Colorado Weather Forecast #167: Feb. 14, 2022 - Feb. 22, 2022

Forecast for Wednesday's storm remains highly uncertain as models struggle, timings pushed back a bit, still looking a potentially quite decent storm at the start of next week as well.

This forecast is no longer valid. Please return to our list of forecast articles to find more recent posts.

Updated Mon Feb 14, 2022 7:00pm MST | Published Mon Feb 14, 2022

By Thomas Horner

7-Day Snow Planner (Through Feb. 22)

Northern Mountains

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

6am New Snow

0-1"

Wed

2-8"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0-3"

Mon

1-9"

Tue

6am Powder Potential

0%

Wed

37%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

5%

Mon

29%

Tue

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"

Wed

3-10"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0-1"

Mon

1-7"

Tue

6am Powder Potential

0%

Wed

44%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

1%

Mon

23%

Tue

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"

Wed

1-8"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0-1"

Mon

1-8"

Tue

6am Powder Potential

0%

Wed

30%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

27%

Tue

Southern Mountains

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

6am New Snow

0"

Wed

2-7"

Thu

0-1"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0-1"

Mon

1-10"

Tue

6am Powder Potential

0%

Wed

34%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

38%

Tue

Denver Metro

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

6am New Snow

0"

Wed

2-3"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

0-2"

Tue

6am Snow Accum. Chance

0%

Wed

87%

Thu

7%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

7%

Mon

64%

Tue

Summary

  • Lots of uncertainty (more than usual) about Wednesday’s storm.
  • Timings have generally been pushed back.
  • Still a bit better of a storm than the previous one for most mountains, but possibly not by much. Powder day on Thursday is generally questionable.
  • Foothills again have the best snow forecast in the state, and Denver will see a pretty strong cold front early in the morning and widespread snow starting Wednesday afternoon.
  • Weak shortwave this weekend, light snow possible in northern Colorado on Saturday night.
  • Decent to strong storm at the start of next week, better support for this than we usually see.

Forecast Discussion: Storm Wednesday – Summary

Astute readers may note that our forecast yesterday summarized this as “Storm Tuesday Night to Wednesday.” With only two days before the storm, models have struggled to get a handle on how the complex mid-atmospheric pattern will evolve as a broad trough drops into the western United States. Overall, timings have changed by 6-12 hours this morning (generally slowing the system down, pushing the impacts well into Wednesday), and totals remain unclear in the Colorado mountains, though other areas have had more steady guidance.

In the mountains, snow will fall from Wednesday morning (not early enough for any fresh pow really except MAYBE in Steamboat), with the heaviest snow clearing out in the early morning hours of Thursday and generally wrapping up by noon on Thursday.

In the Front Range (including the I-25 corridor), some bands of snow could impact the region in the afternoon before widespread heavier upslope snow gets going around 4-6pm. This will also ease up after midnight and clear out into Thursday morning.

Forecast Discussion: Storm Wednesday – The Gory Details

Uncertainty - Understanding it via the Blend

First, let’s look at a few products from the Blend.

Here’s a map of deterministic totals, with percentile ranges shown in the labels:

Zooming in a bit on northeastern Colorado:

And its probabilistic forecast. This is for the chance of snow totals exceeding 4”:

Without discussing the meteorological components of this forecast yet, we can glean a few things from these products.

Bust potential

We’ll note that some areas have decent upper end totals, but a low probability of exceeding 4” of snow.

The most prominent of which is the Park Range (Steamboat, Buffalo Pass) and the northern Front Range in general (Cameron Pass). These areas have some big totals on a few models, but also very little snow on other models.

For this, we would probably conservatively forecast the low end (2-4”) and note the potential for a large boom (>8” on a couple of models). Conversely, we could aim high and note the distinct potential of a low bust, but we prefer to underpromise.

Greater confidence

The opposite of the above example would be an area like Winter Park, which is showing a tighter range and a better snow exceedance chance. In this case, we would be more confident in issuing a forecaster for greater snow totals, with less of a bust low potential (4-8” perhaps).

We also notice on probabilistic guidance that the signal for snowfall driven by northwest flow is stronger than on the deterministic snow total. For instance, though Vail and Monarch have similar snow forecasts at least when considering the percentile ranges (2-4”), probabilistic guidance is more heavily skewed towards Vail, which does tend to do a little better with northwest flow than Monarch. (That said, we currently have a similar amount of snow forecasted for the two areas due to other factors).

This NW flow signal becomes even more obvious when we switch to the 75th percentile map:

Of course, the nice snow chance in the foothills from the easterly upslope by Wednesday’s cold front is obvious as well.

Deterministic vs. Probabilistic

This leads us to an interesting conundrum that we don’t often see on these snowfall products: the deterministic totals (the very first map in this article) are much more evenly spread and generally lower than the 75th percentile totals (the previous map).

We wont go into the substantial difference in how these different products are generated. What should be noted is that the above trend tends to be the opposite of what we see – more distinct distribution on the deterministic product, with higher totals.

That’s not the case with the current forecast. So what is this telling us? That there’s an unusual amount of evidence towards this storm being a bit of a dud. We think that, considering some of the dynamics at play, there will be some areas that do hit those upper end totals (and then some), but we could see a large amount of areas barely squeaking into the lower ends of their forecast.

From a historical standpoint, we think that assessment is fair – this particular sort of pattern generally results in some underwhelming orographics, which already aren’t that spicy on the models.

Vs. Other Models

Take a look at the snow forecast for the Colorado mountains, as provided by the global GFS model:

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Generally, 5-10” for many ski areas along I-70, even 12”+ around Berthoud Pass.

Here’s the high-resolution CAIC WRF model, which has generally handily outperformed the GFS this season:

(via the CAIC)
(via the CAIC)

Totals are only 1-4” for many ski areas along I-70!

That’s quite the profound difference, especially considering less than 48 hours remain until snow kicks off.

With that in mind, it’s clear we should tread pretty lightly with our forecast. If we truly consider the large amounts of uncertainty in the forecast, it does not seem wise for us to start exploring those better totals (such as from the GFS) when there is very underwhelming support for them from the myriad of other sources of model guidance.

So what could go right, and what could go wrong? Here are some meteorological factors, in order:

Phase 1: Jet-Induced Banding

From midnight (12am Wednesday) to noon, banded snowfall will work its way south and east from northwest Colorado.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Models rarely have a handle on these sorts of things, and this storm is no exception. However, we don’t see strong upper level support – which means banding will most likely be a bit spottier and less intense than something like last Friday’s storm, which greatly overdelivered to a large swaths of northern Colorado. Still, a decent amount of moisture aloft keeps the potential for a strong band or two in play.

For a setup like this, we think it’s just more of a consideration that some areas could bust high (currently, model guidance leans towards Steamboat picking up the strongest band of snowfall), but right now, we think banding only looks decent enough to warrant an extra bump of 1-2” across some areas, and if a few small bands come in stronger over a few places, so be it.

Some of these bands could jump the Divide, impacting the Front Range (including along I-25), by the late afternoon (2-4pm), which could make the evening commute rough when considering the rapid onset of upslope precipitation soon after.

Phase 2: Northerly Wind Shift

Around mid-day on Wednesday, the axis of the upper-level trough will shift over Colorado, with winds aloft becoming northerly. On the Front Range, a more northeasterly/easterly slope will really get going by the evening, tapping into fairly deep moisture and ensuring widespread, fairly consistent snowfall by 4-5pm, particularly in the foothills.

There is more agreement that lower-level winds will be northerly, which means Fort Collins and Colorado Springs get less snow and south Denver / the Palmer Divide gets more snow, with the usual uptick in snowfall further west in the foothills as well – though again, with initial banding slightly favoring Fort Collins, that difference along I-25 may be somewhat of a wash.

In the mountains, flow is almost due northerly and increasingly dry by 5pm. The exception is the western San Juans, which should be getting moister, more westerly flow.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

This recipe generally doesn’t result in widespread great mountain snowfall. What we are looking for instead are convergence zones as a 700mb low sweeps across the state and opposing winds run into each other. This will get enhanced snow production going over relatively small areas. Right now, guidance generally suggests mountain areas that most skiers don’t really care about, such as the Mosquito Range, northern Sangres, and much of the Sawatch Range, but parts of the Front Range should get in on this action, particularly near Berthoud Pass and Winter Park.

Conclusion

If you put it all together, you’ll get something like what the NAM’s simulated radar product is showing:

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Note the banding at the start, before flow becomes more northerly. You can see the upslope really get going over the Front Range, and heavier snow pushes south and westerly a bit. We think that part may be overdone due to models having a wet bias for wraparound moisture.

Thinking about these factors under the guise of a potential dud (for the mountains), it’s easy to see how some shoddy totals pan out: banding is limited in scope and intensity, northerly winds are dry and weak, wraparound moisture is modest, and areas of convergence are spotty and fruitless.

For the Front Range, the upslope looks like a pretty sure bet and totals there are not under as much scrutiny. But for the mountains, we’ll issue the forecast below and hedge towards most areas just not getting as much out of the aforementioned dynamics as some models are advertising, fully acknowledging that some areas could get a nice piece out of both phases of the storm and bust high.

Forecast Discussion: Storm Wednesday – Official Forecast / Totals

The table below shows our forecast (and other models, whenever we decide to populate that data) for the storm. Not included are totals for the Front Range. Right now, our forecast is this:

  • Boulder: 4-9”
  • Castle Rock: 4-9”
  • Colorado Springs: T-4”
  • Denver (along and east of I-25): 2-6”
  • Denver (western suburbs): 3-8”
  • Fort Collins: 2-6”
  • Foothills: 6-12”+

Last updated Thursday February 17, 2022 10am.

Forecast Start: Wednesday February 16, 2022 5am

Forecast End: Thursday February 17, 2022 5am

* = No reliable observations, verification uses SNODAS estimates which may be incorrect.
"Score" accounts for the spread/range of an accurate forecast. Lower spread = higher score. For instance, if 4" falls at a certain location, the forecast for 2-7" gets less points than the forecast for 3-5". Points are deducted for very inaccurate forecasts.

Thomas Horner Weather Forecaster @ Highpoint Weather

Issued Tue Feb. 15 3pm
✔️ Verified
81%
27/33
Score
24%
41/165
🎯 Spread
4.0
average
💥 High
6
18%
❌ Low
0
0%

Central Colorado
7/30pts (23%) ✔️4/6 (66%) 💥2/6 (33%) 0/6 (0%)

Aspen Highlands: 3-7" Forecast Actual7" ✔️

2pts
7" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Aspen Mountain: 3-7" Forecast Actual8" 💥️

8" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Aspen Snowmass: 4-8" Forecast Actual11" 💥️

11" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Buttermilk: 3-7" Forecast Actual4" ✔️

2pts
4" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Cottonwood Pass*: 3-7" Forecast Actual N/A

Crested Butte S.A.: 0-4" Forecast Actual4" ✔️

2pts
4" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Independence Pass*: 3-7" Forecast Actual N/A

Kebler Pass*: 1-5" Forecast Actual N/A

Monarch: 2-6" Forecast Actual3" ✔️

1pts
3" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Front Range
4/10pts (40%) ✔️2/2 (100%) 💥0/2 (0%) 0/2 (0%)

Cameron Pass: 3-7" Forecast Actual6" ✔️

2pts
6" Feb 17 5am (SNOTEL)

East Portal*: 2-6" Forecast Actual N/A

Eldora: 3-7" Forecast Actual4" ✔️

2pts
4" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Hidden Valley*: 4-8" Forecast Actual N/A

St. Mary's Glacier*: 3-7" Forecast Actual N/A

I-70 East
10/35pts (28%) ✔️7/7 (100%) 💥0/7 (0%) 0/7 (0%)

A-Basin: 1-5" Forecast Actual2" ✔️

1pts
2" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Berthoud Pass: 3-7" Forecast Actual6" ✔️

2pts
6" Feb 17 5am (SNOTLE)

Echo Mountain*: 3-7" Forecast Actual5" ✔️

2pts
5" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Jones Pass: 2-6" Forecast Actual5" ✔️

1pts
5" Feb 17 5am (SNOTEL)

Keystone: 1-5" Forecast Actual3" ✔️

1pts
3" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Loveland S.A.: 2-6" Forecast Actual2" ✔️

1pts
2" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Winter Park: 3-7" Forecast Actual4" ✔️

2pts
4" Feb 17 5am (Official)

I-70 West
8/35pts (22%) ✔️5/7 (71%) 💥2/7 (28%) 0/7 (0%)

Beaver Creek: 3-7" Forecast Actual6" ✔️

2pts
6" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Breckenridge S.A.: 3-7" Forecast Actual9" 💥️

9" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Copper Mountain: 3-7" Forecast Actual5" ✔️

2pts
5" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Powderhorn: 3-7" Forecast Actual7" ✔️

2pts
7" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Ski Cooper: 2-6" Forecast Actual2" ✔️

1pts
2" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Sunlight: 1-5" Forecast Actual2" ✔️

1pts
2" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Vail Pass*: 2-6" Forecast Actual N/A

Vail S.A.: 2-6" Forecast Actual7" 💥️

7" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Park Range / WY
6/25pts (24%) ✔️4/5 (80%) 💥1/5 (20%) 0/5 (0%)

Bluebird*: 3-7" Forecast Actual3" ✔️

2pts
3" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Buffalo Pass: 3-7" Forecast Actual7" ✔️

2pts
7" Feb 17 5am (SNOTEL)

Rabbit Ears Pass: 2-6" Forecast Actual5" ✔️

1pts
5" Feb 17 5am (SNOTEL)

Snowy Range: 2-6" Forecast Actual3" ✔️

1pts
3" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Steamboat S.A.: 2-6" Forecast Actual9" 💥️

9" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Southern Colorado / NM
6/30pts (20%) ✔️5/6 (83%) 💥1/6 (16%) 0/6 (0%)

Cuchara*: 2-6" Forecast Actual4" ✔️

1pts
4" Feb 17 5am (SNOTEL)

Purgatory: 1-5" Forecast Actual2" ✔️

1pts
2" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Red Mountain Pass: 4-9" Forecast Actual7" ✔️

2pts
7" Feb 17 5am (SNOTEL)

Silverton S.A.*: 3-8" Forecast Actual9" 💥️

9" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Taos S.V.: 0-4" Forecast Actual N/A

Telluride S.A.: 2-6" Forecast Actual5" ✔️

1pts
5" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Wolf Creek: 2-6" Forecast Actual6" ✔️

1pts
6" Feb 17 5am (Official)

Forecast Discussion: The Weekend

A trace amount of snow could fall in the northern Colorado mountains on Saturday night thanks to a very weak shortwave. Moving on…

Forecast Discussion: Start of Next Week

A pretty serious trough looks to drop into our region on Monday.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

This still looks to be a nice event, in fact, consistently better than any storm we’ve seen lately. Look for powder potential on that Tuesday and Wednesday.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

--

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