Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Posted Saturday, February 17th, 2018 by Mike Wessler

First of all, today was an amazing ski day for everyone who managed to get out there – let’s be honest, I’m always happy to see the tourists who make Utah their destination get rewarded by some fresh snow, bluebird skies, and a little extra pow to finish their vacation – we can’t have it *all* to ourselves and our average mediocre ski days are better than some get in an entire season (or lifetime!). Today was also a reminder that the late winter sun is getting strong… despite liberal applications of sunscreen, it did a number on me. A light crust was noticeable on south through west facing aspects, but north through northeast trees were fluffy as it should be!

Tom on Tom's Hil
Forecaster Tom on Tom’s Hil Today

Not too much has changed since Trey’s post but I’ll focus in on some of the spatial and model differences for those that are interested. This is one of the broader troughs we’ve seen this season, at least of the ones that have pushed far enough south to move into northern Utah. Typically these wide troughs are much slower to progress eastward and allow for prolonged periods of snow as we are expecting (versus the fast-moving narrow troughs we have been working with so far this season). Second, once the trough axis moves through and off to the east, the result is flow from, roughly, the northwest. The position of the trough will allow sufficient cold air to stick around through Monday and Tuesday (and perhaps beyond), though the air is cold enough and of continental origin – typically much drier. That said, the models do keep precip firing throughout the day on Monday with the possibility for snow showers to linger into Tuesday morning.

500 mb heights as the trough moves through Sunday night indicating the broad nature and (finally!) more southerly push
500 mb heights as the trough moves through Sunday night indicating the broad nature and (finally!) more southerly push

I’m going to ride with Trey’s totals previously posted but am sharing the NAEFS from three different locations below. First, the Cottonwoods are generally big winners in NW flow, especially Little. Minimum storm totals around 15″ with the mean near 25″ by the end of snow shower activity mid-week. There’s a good mix of CMCE and GEFS members at both the high and low end which gives added confidence in the mean verifying. With ample cold air, Park City area (and the Salt Lake Valley!) should finally see a significant storm, and similar totals are expected for the Snowbasin area. Worth noting… Jackson takes the jackpot on this storm again, but let’s just be happy with what we have, eh?

NAEFS Plumes showing minimum, maximum, and mean solutions through mid-week with a healthy spread around the mean giving added confidence in storm totals near the mean
NAEFS Plumes showing minimum, maximum, and mean solutions through mid-week with a healthy spread around the mean giving added confidence in storm totals near the mean

For those skiing at the resorts – if terrain stays closed longer than you’d like, just be patient and know that the avalanche problems this year are tough to mitigate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the more hazardous zones stay closed till midday Monday. For those in the backcountry, keep up with the Utah Avalanche Center’s forecasts and recent reports and be smart and safe out there!

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