Solid Storm, Another on the Way

Mother nature did not disappoint this weekend, dumping over 2 feet in favored areas!  Snowbird is reporting 25” in the past 48 hours, Alta 20”, Brighton 18”, Park City 11”, and Sundance 10”.  Deep powder, cold temperatures, and increasingly sunny skies should make for a great few days of skiing in the Wasatch.  Note that higher elevations currently pose “considerable” avalanche danger; see utahavalanchecenter.org.  

This week:

Scattered flurries are possible Monday, but expect clearer skies otherwise.  Resort temperatures will remain relatively cold through Tuesday, warming to near-freezing for the remainder of the week as warmer air advects into the region.  This will set up a valley inversion, but it (fortunately) won’t be long until our next storm.  

This weekend:

Strong upper-level forcing and ample moisture produce a high probability of precipitation from Friday night through Monday.  This system will finish exceptionally cold, dropping ridge-level temperatures to around 0F by Monday.  I’ll hold off on snowfall totals for now, but both the EC and GFS suggest well over a foot of snow through this period.  Check back for updates and predicted totals as this storm approaches.  

 

Good storm on tap

It is 9pm on Saturday night and it is just about snowing at the Salt Lake Airport. We are early in the storm and things are shaping up nicely. Alta has picked up 3 inches and most ski areas have gotten 2-4″ so far.  Snow will continue through the night before a brief break in the early morning. From the morning onward the flow will be from the northwest and relatively moist , a situation that benefits the Upper Cottonwoods. For this reason I expect most areas will have 5-10 inches by opening tomorrow, with Park City on the low end of that range. During the day Sunday most areas will see another 2-4″, except the Cottonwoods which are looking at another 3-7″ in the northwest flow. Snow quality will be good, so don’t miss it if you can get out! Be careful if you venture into the backcountry, as there may be sufficient water weight to reawaken some of the buried facet layers.

Weekend Pow

Wow, after a long stormy period, it was WARM today in both the mountains and the valleys. Temperatures reached the mid 30s this afternoon at 9600ft, and the mid 40s at the Salt Lake airport. This means unfortunately some of the south-facing slopes will have sun crusts on them until the next storm buries them. The good news, though, is that the low sun angle this time of year and relatively cloud-free skies today likely allowed the north-facing slopes to remain cold and soft.

Thankfully temperatures will begin cooling this evening into Saturday ahead of our next storm. Snowfall totals will be modest, but Sunday should still be a decent powder day. The density of the snow will decrease as the storm progresses (right-side-up), which is just what we want. For the period Saturday night through Monday morning, here’s what I’m thinking: 6-12″ for the upper Cottonwoods, 3-7″ for the PC resorts and Snowbasin, 4-8″ for PowMow, and 2-5″ for The Beav. There is a period of decent-looking moist norhwesterly flow on Sunday afternoon/evening that could push snow totals higher than forecasted in the Cottonwoods if orographic precipitation processes really go big, but I don’t think that’s likely. 

After the storm exits, a strong ridge of high pressure takes hold over the Great Basin for the coming work week. This means more warm days in the mountains and strengthening valley inversions. Hopefully this means the avalanche danger will ease a bit in the backcountry though and allow folks to safely enjoy more terrain. The next storm will likely arrive next weekend.

A Great Weekend Ahead

The big picture:

A ridge will build over the Intermountain West and persist through Friday, which will allow for some rather mild resort temperatures (upper 20’s & 30’s).  A shortwave trough is expected to bring snowfall to Utah on Saturday.  The atmosphere gets messy beyond Saturday, but this isn’t necessarily bad news.  Things start to dry out Monday as another ridge builds into next week.  While we don’t want to bite on a forecast 8 days out, both the GFS and EC indicate a visit by a longwave trough late next week.  Currently, the strongest dynamics for this system appear to miss northern Utah to the south; we’ll see.  

Saturday:

Southwesterly flow will prevail for most of the day in association with the approaching trough.  A frontal passage looks to occur in the afternoon.  NAM and GFS have it coming through around 2pm, and the EC around 5pm.  With respect to snowfall totals, the EC remains on the conservative end, while the downscaled GFS and Canadian ensembles attempt to get my hopes up.  Hopefully the models will be in better agreement tomorrow.  Totals: 6-10 inches for the northern Wasatch / Cottonwoods and 3-6 inches for Park City by the time resorts open on Sunday, with a few more inches possible during the day.

Beyond Saturday:

Relatively cold and moist northwesterly flow will last through Sunday into Monday.  While difficult to forecast at this time, this is a desirable recipe for accumulations beyond those associated with Saturday’s frontal passage, particularly at higher, northwest facing slopes. 

A Short Break, then Weekend Pow

Although today’s storm didn’t meet expectations in LCC (Snowbird and Alta ended with only 7”), it did end on a wild note.  The heavy snow and strong winds led to very dangerous avalanche conditions, forcing Alta and Snowbird into an “interlodge”.  One of our writers, Peter, was up there when it happened and was trapped up the canyon for several hours.  The road up LCC is expected to open at 8AM tomorrow.  Resorts outside of LCC did fairly well with today’s storm….Solitude is reporting 15”, Brighton 12”, Sundance 11”, and Powder Mountain 9”.


There will finally be a break in the parade of storms from Thursday to Saturday morning.  Expect sunny to partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the low to mid 30’s on Thursday and Friday.  Our next system will move in midday Saturday.  There’s still some uncertainty with this system.  For now we’ll go with 6-12”, with, as always, possibly more in the Upper Cottonwoods.

It’s looking like a weak ridge will build in through the middle of next week, so expect relatively quiet conditions with a few snow showers in the northern Wasatch.  The long range models are starting to hint at the possibility of a strong trough crossing through the region sometime around January 29-30.  We’ll keep a close eye on this timeframe, as the overall setup appears to be supportive a relatively strong storm.

Round #…I Lost Count

What a week it’s been in this active storm cycle! While none of the individual storms have been particularly impressive, each one has still been solid enough to produce a powder day and great conditions going on a week+. Like Taylor said, we’ve now reached our climatological normal for SWE and should only build upon that in the coming days.

Tues/Wed Storm: As I’m sure most reading this blog are well aware, a storm is knocking on our doorstep at this very moment (6 PM – Tues). Snowfall rates will quickly increase in the mountains this evening as a weakening shortwave moves in from the west. Flow will primarily be SW’ly with this first “wave” and temps will remain relatively warm. Therefore, expect fairly dense snow (10:1 ratios) with tonight’s precipitation. This is good news, though, because it’ll be getting colder as the storm progresses into tomorrow.

Expect a break late tonight until early tomorrow when flow turns more NW’ly. A shortwave diving down into Northern Utah will bring drastically colder temperatures and snow levels crashing down to valley floors. In the mountains, this “second wave” will blanket a nice layer of low density pow on top of the denser overnight (Tues PM) snow. So this is great and all, but we know what you all really come here for…the projected snowfall totals. For the Cottonwoods I’m expecting 9 -18 inches – A little lower than the numbers were looking yesterday, but a solid pow day regardless. The rest of the Wasatch resorts I’d anticipate 7-14 inches.

Weekend storm: After clear conditions for the remainder of the week, another storm is expected to impact Nrn Utah this upcoming weekend. Details remain uncertain at this time. The GFS and Ensembles are more aggressive with this feature, while the European is depicting lesser snowfall amounts. Indications are that it may not be as good as the midweek storm, but there’s still plenty of time for guidance to change.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Good news for all you mountain recrationalists, according to SNOTEL reporting stations, we are nearly at 100% of normal for Snow Water Equivalent in the Wasatch range.. And not to jinx it, but it looks like we should surpass the climatological mean with the early looks at the long range forecast through the end of January.  We’ll talk more about that later in the blog. 

If you were out skiing in the Cottonwoods today (I was, and it was awesome), then you got to experience snowfall rates of 2-3″ per hour and fresh pow on every run.  As of 20:00, or about 8pm MST, he Alta-Collins station is reporting 12″ of new snow since noon today. Wow! This system definitely overperformed and I don’t think anyone is upset about a previously conservative forecast.. If I have learned one thing forecasting in the Intermountain West, its that every storm is unique and forecasting snow totals days in advance can sometimes feel like a shot in the dark. With that being said, here’s a look at what you’ve got coming at ya for the next few days:

Short Range: Cold air advection will dominate tonight, with a persisting northwesterly flow allowing for a few orographically-triggered snow bands to be possible in the Wasatch. I personally don’t see large accumulations happening, so I will say an extra inch or so wouldn’t be out of the questions throughout the evening.  Overnight into tomorrow, a short-wave ridge will move into the area, keeping any storm activity at bay.  Mid to late afternoon, the next system originating from the Pacific will affect the state. Warmer, southwesterly flow will persist until Wednesday, which typically favors higher totals at Sundance and Snowbasin.  Early in the day Wednesday, a strong trough will plunge into Northern Utah from the Northwest. This flow direction is excellent for large totals in the Cottonwoods as they are typically favored in northwest flow events. For Tuesday afternoon-Wednesday, we are looking at the possibility of over an inch of liquid equivalent falling in the Wasatch. Over the course of this storm, I would not be surprised to see 18-24″ fall in the Cottonwoods though Wednesday night. 12-18″ for other Utah resorts.  Snow levels will likely drop to the valley floor with this cold system. 

Long Range: Thursday a ridge will build in and amplify into Friday, bringing quiescent conditions to the state.  Friday will have dominant southwesterly flow and warming ahead of the next trough. Calm conditions will come to an end Friday night as the next chance of snow is in the works.  Snowfall is likely to continue through Saturday and exit the region on Sunday.  The details on this forecast will become clearer in the following days.  Long-range forecasts are hinting at solutions that produce strong storms at the end of the month… Its far too early to tell, but needless to say I have my fingers crossed! 

Intermission

First of all, if you can ski this weekend, I’m jealous. I’m writing this during a layover in Los Angeles…the FOMO (Google it) is real for me right now. Storm totals from the latest round ending midday today are right about what we expected. Looks like ~6″ at the Snowbasin stake cam, 9″ at the PowMow stake cam, 12″+ at Alta and 12″+ at Snowbird. As precicted, this was very light, dry powder. The kind of stuff dreams are made of. USW forecaster Trey Alvey was up there today, and the video he posted on our Instagram looked gooooood. 

Overnight tonight the light snow showers will continue, and it appears that with the very fluffy snow, it is easily adding up. So expect a few more inches overnight and tomorrow. EDIT @9pm: the orographic snow machine is really cranking tonight…much more than the models seem to be depicting. I would expect 4-8″ of snow tonight in the high Wasatch.

As I mentioned yesterday, the temperatures will unfortunately begin to climb with this next storm. Not very much, so the snow density will still be pleasant, but definitely more dense than today’s cold smoke. Light snow showers will briefly fade during the day tomorrow (Saturday), before the heavier snow moves in late afternoon/evening. Snow will last through Sunday am, and totals still look to be about what I was thinking in yesterday’s forecast. 7-14″ for the Northern Wasatch and Cottonwoods, with 5-10″ for the PC resorts.

After brief clearing the latter half of Sunday, the action picks right back up again on Monday morning. The EC and GFS have come into line with this storm, and both have the snow lasting through early Tuesday morning. This looks like another moderate temperature/moderate density storm, but that could change slightly. This could also change, but it looks like another ballpark 1 foot-ish storm.

Still some uncertainty with the storm after, but looks like late Tues/early Wed. EC is stingy with the snow, and GFS looks good. Let’s hope ‘Merica prevails in that situation.

Ski your hearts out this weekend for me…I’ll be back on skis Monday morning, so save me some pow.

Round 2

The forecasts of the past few days remain largely on track, and we are headed into round 2 this evening. Precip is starting to show up on radar out to the west, and snow should begin falling soon. Here’s an updated timeline with accumulations:

Round 2: tonight through tomorrow evening. I’m gonna go 7-14″ for the northern Wasatch and Cottonwoods, with 5-10″ on the PC side. Cold temperatures with fairly light winds are expected, so this should be beautiful, low-density powder. Blower pow for all you youngsters out there. Get out and shred it!

Round 3: Sat afternoon/evening through Sunday morning. Another 7-14″ likely for the northern Wasatch and Cottonwoods, with 5-10″ on the PC side. This storm, looks to come in a bit warmer. That would mean medium density powder. This wouldn’t be much of an issue at the resorts where skiers will be mixing up the new/old snow interface, but in the backcountry this could create an upside-down layer that wouldn’t ski very well. Little ways out though, so hopefully the models bump the temps down a few degrees and this doesn’t end up becoming an issue.

Round 4: Monday. A little bit of disagreement in timing between the EC and GFS, so I went with a broad brushed timing. This will tighten up in the next day or two. 

Round 5: Mid week. Get some. Hallelujah. The hits keep comin.

Storms in the Pipeline

After several calm, sunny, mild days, it looks like an active pattern will take hold starting late Wednesday night.  The models began to show signs of an active pattern developing just a couple days ago.  We were skeptical that this pattern change would take place at first (especially after how the last few Januarys in Utah have been), but now that all major models are on board to an extent, our confidence is building.  


Both the GFS and ECMWF are showing three distinct storms affecting the region from Thursday to Sunday with an active pattern continuing beyond that.  


Storm 1: The first, relatively weak system will pass through late Wednesday night and last through the day Thursday.  A general 3-5” in the central and northern Wasatch and 5-9” in the Upper Cottonwoods looks likely with this system.


Storm 2: A much stronger storm will enter the region very late Thursday night and last through early Saturday morning.  Totals with the second system should be in the 6-12” range in the northern and central Wasatch with greater totals of 8-16” possible in the Upper Cottonwoods.  This system will also bring accumulating snow to the valley floor, on the order of 2-5”.


Storm 3: The third storm in the pipeline will roll through from late Saturday night into early Sunday morning.  Although this system is several days out, it appears that it will be similar in strength to Storm 2.  Therefore with this system, we expect another general 6-12” with 8-16” in the Upper Cottonwoods.  Obviously this system is still several days out, so our confidence is much lower.  Stay tuned to the blog!

In general all signs point to the start of a fairly active pattern starting Thursday and continuing for the foreseeable future.  Assuming the forecast pans out, we expect many powder days in the near future.