Next 4 days in Steamboat produce varying forecasts at different elevations

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— All eyes in Steamboat Springs are on the prospects for snow or, even better, frigid temperatures between now and Wednesday when Steamboat Ski Area opens for the 2012-13 season.

Fresh snow always is welcome, but temperatures in the teens and ideal snowmaking conditions would do more for resort managers hoping to open terrain. Unfortunately, the National Weather Service does not see frigid temperatures in the forecast for the next three days.

Still, the ski area already has confirmed it is prepared to open the Christie Peak Express lift and trails including Sitz and Vogue on the lower third of the mountain. And snowcats were spreading a thick coating of man-made snow across the base area during the day Friday.

The current forecasts through Monday from the National Weather Service in Grand Junction tell two stories.

The first is for the valley floor, where the skies are expected to be mostly cloudy to partly sunny, with the exception of Sunday night, when there could be some precipitation. As of Friday afternoon, dark clouds already were amassing over the Yampa Valley, and the Weather Service had changed its forecast for Sunday night to include a 20 percent chance of rain mixed with snow in Steamboat Springs.

There is a second forecast for Mount Werner above 9,000 feet. High on the mountain, there will be a 20 to 30 percent chance of snow around the clock through Monday. High temperatures at that elevation will range from the high 20s to low 30s, and low temperatures will be from the mid- to low 20s.

Weather Service meteorologist Paul Frisbie said Friday morning that in Steamboat, the discrepancy between the forecast for the valley floor and that at a higher elevation has to do with the topography of this part of the Yampa Valley and the time of year.

The wide discrepancy by elevation in the current forecast is more common throughout the Intermountain West than it is here, Frisbie said. In midwinter, Steamboat is prone to seeing similar weather conditions at 6,900 feet and 9,200 feet, for example. There is a noticeable difference, for sure, but it often isn’t as great as it is in other locales.

In mid-November, that variance in forecasts by elevation is more prone to be seen from Craig to Steamboat.

“This is not a real strong system. Once you really get into winter, Steamboat stays cold,” Frisbie said. “You haven’t yet had that cold air mass locked in place.”

So, conditions for snowmaking during the weekend may not be ideal, but the upper elevations of the ski area have a chance at some natural snow accumulation.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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