Colorado Weather Discussion #168: Feb. 15, 2022 - Feb. 17, 2022

Updated forecast for Wednesday's storm.

This forecast is no longer valid.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

Updated Tue Feb 15, 2022 4:00pm MST | Published Tue Feb 15, 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

2-9"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0-2"

Mon

1-9"

Tue

6am Powder Potential

1%

Wed

54%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

5%

Mon

27%

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

3-9"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0-1"

Mon

1-8"

Tue

6am Powder Potential

0%

Wed

47%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

28%

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

2-7"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0-1"

Mon

1-7"

Tue

6am Powder Potential

0%

Wed

34%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

25%

Tue

Southern Mountains

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

6am New Snow

0"

Wed

2-8"

Thu

0-2"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0-1"

Mon

2-10"

Tue

6am Powder Potential

0%

Wed

39%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

43%

Tue

Denver Metro

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

6am New Snow

0"

Wed

2-4"

Thu

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

0-2"

Tue

6am Snow Accum. Chance

0%

Wed

99%

Thu

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

13%

Mon

67%

Tue

Summary

This is a supplement to our previous forecast. Please consult that article for more information about the overall pattern and this weekend’s and next week’s weather.

  • Model uncertainty is still considerable, just 24 hours before the storm.
  • We continue to lean towards this being a bit of a dud.
  • Some better agreement over where we’re likely to see the best banding, updated forecast to reflect that.
  • Updated forecast across the board to reflect trends in model guidance.

Discussion

Our approaching storm continues to confound models thanks to its rather complex flow. A closed low at the base of an open trough will initially be impacting our weather early Wednesday, before a shortwave upstream of us makes a mess out of everything.

As a whole, this system is driving a slew of weather across the United States, with severe weather and flooding impacts to our east:

(via WPC)
(via WPC)

In general, highly tilted, weak low pressure will be traversing directly over Colorado, which is not really what we want to see for consistent mountain snow. Models tend to overforecast snow totals in the mountains for events like these, which is why our forecast is notably lower than a few of the global models, particularly the GFS.

With these setups, we generally see that orographics (upsloping winds) tend to be a bit weaker than we’d like, which means lighter snowfall, with the moisture column drying out fast behind the system before a decent upslope can really take hold again. We don’t have very strong upper level support, so in general it’s good to think of this as a more modest event with some surprises.

As mentioned in our previous forecast, the two main wildcards for enhanced snow would be banding at the start of the event (Wednesday morning into early Wednesday afternoon) and convergence boundaries in the evening, both of which are difficult to reliably forecast.

All that said, the most consistent dynamics will be on the Front Range as a cold front races southwards through our region tonight. A reinforcing shot of moisture and cold air wont arrive until Wednesday evening, which will really be when widespread snowfall starts, though some bands of moderate to heavy snow are possible in the afternoon.

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

This just doesn’t look as cold and potent as it did a few days ago, but guidance has been pretty consistent over the past couple days, besides in the foothills, where the trend has been downwards.

So how have models trended for mountain snow in the past 24 hours? Well… both ways. In fact, the spread between the Euro and GFS models is larger than it was yesterday, thanks to the Euro generally trending down and the GFS generally trending up. Not helpful. The CAIC WRF has also trended down slightly, and was already pretty stingy with its snow predictions in the mountains.

A new contender is the somewhat trusty HRRR, which is now in range (it only forecasts 48 hours out). How does it look? Not good…not good at all:

(via WeatherBell)
(via WeatherBell)

Even the NAM 3km, with its typical wet bias on mountain ridges, is looking pretty unfavorable if you enjoy snow. If we forecasted solely off the latest NAM, HRRR, and CAIC WRF model runs, it would look like this:

  • A-Basin, Keystone, Loveland: 1-3”
  • Breck, Copper: 1-5”
  • Winter Park, Berthoud Pass: 2-7”
  • Vail, Beaver Creek: 1-6”
  • Eldora: 2-7”

The foothills forecast has also been notably kneecapped, with the CAIC and HRRR cutting expected snow totals in half this morning.

Do note that this is not our official forecast, just what those three models say. These totals are not surprising given the aforementioned dynamics and especially the generally direct northerly wind direction.

That said, not all high-resolution modeling is pessimistic for these areas. The SREF looks quite a bit better, with a roughly 5-10” forecast for Berthoud Pass:

(via University of Utah)
(via University of Utah)

…and something like a 4-8” forecast for Vail Pass. It did fairly consistently overforecast the last good storm (the one before last Friday), and we are suspicious that may be the case again.

The pessimistic high-resolution modeling from above does have some bright spots:

  • Aspen area looks like a lock for a 3-8” forecast
  • Consistency over the placement of some heavier bands of snow earlier in the event, with lots of agreement of a good band over northern Colorado, impacting Steamboat and Cameron Pass (this bumps their forecast up by 2-4”)
  • Denver’s forecast consistently remains bounded in a 3-6” range
  • Most of the San Juans pick up 2-7” of snow, with a 6-12” bullseye in the western San Juans

The above guidance is more in line with what the global models are showing, so confidence is higher in these areas. And it makes sense: the San Juans will be more impacted by the lower-level low pressure over the desert southwest, which is an easier forecast. The Aspen area should also get a better piece of the northerly/northwesterly flow than mountains to the east, which raises confidence in their snow totals.

Elsewhere – again, primarily Summit County and Eagle County – global models are at pretty serious odds with high resolution modeling. The GFS continues to (drunkenly?) gravitate towards a 6-12”+ event for many of the ski areas, while the Euro has settled into a 3-8” range. We can probably safely discard the GFS’s guidance, but it does make you wonder what it is seeing with this storm that other models aren’t. Do we just hate fun? We had to make a meme about it.

When we look at the Blend, we can finally see it starting to reflect that there is at least some amount of growing consensus in ensemble modeling, as winners and losers begin to emerge. This is contrasted with its guidance yesterday, which was a much blurrier picture, suggesting large amounts of uncertainty.

…and you know what? This actually is fairly in line with all of our thinking mentioned above. We think the Blend has a pretty decent handle on things overall, even if its forecast ranges are somewhat large.

Finally, let’s take a look at the probabilistic guidance.

Not too much of a change here – the mountains of Summit County look a tad lower. But you’ll also notice probabilities heavily skew towards the lower end of our forecast ranges. Thus, we’re just not confident that this storm wont be somewhat of an underperformer.

Forecast Changes

With all of that in mind, here’s the gist of our forecast modifications:

  • Bumped northern Colorado up by a couple inches across the board.
  • Bumped Breck and Copper a bit. We think an area of convergence will do some work here.
  • Lowered the forecast for the foothills / east of the Divide.
  • Slight adjustments to Summit, Grand, and Eagle Counties.
  • Slight adjustments in the San Juans.

Official Forecast / Totals

The table below shows our forecast, in addition to other sources. Should be fully populated! Here’s our forecast for the Front Range, which isn’t included in the tool:

  • Boulder: 4-9” (no change)
  • Castle Rock: 3-8” (down 1”)
  • Colorado Springs: T-4” (no change)
  • Denver (along and east of I-25): 2-6” (no change)
  • Denver (western suburbs): 3-8” (no change)
  • Fort Collins: 2-6” (no change)
  • Foothills: 4-10” (down 2”)

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)

Timings

With moisture initially dropping into northwestern Colorado, better snow will start by Wednesday morning there. Elsewhere, it wont be until later Wednesday morning or the afternoon until heavier snow arrives.

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