What happened at the 2021 DC Peaks 50mile race?

I work for race directors and climbing/skiing teams as a meteorologist in mountain settings, so i’m very familiar with how this process works. The objective is risk management. My approach is to put a spotlight on any potential bad weather, alert the race director, and then runners get an email blast with a forewarning so they can pack extra gear. There is responsibility with both parties. Runners also need to monitor the forecast weather on their own.

iRunFar’s Alex Potter put together an informative article with more race details and even video/photos from race participants in the snow.

If you only looked at standard point-and-click NOAA forecasts you likely missed the snow risk for 10/9/2021. More in-depth meteorological analysis supported at least six inches of snow in the Wasatch. That’s a clear signal that extra gear was necessary.

Check out the DC Peaks website for more info.

12″ New Snow Alta, Snowbird

The first of two storm systems delivered a foot (or more) of new snow to Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. The 2nd storm system arrives late Wednesday and runs through Thursday.

Snowbird snow stake 10/12/2021 6am.
Alta, UT 10/12/2021.

In Colorado, this same storm system arrives today. I’m forecasting 2-6 inches at the ski areas with storm #1. Similar additional amounts with storm #2. Strong wind is likely on all the 13ers/14ers with gusts 40-90mph Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday.

Also of note, 6-8 inches of new snow fell at Mammoth Mountain, CA over the last 36 hours. This is great to see after a bone-dry Summer.

Mammoth Mountain 10/12/2021.

In Wyoming, I’m forecasting 2-6″ with storm #2 between Wednesday night through Thursday afternoon.

Cody Bowl, Jackson Hole, WY 10/12/2021.

2nd Opinion: Winter forecast from Boudreau & Gates

I want to share another perspective on this winter’s forecast – this one is Colorado specific. AspenWeather.net‘s forecaster Ryan Boudreau and meteorologist Cory Gates issued their official winter forecast last week. I’ve known Ryan for a few years and I know Cory to be an exceptional meteorologist. Their combined passion for skiing is contagious.

Winter Forecast

There is overlap with my winter forecast, but there are also slight differences including the potential for a stronger/colder La Nina.

  • La Nina driven winter (Gates says it could go stronger than mainline forecasts indicate).
  • Optimistic about snowfall Central and Northern Mountains.
  • Gates notes that 10 of Aspen’s snowiest winters on modern record occurred with La Nina.
ForecastNormal
Aspen320″295″
Snowmass360″325″
Highlands350″325″
Gates & Boudreau Winter Forecast 2021-2022.
Cory Gates (Left) and Ryan Boudreau (Right)

Visit their website to learn more about Cory Gates and Ryan Boudreau.

A-Basin starts making snow; More in the forecast this week CO, UT, WY, MT

Stellar crystal sight this morning with A-Basin making snow. The ingredients all came together with a few inches of new natural snow and colder temps in the teens and 20s.

Natural new snow + blowing artificial snow. A-Basin is off and running. 10/10/2021.

I’m forecasting a good week ahead for the intermountain West including Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, and Montana. A stronger, colder front will drive through Tuesday-Thursday followed by a kicker on the backside through UT, WY, and CO with an early season brief, weak NW Flow. What to expect:

  • Winter Storm Watches for higher elevations
  • Several inches of accumulation
  • Temps drop 20 degrees on the highest peaks
  • 14er temps near zero by Friday-Saturday
  • Wind gusts hit 50-90mph Tuesday-Wednesday higher up
My forecast for Colorado’s highest peaks. 10/10/2021.
  • Jackson Hole, WY (10k+): 6-12 inches
  • Alta, UT: 4-10″
  • Big Sky, MT: 4-10″

Here’s my forecast video so can graphically see how this week plays out:

Forecast video 10/10/2021.

Snow hits CO, UT, WY

Just like that October moves the atmosphere towards winter. The first of two cold fronts delivers snow.

New snow dusts Loveland 10/9/2021.

Air temps on Loveland and Berthoud Passes will drop through the 20s for the rest of the weekend. Wind gusts by lunch should clock 50mph.

New snow at Alta, UT 10/9/2021.
New snow at Jackson Hole 10/9/2021.

A second cold front next week looks stronger and colder.

Mountain weather update 10/7: two snow chances ahead

Two cold fronts are lined up for Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana.

  • 1st front: Friday-Sunday in Colorado (snow level 10k)
  • 2nd front: Monday-Wednesday in Colorado (snow level 7k)
  • Full Forecast Video for this analysis:
10/7 Mountain Weather Update.
Pressure anomalies mid-atmosphere valid 10/9/2021, GFS interpretation.

Pressures drop and the jet stream buckles across the West. This sets the stage for colder temperatures and organized snowfall at ski areas. In addition, gusty wind is likely on higher peaks as the jet stream shaves those higher summits. For example, my forecast wind gusts:

FORECAST WIND GUSTS (MPH)MORNINGAFTERNOON
LONGS PEAK3050
KIT CARSON5075

Snowfall amounts seem more impressive with the 2nd cold front because it’s colder.

Forecast snowfall Alta, UT.
Forecast snowfall Berthoud Pass, CO.

The Golden Days of Fall

I love Fall in Colorado. It’s one of the driest parts of the year, temperatures drop, afternoon t-storms end, and I usually advise anyone attempting FKT’s (fastest known times) to shoot for September or early October before consistent snow and wind take up residence.

Crisp Autumn morning ride 2021, colorful underbrush as Red Rocks.

Fall color is a gift. It’s a short window of visual change in life cycles. I have moments of reflection about what’s next.

Taking in the colors, Autumn 2021. Photo by Leanne Tomer.

I have numerous friends who do longer trail runs, rides, and climbs. From the Maroon Bell 4-Pass Loop, 14er speed records, Nolans, RMNP link-ups, long ridge runs, and Foothill multi-park 20-milers.

Ridgelines Autumn 2020.

At some point in October the bottom normally falls out. Cold fronts become inevitable, wind on the high peaks becomes consistently strong, and snow levels drop. See you on the summit!

Snow possible in Colorado’s mountains this weekend and next week

A dip in the jet stream could bring snow to Colorado’s mountains this weekend and next week (10/9-10/15). Amounts this weekend appear on the lighter side, but next week they could be a touch higher.

Pressure pattern at about 18,000ft valid on 10/9/2021. Lower pressures in blue, higher in red.

This more active pattern would also benefit the higher mountains of Wyoming, Utah, Montana, British Columbia, and Alberta. Here’s a specific look at Berthoud Pass in Colorado. Totals are not big but it’s something. This is a normal progression for October.

Long range snow plume for Berthoud Pass, 10/4/2021.

We be peepin’

Leanne and I took a road trip and found vibrant Fall Color. I don’t recall seeing so much orange and red.

Classic Colorado: Fall color and snowcapped peaks.

We did a big loop from Denver to Hoosier Pass to Frisco then back to Denver. Cloud cover made the trip and photos even better.

Meadow of gold.

We were lucky to see moose out gathering their breakfast.

In total, there were at least four moose.

This weekend is peak color for the Central Mountains. Next weekend the Southern Mountains peak.

Reflection of life.

I’m struck by how quickly this time of the year passes. We witness these golden colors for about a month then the wind and snow hit erasing it all until next Fall. Good luck out there!

Capitol Peak snow; Is it termination dust?

Snow now covers Capitol Peak and the Elks. Will this end the climbing season for most Summer climbers? The Alaskan phrase for this phenomena is “Termination Dust”.

9/29/2021 view of Capitol Peak by Ann Driggers.

I suspect the answer comes down to how much risk climbers are willing to shoulder. Other peaks that are less technical like Quandary (“walk-ups”) will continue to be frequented.

I’ve climbed Capitol in all conditions and I find October climbing tricky. There’s not enough snow yet to cover all the rocks so stability is an issue and climbing is mixed.

Will it melt? Some will early (especially southern aspects). Looking at October, I foresee overnight lows on the 14ers permanently below freezing after October 4. And, I’m forecasting about a foot of additional snow on Capitol Peak and the Elks during October.