Storm to Dump Big Snow in the Wasatch this Weekend

Posted Thursday, March 1st, 2018 by marcelcaron
TLDR: Big snow underway as we head into the weekend. It’s another two-punch system with a lot of uncertainty, beginning maybe sometime Friday afternoon, lasting into early Sunday. Most resorts could see a foot or more snowfall, with higher amounts favoring the cottonwoods.

It couldn’t be a better time to dream about the weekend—there’s a lot to unpack for the upcoming storm. So … I’m just going to jump right into it:

The Forecast

General Overview

We’ll see a complicated wave push through between Friday and Sunday this weekend. Complicated, but I think we can break it down to two-ish events. As timelines go…first, the full system pushes south along the Pacific coastline. As it deepens, a smaller wave breaks off, moves east and then northeast across northern UT. That’s Friday.

This is a shortwave
GFS 500 mbar relative vorticity, spanning 11AM MT Thursday to 11AM MT Saturday. This is a wide view of North America, including Alaska and the eastern Pacific. SLC is located below and left of the figure’s center point. Notice the large trough tracking south along the Pacific coast, its axis just passing into Oregon. There’s a small lobe on the system’s eastern side that tracks up through Idaho, Montana, and into SW Canada. That’s Part one. (courtesy

Part two, the main trough, hits perhaps late Saturday night into Sunday.

Part Two
GFS 500 mbar relative vorticity, spanning 11AM MT Saturday to 11PM MT Sunday. See the first figure for further orientation. As the lobe associated with Part One moves off, the main trough begins to swing east into the Rockies, bringing us Part Two. (courtesy

Breaking the system down into two distinct storms makes it easier to understand what is going on, but I don’t think we’ll be able to distinguish the two as it’s happening. It might easily seem like one big, long storm. Nevertheless, establishing the storm’s parts will clarify some of its finer details.


Next, I’ll give you my thoughts on the timing for each storm, followed with their individual strength, ending with preliminary snow totals.


Kickoff: Most ensemble members have snowfall beginning Friday morning in the North Wasatch, afternoon further south. Valleys I think will see similar start times. Still, perhaps moderate uncertainty there—a sizeable amount of notoriously skeptical ensemble members doubt the first punch bringing much, until maybe late Friday night.

Shutdown: End times are even less certain: most ensemble members still predict a shutoff between Saturday morning and Sunday evening. Count on cutoff time changing a bit in the next day or so.


We have low confidence of the strength for each storm over northern UT, and thus a vague idea of overall snow timing. Again, it’s a complicated system.

That said, I’m inclined to trust a weaker first burst and a stronger second storm, and therefore later start times. The latest forecasts seem to trend toward this solution, and we only have about a day to go before the show begins. I think we’ll have a late afternoon Friday kickoff across most of the Wasatch (first north, then south), and a Sunday morning-early afternoon closing.


Most models are cranking over an inch of liquid precip across the northern Wasatch, closer to 1.5” in the Cottonwoods. In terms of snowfall amounts, I’d say pretty good confidence of snow totals exceeding a foot at many resorts, with higher totals favoring the cottonwoods, and locally even higher amounts.

First call…maybe 18-24” snow in the cottonwoods, 12-18” in the north Wasatch, 8-12” in the east slopes. At this point, please be flexible with these amounts.

Whoo—that’s all I can think of. A foot, two feet…either way looks like we’re getting hit pretty nicely. I just want to end by suggesting you prepare to check online for avalanche hazards in case you plan to explore the backcountry. A big snow dump like this can make for issues with the snowpack stability.

But…enjoy, and happy skiing.


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