Colorado Weather Forecast #169: Feb. 17, 2022 - Feb. 23, 2022

Snow total's from Wednesday's storm, model and forecast performance, a look at the weekend and a more prolonged bout of winter weather next week that promises better snow totals (double digits are looking likely).

This forecast is no longer valid.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

Updated Thu Feb 17, 2022 12:00pm MST | Published Thu Feb 17, 2022

By Thomas Horner

7-Day Snow Planner (Through Feb. 24)

Northern Mountains

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

6am New Snow

0-1"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0-2"

Mon

2-11"

Tue

1-9"

Wed

1-7"

Thu

6am Powder Potential

0%

Fri

1%

Sat

0%

Sun

3%

Mon

46%

Tue

24%

Wed

20%

Thu

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"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

2-9"

Tue

2-8"

Wed

1-7"

Thu

6am Powder Potential

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

37%

Tue

28%

Wed

21%

Thu

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"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

1-8"

Tue

1-8"

Wed

1-7"

Thu

6am Powder Potential

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

38%

Tue

26%

Wed

26%

Thu

Southern Mountains

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

6am New Snow

0-1"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

2-9"

Tue

2-9"

Wed

2-11"

Thu

6am Powder Potential

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

0%

Mon

45%

Tue

33%

Wed

32%

Thu

Denver Metro

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

6am New Snow

0"

Fri

0"

Sat

0"

Sun

0"

Mon

2-4"

Tue

1-3"

Wed

0-1"

Thu

6am Snow Accum. Chance

0%

Fri

0%

Sat

0%

Sun

7%

Mon

79%

Tue

71%

Wed

66%

Thu

Summary

  • Forecast verified nicely for Wednesday’s storm, with a few nice surprises.
  • Windy, unsettled weekend, but no significant snow accumulations.
  • Next week features several days of wintry weather with decent snow chances for the mountains and Front Range.

Retrospective: Wednesday’s Storm

Colorado is blanketed with a fresh layer of snow today.

As we agonized in our previous discussions and forecasts, we tried to set a pretty low bar for our snow forecast, with the idea that a few areas would bust high. In the end, we had no low busts and a few high busts, so we’re pleased with how that methodology panned out. Here were some of the biggest surprises:

  • Snowmass: 11” (Forecast: 4-8”)
  • Steamboat: 9” (Forecast: 2-6”)
  • Breck: 9” (Forecast: 3-7”)

Steamboat is not a huge surprise as, prior to the storm, models had converged on a solution that put a nice band of snow over the Park Range – we raised our forecast for the area in response, but clearly not enough!

As we saw from last Friday’s storm, a nice stationary band can really wreck a forecast, and that’s certainly the case for Steamboat, which was sitting at >6” before most mountains started to get any appreciable snow.

In general, the areas that busted high were the areas we had the highest confidence for better snow totals, so we’re glad to see it.

Forecast Verification and Comparison Tool

Here’s how various forecasters and models did for this past storm.

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)

The rankings would be:

Rank Name Verification Score
1 Thomas Horner 81% 24%
2 OpenSnow 72% 24%
3 HighpointWx App 72% 12%
4 NBM Prob. 50/90 69% 18%
5 NBM Prob. 25/75 66% 22%
6 ECMWF (Euro) 65% 21%
7 GFS 62% 15%
8 CAIC WRF 51% 16%
9 NBM Deterministic 42% 20%
10 NWS NDFD 30% 16%
11 NAM 12km 30% 4%

We leaned pretty heavily on the Blend percentile spreads this time around (in our previous discussion, we had indicated we though the Blend “actually had a decent handle on things”) and that proved to be the right move.

The GFS, though verifying decently, had some huge misses (despite a larger spread than most other models) and had one of the lowest scores, along with the NAM. The Euro did better in both regards.

For the eastern I-70 resorts, the cynical 1-4” forecast from the high resolution models did end up being a little too dry, and our 2-6” (and 3-7”) forecast performed well. This area featured some of the highest uncertainty, with the GFS overforecasting and the high resolution models underforecasting. The Euro model verified at 100% for this area.

The National Weather Service’s hybrid forecaster/model product (which powers weather.gov) also did very poorly again, while the various NBM (Blend) products outperformed it. Something to consider, when knowing that some inside the National Weather Service have been pushing to replace the NDFD with the Blend. The Blend mostly powers the HighpointWx App, by the way.

Here’s how the overall performance rankings for this season have changed:

Rank Name Type Avg. W/L
1 Thomas Horner (Highpoint Weather) Forecaster 79% 6/0
* Highpoint Weather App Model 74% N/A
2 OpenSnow Forecaster 71% 1/0
3 CAIC WRF Model 59% 0/0
4 (▲2) ECMWF (Euro) Model 55% 0/1
5 (▼1) NAM 12km Model 52% 0/1
6 (▲2) NBM Prob. 50/90 Model 52% 0/1
7 (▼2) NWS NDFD Hybrid 50% 0/1
8 (▲1) GFS Model 49% 0/0
9 (▼2) NBM Deterministic Model 49% 0/1
10 NBM Prob. 25/75 Model 44% 0/2

We can see that the weather models are settling into a range just above a 50% verification rate (slightly more correct than wrong with their forecasts) while the forecasters retain a handy lead.

The CAIC WRF and Euro remain the models to beat, while the NAM is giving up its competitiveness that it had early in the season.

It’s also clear that the rolling calibration of NBM probabilistic products is having a positive influence on their winter forecasting, as these models have performed notably better this month.

You can check out more details over on this page.

We also forecasted some parts of the Front Range that weren’t included in our tool and thus the stats collection. Here’s how these areas performed:

Area Forecast Actual
Boulder 4-9” 6-8”✔️
Castle Rock 3-8” 2-4”❌
Colorado Springs T-4” T-2”✔️
Denver (along and east of I-25) 2-6” 3-5”✔️
Denver (western suburbs) 3-8” 4-8”✔️
Fort Collins 2-6” 2-5”✔️
Foothills (in general) 4-10” 4-11”✔️

A couple areas in the foothills reported 11” or 12” of snow, but a vast majority of reports were in that 4-10” range, so we’ll consider that forecast a success.

Forecast Discussion: Tonight

There’s actually a brief hit of snow on the backside of this system tonight, which would mainly impact the southern San Juans and northern mountains.

Areas around Steamboat and Wolf Creek could pick up another 1-5” of snow.

Forecast Discussion: The Weekend

As we briefly mentioned in previous discussions, a weak shortwave was progged for the weekend. This shortwave looks even weaker than it did, turning basically a non-event into a…bonafide non event. Still, a few pockets of light snow are not out of the question this weekend, but it shouldn’t amount to anything.

Wind gusts will be pretty formidable on Saturday and Sunday, especially along the Divide. Say goodbye to that fresh snow!

Forecast Discussion: Stronger Storm Early Next Week

Another deep trough is forecasted to drop into our region early next week. This is a somewhat similar setup to yesterday’s storm, though looks more organized, which means flow will be better for the mountains and we can expect higher totals across the board.

Most notably, this system looks much less progressive which means it will impact our weather for several days. The best snow looks to be from Monday to Thursday, though there will be a substantial difference in timings for the strongest snow between northern and southern Colorado.

Here’s some Blend data for Monarch Pass, which is sort of in the middle of it all:

(via ESRL)
(via ESRL)

Probabilistic data looks nice considering the lead time – these are the sorts of values we like to see for double digit totals to really be on the table.

(via ESRL)
(via ESRL)

On Monday, the best impacts are likely to be in northern Colorado, but the focus turns to southern and western Colorado by Tuesday/Wednesday.

This looks like a fairly equal opportunity storm for the mountains, though the focus for the most epic powder is in the southern San Juans, in the Elk Range, and in the Park Range. The Front Range will likely get a nice piece of this, but it’s hard to say whether final totals will exceed our most recent storm.

This potentially optimistic scenario sure makes it hard to not be excited about next week:

The deterministic model run isn’t as fun, but as with the past storm, we expect areas with decent snow totals (so most of the mountains) to start trending up. This forecast is already better than our past storm’s snow forecast.

Like we said, this is a complex, multiday event with snow falling somewhere in Colorado from Monday to possibly Friday, so we probably wont start going over the details until this weekend.

For now, we’ve updated our “Snow and Pow Chances” table at the top of this article to give you some idea of timings and impacts.

After that, probably a break for the final weekend in February before another storm signal for the start of that first week in March.

See you this weekend!

--

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