Mon

0"

Tue

2-9"

Wed

0-4"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

6am Powder Potential

0%

Mon

0%

Tue

31%

Wed

16%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

Central Mountains

Elk Mountains, Sawatch Range, Grand Mesa, West Elks: Aspen Resorts, Crested Butte, Powderhorn, Sunlight, Kebler Pass, Independence Pass, Cottonwood Pass, Monarch

6am New Snow

0"

Mon

0"

Tue

0-7"

Wed

0-6"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

6am Powder Potential

0%

Mon

0%

Tue

22%

Wed

20%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

Southern Mountains

San Juans: Telluride, Red Mountain Pass, Silverton, Coal Bank Pass, Purgatory, Wolf Creek

6am New Snow

0"

Mon

0"

Tue

1-8"

Wed

1-13"

Thu

0-1"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

6am Powder Potential

0%

Mon

0%

Tue

23%

Wed

36%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

Denver Metro

Denver and surrounding suburbs: Lakewood, Westminster, Aurora, Highlands Ranch

6am New Snow

0"

Mon

0"

Tue

2-4"

Wed

1-3"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

6am Snow Accum. Chance

0%

Mon

0%

Tue

80%

Wed

79%

Thu

14%

Fri

0%

Sat

15%

Sun

Summary

  • Mild weekend is on tap. Highs in the 50s for the Front Range urban corridor and plains – possibly the low 60s.

  • Generally sunny this weekend, though we could see some mountain wave clouds over parts of the Plains on Saturday afternoon/evening…

  • …which is associated with some gusty conditions in the foothills tonight and later on Saturday.

  • Becoming unsettled into Monday, with more widespread cloud cover. Quite gusty along and east of the Divide.

  • Those downsloping winds will likely keep the Front Range mild on Monday as well, but high temperatures in the mountains will be cooler.

  • Cold front Monday night ahead of our next system. Temperatures drop sharply into Tuesday.

  • Snow from late Tuesday morning / afternoon to Wednesday night for most of the state. (some uncertainty here)

    • Highly uncertain but most models have a fairly progressive pattern with limited amounts of moisture. Some solutions are less progressive, with much higher totals, more on that in the discussion.

    • Generally 1-6” in the mountains, with bullseyes near Wolf Creek (4-9”) and in the Sangres. Some support for better totals (3-7”) in the northern and western ranges (Steamboat, Vail, Winter Park) but not certain yet.

    • Maybe 2-5” on the Front Range / I-25 corridor, with the best upslope generally Wednesday morning to Wednesday evening.

  • An arctic air mass advects into the state on Wednesday. Overnight lows could be in the negatives across much of the state, including the I-25 corridor. Single digit lows are very likely.

  • Warming trend into Sunday, but a little unsettled over the weekend, maybe an inch or two in spots by the end of Saturday under dry, weak northwest flow. Probably gusty along/east of the Divide over the weekend.

Retrospective

Hello everyone, long time no see. Hope things have been well, and you’ve enjoyed the fruits of the consistently active pattern we had at the end of 2021. After the holidays and such, we were incredibly burned out from keeping these forecasts (and associated graphics, infrastructure, etc.) updated almost every single day (it’s several hours per day) so we took a breather and went skiing for awhile. Hope you understand :)

Anyways, here’s where we’re sitting as January comes to a close.

via USDA/NRCS
via USDA/NRCS

That active pattern sure was nice, but it’s pretty far in the rear view mirror now… and unfortunately, it’s not looking like a lot more is coming for awhile. We’ll talk about that in a second.

According to SWANN, there are a few areas that are behind average on the season: the Flat Tops, Tenmile Range, Mosquito Range, Medicine Bow Range, parts of the Front Range, the Sangres, and the northern San Juans.

via the University of Arizona
via the University of Arizona

The past few weeks of snow have greatly favored the Front Range, though they’re still running a deficit when considering how dry it has been since spring.

via WeatherBell
via WeatherBell

Forecast Discussion

The Weekend

Mild weather continues into the weekend as a prominent ridge builds over the western United States and advects warmer air into Colorado. Temperatures will be warmer than average, especially east of the Divide.

Though the jet stream is well to the northeast of Colorado, mid-level northwest flow will still have some influence over Colorado. Near the Divide and in the foothills, you’ll likely see gusty conditions tonight and on Saturday afternoon.

The interplay between these downsloping winds (warming), the potential for mountain wave clouds (cooling), and remaining snow cover (cooling) has actually created a decent amount of uncertainty for temperatures this weekend. [Unlike precipitation, weather models are generally more accurate and have less spread when it comes to temperatures, so it’s not terribly often that we have such a large spread.]

Some high resolution guidance has high temperatures in the I-25 corridor in the low 60s through Monday. Other guidance has the low 50s. We think Denver and other areas along the urban corridor will have a decent shot of breaking 60 degrees on Saturday and Monday.

Sunday will be a bit cooler as a disturbance tracks across New Mexico. This wont really affect Colorado besides a very slight cooldown, but the far southern reaches of the state could see some colder temperatures, cloud cover, and gusty conditions.

Monday

On Monday, winds will increase over the Divide as ridging breaks down and broad zonal flow takes hold over much of the region. A weak shortwave will traverse from west to east to the north of Colorado, and cloud cover will become more widespread especially as moisture begins to advect into Colorado.

Next storm: Tuesday to Thursday

As we progress into Tuesday, a broad trough will start dropping south into the western United States. This will draw down an arctic airmass that is currently traversing into the interior of Canada. This airmass will eventually make its way as far south as the Mexican Plateau.

This animation shows the powerful outbreak of frigid air as it marches southwards through next Saturday:

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Monday night will feature a cold front ahead of this system, with temperatures dropping as we get into Tuesday.

Mountain Snow

As the trough drops south, we’ll finally see enough lift and moisture on Tuesday to get snow going in the mountains.

There is some considerable uncertainty here, mostly between the GFS and all other models (and its own ensemble). In general, guidance suggests that the best moisture will be available in southern Colorado, and northern Colorado will only have a very limited window for decent snow production, despite dynamics being present into Thursday morning.

This does generate consensus around Wolf Creek (and Taos) having the best chances of seeing a powder day on Wednesday morning (with some leftovers on Thursday morning) with moister southwesterly flow on Tuesday.

In general, if the advertised more progressive, drier solution from the Euro, Canadian, and ensemble guidance plays out, the mountains will probably only pick up 1-6” of snow, mostly from Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday afternoon.

The southern mountains would have chances continuing more consistently into Wednesday and thus likely better totals. With this guidance, we could see more like 4-9” at Wolf Creek and in parts of the Sangres.

If we look at the more bullish GFS solution, we see more like 3-8” for much of the central/northern mountains, and there continues to be some support in the ensembles more a less progressive and wetter solution, with totals up to 15” for some mountain ranges in the 90th percentile product (which aren’t totally outlandish)…so right now, about a 5-10% chance of double digit snow totals for some mountain ranges.

Still, if you’re trying to chase pow, odds generally overwhelmingly support a, well, underwhelming system. If we look at blended guidance, totals are generally 2-5” across the board (with better totals at Wolf Creek):

If we look at a more low end scenario, we see the potential for not much more than a dusting in some mountain ranges:

However, a better storm can’t be ruled out at this point…there’s still enough uncertainty. The 90th percentile has not been too bullish in the past, so it may be on to something:

Still, don’t get your hopes up.

One more wildcard is the potential for heavier bands of snow due to jet streaking, though that doesn’t look to be too strong of an influence…however, even as it stands, that’s enough of a factor where a surprise isn’t out of the question.

Front Range Snow

Notably, these maps show a pretty consistent event for the Front Range, with 2-5” of snow likely across the urban corridor. On Tuesday afternoon (maybe even Tuesday morning in far northern Colorado near the Cheyenne Ridge), jet streaking could kick some bands of snow out east of the Divide.

The main event for the Front Range comes Wednesday morning into Wednesday evening as a deeper upslope sets up and arctic air is advected into the region. However, this frigid air is cold enough that it will likely limit snow production (it can’t hold much moisture), with temperatures confined to the teens on Wednesday.

Arctic Air: Wednesday to Thursday

The most intense arctic air will be felt in Colorado on Wednesday night. Model guidance is certainly all over the board, but overnight lows in the negatives are possible in the Front Range and definitely in the mountain valleys.

This graphic shows a scenario which leans towards colder temperatures… and check out those classic -20 degree low temperatures near Walden, Gunnison, and Alamosa which are typically some of the coldest regions of the state.

End of Next Week

We’ll slowly thaw out into the following weekend, but it’s possible that northwest flow could provide a touch of moisture and a weak disturbance which would drive an inch or two of snow in parts of the mountain on Saturday…we’ll see.

We’ll keep you updated this weekend on how next week’s storm looks to be unfolding. Will the other models follow the GFS’s lead towards a snowier solution, or is that new run just a blip?

--

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