April Snow on Tap but Season Nears its End

Posted Thursday, April 4th, 2019 by marcelcaron

TLDR: A look forward at more snow as the season for snow sports closes. Scroll down for a probabilistic snowfall forecast covering this weekend.


Most of us made the solemn realization that the season for snow sports is closing, but I hope this post can keep the fire going a bit longer. Ski resorts across Utah (*wink to Brian Head and Eagle Point*) had a great season, and the spring skiing forecast looks good, both short and long term.


April Snowpack

A view of select high-altitude (> 7k ‘) station datasets shows that most locations received substantially more snow than average this water year.

April
Current snowpack snow-water equivalence as a percentage of normal at SNOTEL sites. Colors depict percentages: yellow (90-100%), green (100-110%), light blue (110-130%), blue (130-150%), dark blue (150-200%), and purple (>200%). Courtesy the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center

Using Alta as an example (only resort I could find that records comprehensive historical snowfall statistics, get on this everyone else!), and recognizing that the following numbers are reported by the resort, the local SNOTEL station recorded about 545 ” total snowfall since October 1st, 2018. Alta received more snowfall this season than 6 of the previous nine full-length seasons. Furthermore, the 18/19 season surplus came primarily during February and March, leaving much for April skiers to work with.


Long Term Forecast

All we could ask for now is a regular delivery of snowfall in April. This is the likelihood at least over the next week or two, according to the NOAA climate forecast:

April
Today’s Climate Prediction Center 8-14 day outlook, temperature (left panel) and precipitation (right) probabilities, valid Friday, April 12 to Thursday, April 18, 2019. Shading depicts the likelihood that a location will see above- or below- average values. Avoid the common mistake of reading this as a deterministic forecast, in other words, that darkest colors mean the coldest temperatures/largest amount of precipitation. Reading this way will disappoint the reader. Courtesy of the NWS Climate Prediction Center

To elaborate, during the 8-14 day period (Fri. April  12 to Th. April 18), Utah is about 60-70% likely to see below-average temperatures (low-elevation average is ~ 45-55 degrees) and 50-70% likely to see above-average precipitation (Utah in mid-April already tends to be moderately wet). The 6-10 day period (Wed. April 10 to Sun. April 14) forecast is similar.


Short Term Forecast

The next storm hits Utah resorts sooner. In short, two mid-level lows merged in the past couple of days (not uncommon) beneath an upper-level low.

April storm
18Z GFS 500 mbar vorticity, valid starting 6 PM MT Wed., April 3 to 12 AM MT Sat., April 6, 2019. Shading depicts absolute vorticity. Note merging mid-level low-pressure systems over the Gulf of Alaska (center-left in the figure). Courtesy of tropicaltidbits.com

An embedded and elongated shortwave trough then pivots around the upper low and approaches Utah from the southwest Friday night behind lots of moisture. Expect a moderate precipitation event for the area that will bring snowfall to the higher elevations (> 7k ‘).

Here’s a subjective snowfall forecast for Wasatch resorts:

april snow
Subjective snowfall forecast valid between Friday, April 5 at 6 AM MT and Sunday, April 7 at midnight MT. Based on GEFS and SREF QSFs, courtesy of weather.utah.edu

Resort Closing Dates

Lastly, here’s a list of tentative Utah resort closing dates in chronological order, updated recently for Snowbasin:

  • Nordic Valley: closed since 3/30
  • Eagle Point: closed since 3/31
  • Beaver: 4/07
  • Deer Valley: 4/07
  • Park City: 4/07
  • Powder Mtn.: 4/07
  • Sundance: 4/07
  • Solitude: 4/14
  • Brian Head: 4/21
  • Snowbasin: 4/21
  • Alta: 4/28
  • Brighton: unreported
  • Snowbird: unreported

Make it count!

-Marcel

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