Sky: Students should know how to adapt to Colorado forecasts

Nathan Sky

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

It’s common to joke about how inconsistent and seemingly random the weather is in Colorado. While there is truth to that, there is more to consider when it comes to weather and how we can let it affect us. People in Colorado should understand what weather forecasts actually mean and how to properly prepare.


One of the most unique things about Colorado is its combination of high elevation, mid-latitude position and continental interior geography, which results in a cool and dry climate. Colorado is a cold, semi-arid environment that is constantly manipulated by the mountain ranges and valleys, which keep air movements away or close them in.

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As a Colorado resident, I’ve endured some brutally cold winters and heavy snows. Living in this area for so long has enabled me to build a pretty hearty resistance to the elements and the difficulties that they bring. Because of this experience, I believe it’s important to help educate those new to the state with information and strategies to help deal with winter.

Weather can seemingly come out of nowhere, but if you know what to look for, you can prepare and cope with it in a far more efficient manner. It’s important to be diligent when checking the forecast before going to bed and before going out.

A common misconception people have is that any day in the forecast is accurate, when in reality, only the first four to five days are 90% accurate. The next two days are seemingly reliable at 80%, but everything after that is as good as fiction. 

In addition to the forecast, many people have misconceptions about the probability of precipitation. According to the National Weather Service, “The probability of precipitation is simply a statistical likelihood of 0.01 inch or more of precipitation in a given area.” The percentage of precipitation does not simply define the expected amount of rain, but instead denotes the potential amount of rain that will occur in a larger area over a given period of time.

One of the greatest threats Colorado locals face is the influx of new residents who have never driven in snow before. Suddenly being surrounded by tiny, white frozen water particles is enough of a force to endanger people’s lives.

The issue isn’t so much the snow, but rather the road conditions after a winter storm. Some days, the snow gets heavily packed on the road, creating gripless, slippery conditions, and the question arises: When braking, should one pump the brakes or not?

The answer has a few variables. Most vehicles since the 1990s have anti-lock brakes, which eliminate the need to pump brakes in icy conditions.

One of the greatest threats Colorado locals face is the influx of new residents who have never driven in snow before.

If your car has anti-lock brakes and you are preparing to brake on an icy part of the road, all you need to do is firmly and consistently press on the brakes. In any icy conditions, braking should start several feet earlier than usual to provide extra time for braking. If your car is a bit older and doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, pumping is ideal — apply pressure and gently release at a moderate rate. 


Warm winter clothes are essential when living in Colorado. This includes insulated shoes or boots, wool socks, long underwear and multiple shirts layered together, followed up with a strong winter jacket. Not only is layering a very efficient and practical way to stay warm, but winter clothes are also some of the most fashionable clothes, and staying warm has never looked so good. 

There is a common trend in Fort Collins where you’ll see dudes walking around in athletic shorts and a short sleeve shirt on a day where the weather is below freezing. Seeing them makes me think, “Stop that; what’s wrong with you? We all know you’re cold, even if you don’t want to show it.”

Dressing appropriately for cold weather, understanding and deciphering the forecast and knowing how to best navigate icy conditions will hopefully allow new residents to enjoy the winter with little stress.  

Nathan Sky can be reached at or on Twitter @NathanSky97