Tool of the Week: Powder Forecast, CAIC, SnoTel

UPDATE: I've been developing a tool called, which tries to combine all the information contained in this post.  Please go check it out and send me some feedback!

Let's be honest: who's not giddy about winter? With the drop in temperature yesterday, snow accumulating in the mountains, and the possibility of flurries in Boulder this weekend, It's time that we're all getting excited about skiing.  This post is mainly for Colorado friends, although I'm sure there are similar tools in other states.  It's actually 3 tools I use regularly before skiing to get the best beta on snow conditions.

The first is (Update: recently changed to, which seems to be the most accurate snow forecast I've seen.  It's run by a meteorologist / ski bum and he does a pretty darn good job of getting the right forecast.  He reports how off he is, so you can see that even though he does a good job, you always have to take weather forecasting with a grain of salt: It's highly unpredictable.

Next, espically in the early season when I'm trying to figure out where there's snow coverage, I use colorado's snotel system.  The website isn't easy to navigate and the data is, admittedly, not the most accurate, but it helps you plan in such a way that you won't be taking core shots or ski on grass. Just click on a station near where you plan on skiing, scroll down to "select report content" and then click "view current."

Finally, I don't think this blog or any ski trip would be complete without the CAIC's webpage.  The webpage is a goldmine of information with weather discussion, snowpack observations, and live saving avalanche danger forecasts. I wouldn't hit the backcountry without looking at this.

I also check the weather on my standard channels, just to compare!

Finally, You can never get a perfect idea of what the snow's like without skiing it!  Talk to local skiiers and read blogs like Mike R's to see where all the good skiing is at!

  • Nice post Mike. The Snotels are a great resource. Like you said they are not perfect, but they provide insight into which areas are receiving locally higher snow quantities(ie did that upslope flow really develop?), as well as other variables such as windspeed and temperature, useful both for forecasting where the best skiing will be had and how much the snowpack/avalanche danger is being stressed by the current weather conditions.

    • Thanks for the comment mike! I'm not very good at using the SnowTel info other than depth, i get overwhelmed with the data available. Maybe you should write a post on your blog sometime about how you use it effectively 🙂

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