Ideal snowmaking weather in the forecast, to be followed by active storm pattern at Steamboat | CraigDailyPress.com

Ideal snowmaking weather in the forecast, to be followed by active storm pattern at Steamboat

Tom Ross

A snowcat operator breaks up large "whales" of manmade snow at Steamboat Ski Area this week after snowmaking crews took advantage of several days of frigid temperatures to prepare for the opening of the ski area Nov. 26. Forecasters say more natural snow could be on the way early next week.

— A tentative weather forecast that looks into next week includes the potential for a pattern of significant snowfall developing over the Park Range and Steamboat Springs just in time for the Nov. 26 opening of Steamboat Ski Area.

"Snow will begin around Saturday afternoon and will become heavy overnight," Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, of http://www.snowalarm.com, wrote in an email Tuesday. "Depending on when the snow starts Saturday, there may be as much as 5-10 inches of new snow on the hill by Sunday morning. Additional waves of energy will keep Sunday cold and snowy, with another 5-10 inches of snow by Monday morning."

Weissbluth said it's possible that another moist and cool wave of air from the northwest will arrive in time to deliver more snow Nov. 26, but two forecast models disagree about whether or not that storm will reach the Yampa Valley.

Steamboat Ski Area spokesman Mike Lane said this week that in addition to 18 inches of natural snow that accumulated at Thunderhead Summit on Friday, the blast of cold behind the storm has allowed snowmakers to build large mounds of manmade snow. At 10 a.m. Tuesday, the temperature on Rabbit Ears Pass was 8 degrees under clear skies.

Lane wouldn't say which trails might open for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Scholarship Day on Nov. 26, but he dropped a few hints, based on a list of the ski trails where snowmaking operations are active.

"Depending upon temperatures, crews are working on Heavenly Daze, Sitz Back, Jess’ Cut Off, Sitz, Vogue, Stampede, Lil’ Rodeo, Rudi's, Ego, Lightning and Buddy's and Tornado Lane," Lane said. "We have a new winch cat (grooming machine) showing up this week, and that will be put to work on Buddy's and Storm Peak face to start cat packing the trails."

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Colorado Ski Country USA was reporting Tuesday that of the four ski areas now open, Copper Mountain has the most snow, with 27 inches at midmountain. Steamboat's cousin in the Intrawest family, Winter Park, is open with four lifts running and a snow depth of 18 inches at midmountain. And the Aspen Times reported that Aspen Mountain will open ahead of schedule Saturday.

Weissbluth said Steamboat could see some minor snow accumulations Thursday night as a West Coast wave of low pressure challenges the ridge of high pressure that has dominated the weather early this week.

At the same time, a second wave of moisture will track south of Colorado, but it will help to break down the high-pressure system, allowing a much stronger storm front to arrive via the Pacific Northwest and set the stage for heavy snowfall here early next week.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1