Another round, please!

Posted Tuesday, January 5th, 2021 by Julie Cunningham

TL;DR: High Avalanche Danger for portions of the Wasatch and north. 5-9 inches reported at resorts in the Wasatch as of 6am; likely more by now. Next decent chance for snow overnight Friday into Saturday.

Nowcast: After receiving pretty minimal amounts of snow over the past week or so, the resorts in the Wasatch are reporting some better numbers! As of roughly 6am this morning, Alta reported 9 inches and Snowbird reported 8 inches for a storm total. Big Cottonwood resorts performed about the same, with 8 inches at Brighton and 6 inches at Solitude. Park City and Deer Valley did okay, too, with 5 inches and 7 inches, respectively. While these aren’t quite the pow days that we’ve been waiting for, I think at this point we need to take what we can get.

So far this water year (beginning October 1st), the precipitation total at the airport here in Salt Lake City is at roughly 3 inches below normal. You can see in the graphic below that the snow total is also well below average.

Graphic courtesy of NWS Salt Lake City.

Current snow depth at Alta-Collins is at 47 inches, compared to… 80 inches at this time last year. Yikes. At least we’re slowly inching closer to a better base.

Despite a dry winter thus far, there’s still plenty of worry for avalanche danger, considering we do still have tens of inches of snowpack. An Avalanche Warning was issued by the Utah Avalanche Center for the northern Utah mountains through 6am tomorrow morning. There is High Avalanche Danger in the Central Wasatch on upper elevation slopes facing west through north through east; if you’re itching to get out into the backcountry, please check out the Utah Avalanche Center website for additional information, and be safe!

As for other current meteorological conditions, it is quite gusty at higher elevations, with Hidden Peak reporting a peak gust of 85 mph from the WNW at 11am. The sky has cleared a lot since this morning, with clouds still lingering at mountaintop. Check out this beautiful afternoon view from Hidden Peak at Snowbird, featuring a couple of Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds (wave-like, in the center of the photo).

Image courtesy of Snowbird.

Short-Term: As the trough that brought us snow overnight shifts east, a highly-amplified ridge will build into the region. After that, there’s a chance of snow for northern Utah on Thursday night as a weak short-wave trough brushes by the Utah-Idaho-Wyoming borders. At this time, it looks like there are some dynamics, northwesterly flow, and a very shallow moist layer. However, it won’t quite be enough to get things going in the Central Wasatch. Far northern Utah will have a bit more moisture, but I don’t expect resorts further north to get more than an inch or two.

The GFS is showing another trough moving into Utah overnight on Friday, but it seems a bit too early to start tossing out snow totals. Hopefully the snow gods bring us some luck!

Long-Term: After some potential for snow this weekend, it looks to be pretty dry for awhile, unfortunately. Each of the models are indicating a strong ridge building in, that doesn’t seem to break until at least next Friday.

Enjoy the snow this week!
– Julie

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