Storm Update

We had a decent period of precipitation yesterday (Tuesday) morning, and some stronger showers in the area this morning, but overall this storm has been pretty unimpressive. The crest-level winds have remained stubbornly out of the southwest, and have become light this morning, neither of which is good for orographic snowfall in most of the Wasatch. Small scale snowbands within the larger storm also set up over the eastern Salt Lake Valley and the Oquirhhs overnight and this morning…in fact last night it looks like the Oquirhhs actually got more snow than the Wasatch. Oh well, we’ve still got some time left with the upper-level system over us, and winds should turn more northwesterly overnight, so this should help us get more out of the system before it departs on Thursday. Lake-effect also remains fairly likely for Wednesday night/Thursday morning, so hopefully our patience will be rewarded.

On Friday it looks like a fast-moving shortwave trough to our north may pass close enough to bring us some snow as well, but it likely won’t be more than a dusting.

Long Term: an upper-level ridge of high pressure will build over us on Saturday, so the weather should be great to be outside this weekend. The next storm is still looking like it will drop in early next week.

Knocking on the Door

The forecasted storm for this week is still on track, but it looks like the timing will be a bit later, and the precipitation amounts in the models have decreased since I last updated on Friday. That said, there are a lot of precipitation features within this system that could develop in the right place to bring us much more precipitation than the models are depicting, so we could get a nice surprise, but I would not bet on it.

Summary: a strong, cold upper-level trough will move into the area tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, and linger over us for a few days, with periods of mountain snow through Thursday. We will warm up and dry out over the weekend, with our next shot at a storm about a week from now.

Snow Levels: beginning at around 8500ft on Tuesday morning, and lowering rapidly through the day. Temps will likely be cold enough on Wednesday and Thursday for snow all the way to the valley floors.

Snowfall: generally 4-8″ for most of the Wasatch, with 6-12″ in the upper Cottonwoods.

Lake-Effect Wildcard: with a cold upper-level trough this time of year, and a VERY warm Great Salt Lake, there is a good chance of lake-effect snow. If a lake-effect band can organize and sustain itself over an area for some time, totals could be higher. Let’s hope for some magic from our Salty neighbor to the Northwest.


P.S. the winds will be howling this afternoon. Prepare yo’self

First good storm of the season on the way

After the little appetizer of a storm we got yesterday (3″ at the Alta-Collins site), it appears the atmosphere is going to deliver the main course for us on Monday. There will be a chance of snow late Sunday, but late Monday looks to be the onset of the good stuff, with the heaviest snow lasting through Tuesday. Then the models keep us in an unsettled pattern for the remainder of the week. I’m pretty excited about this…it’s time to get the snowpack started for the year!

This storm is also likely going to be much colder than the last one, with snow levels potentially reaching the valleys on Tuesday. Woohoo! Overall, it looks like we will be entering into a wetter, colder, more winter-like pattern nect week…we’ll keep you updated as the details come into focus.


Storm Update

Sorry I haven’t had time since Tuesday to post an update on today’s storm, but unfortunately it looks like things will be much drier than I forecasted on Tuesday. The models have continued to portray a weaker and weaker storm, and really it looks more like a 2-4″ event for most of the Wasatch. Some places may even get only a dusting…

The Good News: next week still looks good for a much better storm! I’ll keep you updated when I get a chance to look at things again later this week.

Daily Forecasts will start soon! As soon as the ski season get underway with skiable snow, we will start daily forecasts from our full forecast team. Keep your fingers crossed for next week!

Storm on the Way

There is pretty good agreement amongst the models that the first real snow of the season will arrive in the Wasatch on Thursday. Can I get a hallelujah?!?! Before you get too excited though, I should mention that I don’t see this storm bringing us *quite* enough snow to get real skiing in the backcountry. I know that a lot of you are more than happy to shred 6″ of snow on the grassy slopes though, so this may do it for you!

Timing: Snow should begin in the Northern Utah mountains on Thursday morning, and end by early Friday morning. So this should be a quick hitter.

Snowfall: The main energy will be to our south and the flow direction is not ideal for a big dump in the Cottonwoods, or many of the Wasatch resorts, but the storm has decent ascent to work with, so I’ll go with 4-8″ in favored areas like Powder Mountain and the Cottonwoods, and 3-6″ for other areas.

Snow Level: 6,500-7,500ft

Next Storm: Early next week. It could be a decent storm, but it looks like most of the energy may dive south of us. Keep your fingers crossed, and we’ll keep you updated.

Finally Fall

After a long stretch of having to use my A/C at night the past few weeks (overnight lows were typically what we would see in July!), it FINALLY feels like fall in the Wasatch this morning. An upper-level trough dropped into Utah last night, and brought some much needed rain and even snow above about 10,500ft in the Wasatch.

So after a glorious summer of river trips, trail running, mountain biking, and climbing, it’s about time for us here at Utah Ski Weather to start shaking the cobwebs off our snow forecasting skills and prepare for the ski season! We…well at least most of us…have made good progress over the summer on our thesis and dissertation research here at the Atmospheric Sciences Department at the U, so we are once again recharged and ready for another season of bringing you all high quality snow forecasts for the Wasatch!

That being said, you may be wondering, “will we finally have a normal or above-normal winter?” It’s been 4 very long years since this happened.

Well as you may have heard, it’s a virtual certainty that El Niño conditions will be present this winter, and confidence is increasing that it will be a strong El Niño. So what does this mean for Northern Utah? Unfortunately not very much. Strong El Niño years typically mean a high chance of a wet winter in the Southwestern U.S. and a high chance of a dry winter in the Pacific Northwest, but Northern Utah is of course in neither of those regions. Southern Utah (I’m looking at you, Brian Head) looks like they have a decent shot at a good winter though. If you take a look at the NWS Climate Prediction Center’s 3-month precipitation forecast, you’ll see that they made their forecast based primarily on the forcing from El Niño (there are many other oscillations that affect global weather patterns), and that the Wasatch is indeed in the region between high chances of above normal and high chances of below normal. Fight the temptation to conclude that that means we’ll have an average winter…it just means that there is no predictability this winter for Utah. It’s a total crap-shoot. I know I know, many of you are probably thinking “a meteorologist just told me that there’s a 50-50 chance we’ll have a good winter, that’s really helpful.” Well while 7-day weather prediction has become quite skilled in the modern times of super computers and satellites, the truth is that season-scale climate prediction is still in its infancy. So you can always take a look at the absolute garbage that is spewed from non-scientific sources like the Farmer’s Almanac, but I prefer to do a snow dance, pay attention to the forecast each weak, and make my ski plans accordingly!

We’ll be keeping an eye on the weather from here on out, and as soon as it looks likely that our first big, skiable Fall storm is on the horizon, we will be sure to let you know. We look forward to a great season and thank you for checking out USW!

End of Season Powder

The atmosphere is once again going to drop some spring goodness on the Wasatch, just in time for Alta’s (2nd) closing weekend. Don’t be expecting the incredible dry powder skiing we had with the last storm 10 days ago though…with such a warm storm this snow will be of the more dense variety, not as much snow will fall, and snow levels will be rather high at times (staying at or above the benches even during the coolest periods of the storm). Nevertheless, this multi-part storm will be with us for the entire weekend, and it should have plenty of moisture and dynamics to work with. So we could see some decent powder skiing.

The first wave of precipitation arrives with a shortwave trough tonight, and then a second, colder and stronger trough will bring another round of snow Saturday night into Sunday morning. These will be the periods of heaviest precipitation, but showers will likely continue in the intervening periods. I’m going to go with 9-18″ for the Upper Cottonwoods. The snow density will be highest with tonight’s wave (not quite Sierra Cement density though), and then the powder will be a bit drier Saturday night/Sunday.

Sunday morning will be the best time to ski. Accumulations will be near their peak, and the temperatures begin to warm through the day. 

After Sunday, we warm up and dry out. It looks like the Bird will stay open a few more weeks, but we at USW will be hanging up our forecasting hats this Sunday. In the meantime, enjoy the snow this weekend!

The last gasps of the ski season

In short, a succession of weak trough will cross Utah between tomorrow and Sunday.  There will be just enough moisture with these troughs to set off light showers over the mountains each day.  Accumulations should be minimal until Friday afternoon into Saturday, when there is potential for enough snow to actually improve the riding conditions.  

The snow quality might not be too bad Saturday either, as the current GFS run brings the freezing level down to around 6000 or 7000 feet.  Not bad for late April.  The ECMWF ensemble is also in agreement with the GFS on the possibility of a mini powder day.  Lets keep our fingers crossed.  




Well, my forecast back on Monday of 8-16″ in the Upper Cottonwoods busted pretty badly, but I’m not too upset about it because it busted on the low side. Moist northwestery flow following Tuesday’s cold front, and some likely periods of lake-enhancment (especially at Snowbird), produced some Cottonwoods Magic yesterday. We haven’t seen any of this magic since January, so it was really nice to see a storm go crazy over the upper canyon and produce way more snow than anticipated.

The snowfall totals through this morning include 44″ at Snowbird, 32″ at Alta-Collins, 22″ at Brighton, and 7″ at PCMR. To add to the awesomeness, the cold atmospheric temperatures kept the water content of the snow quite low, so the “Greatest Snow on Earth” was back in Utah yesterday. Jeff, Trey, and I skied at Snowbird yesterday, and the conditions were incredible…some of the deepest snow I’ve skied there from a 1-day storm.

Anyway, this is a forecasting website, so some of you probably want to know when/if it’s going to snow again! That’s a good question. Occasional snow showers will continue in the mountains through tonight, and then skies look to clear somewhat for Friday and Saturday…although the storm to our east will continue to affect us with some clouds. Temps will be much warmer though, so go get the fresh snow today before the April sun puts a crust on it. I mean it…the snow will not be light and fluffy for long with the high sun angle this time of year. Sunday it looks like a weak shortwave will move through, bringing some showers to the mountains, and beyond that we will warm up and dry out.

So enjoy the brief return to winter while you can!

Impending Winter Blast

It appears that the atmosphere has a sick sense of humor this year, as a strong, cold storm system will roll into Northern Utah tomorrow afternoon/evening. For the resorts that are still open (PCMR, Brighton, Alta, and Snowbird) and those willing to earn their turns in the backcountry, this storm has the potential to bring a nice little April powder day on Wednesday.

A strong cold front will blast into the Salt Lake Valley sometime tomorrow afternoon, with gusty winds and a burst of heavy precipitation along the front. Precip will begin as rain in the valley, but the transition to snow should be fairly quick with such a sharp cold front. The resorts may see a a brief rain at the lower bases with the leading edge of the front, but the transition to snow will be rapid, and snow will begin stacking up quickly. The post-frontal airmass will remain fairly juicy through Wedsnesday afternoon/evening with a favorable wind direction for heavy snow in the Cottonwoods. It even looks like there is a decent probability of an area or band of lake-effect snow forming Tuesday night and lasting into Wednesday morning. This may affect the Cottonwoods during some periods (and increase snowfall totals), but position and intensity of lake-effect is very tough to forecast. The snow will be of fairly low density after the frontal passage, so expect blower pow to top off a right-side-up snowfall.

Needless to say, despite my overall lack of skiing morale right now, I’m excited about this storm. With the low density snow falling, we’ll need a lot to cover up the crust that will be underneath, but I’m optimistic we can get there. For snowfall amounts through Wednesday night, I’ll go with 8-16″ for the Cottonwood resorts, and 4-9″ at PCMR.

Let’s hope my forecast verifies on the high side, because none of us got enough powder days this year.