Ridge Riding

Update: Cold Nw’ly flow really worked it’s magic last night with up to a foot in the Cottonwoods. Go get the freshies if you can. It’s the last we’ll see for at least the next week.

Right now the last round of precipitation, albeit unimpressive, is moving through Nrn Utah. I wouldn’t expect much, but we might be able to squeeze out at least a few more inches of cold smoke (probably a bit more in the Cottonwoods). Heading into the weekend temperatures will gradually warm to more seasonable values. If you’re a backcountry skier I’d recommend getting after it this weekend while the powder from last weekend’s storm remains preserved by the colder temperatures. Be alert if you do travel outside of resort boundaries, however, as a considerable danger for avalanches still exists on many aspects (https://utahavalanchecenter.org/).

Starting next week everything will get nuked by the sun and warming temperatures thanks to a ridge of high pressure that will establish itself across Utah. This also means valley inversions returning for most of the state, and unfortunately there’s high confidence that this ridge will remain firmly entrenched across Utah through at least the better part of next week. 700mb temperatures are projected to increase to 2-3 Celsius, meaning it will be downright toasty on the slopes starting Monday. For those that enjoy spring skiing, have at it next week. Most resorts will likely see high temperatures into the 40s. In terms of the backcountry skiing this will likely ruin any remaining powder shots. If we get into a good cycle of warm > 35F days and cold below freezing nights we could enter a good corn cycle, though it’s still a little early in the season.

Economics and a Forecast

According to the law of supply and demand, when the demand curve shifts to the right (higher demand for a good or service), the responsibility of the producers is to meet these demands and supply enough goods to result in an equilibrium price.  Unfortunately, this is not always how it works with the atmosphere, but it sure is interesting to think about, especially if you have been up to the canyons as of late on a weekend.. The horror! It took me 2 hours to get to the end of LCC from downtown SLC last Saturday.  So getting to the reason I probably gave you awful flashbacks of freshman year econ.. We’ve had a good year of snow, about average in SWE, but FAR better than last year’s dismal showing.  My theory is similar to the supply and demand, (except reversed.. stick with me here..) all these sweet powder days (supply) has gotten everyone excited about Utah skiing again and sent all mountain recreationalists (demanding to shred said pow) coming back in droves.  As with everything you gotta take the good with the bad… In the coming weeks we are going to see that supply of snow shut off (this is the bad part) so *hopefully* all those fair weather skiers will see themselves out and we will be able to find parking spots at our beloved resorts across the state, YAY!  See the glass half full, friends.  Now for the forecast..

 

As aluded to above, tomorrow (Thursday) appears to be our last shot at a few inches of snow until mid-February.  a low-amplitude short wave trough will make an appearance, albeit quick, on Thursday afternoon. 700 mb temps will be COLD (-11 to -13) and winds will start southwesterly and quickly transition to northwesterly as this small trough goes on its way.  The GFS, per usual, is being quite generous giving the Cottonwoods half an inch of liquid and other areas about .15″, while the Euro has given all of northern Utah a uniform .1″ through Friday.  Given the unimpressive set-up, I will say 2-6″ possible for the Cottonwoods, with 1-4″ at other resorts like PC/Canyons, Pow Mow, Sundance, etc. 

Long term, I have one word for you: Ridge.  As a skier/boarder, that’s really all you need to know.  But remember the positives, maybe you’ll have some awesome bluebird days on a far less crowded mountain.  Hopefully next week I will have some better news for you! 

A Little Bit More

With a big surface low pressure spinning up over Southern Utah Sunday night, it was a big question as to whether precip was going to push far enough north to bring snow to the Wasatch.  And we did get snow.  Some decent amounts in fact. Most areas got 3-6″, with Brighton the winner with 10″.  East winds have been gusty and moving snow around in both the mountains and the valley.  Some areas of Southern Utah are reporting 2 feet+, so go there if you want some really deep snow.

Light showers will continue Monday with 1-4″ of additional accumulation. Northwest flow will continue Tuesday and Wednesday with some minor accumulations (0-4″) over that time frame, mostly in the Northern Wasatch and near Logan.  The next storm looks to come in Thursday.  If I had to put a number on it I would say the biggest amounts it will produce will be in the 6-12 range.

Warm, Wet, Windy, and Wild in the Wasatch

I reserve my alliterations for exciting storms, and the excitement is just getting started as I type this on Friday evening. Precipitation is falling on the high peaks, and is starting to fill in down in the valleys as the lower levels begin to moisten up. Winds will also be on the increase, peaking overnight tonight with gusts likely near 100mph on the high peaks, before gradually decreasing tomorrow. 

The narrative for the storm hasn’t changed since Tom’s forecast: a plume of moisture from the tropics (an Atmospheric River) will be slamming into the Wasatch over the next 12-18 hours. Snow levels will be quite high through late tonight (7,000 to 8,000ft), meaning some resort bases will get rain at times. Then a strong cold front comes through Saturday morning, and temperatures will drop quickly, bringing the snow level to the valley floor. Precipitation will remain very heavy during the passage of the front, and then should lighten up fairly quickly mid day on Saturday. 

It remains a bit uncertain how long the snowfall will continue after the cold front comes through, but it looks like it will shut down Saturday evening. I think Tom’s snowfall numbers were a little optimistic given the fact that the snow that falls pre-cold front will likely be around 8:1 snow-to-liquid ratio. That’s dense snow, and we’re looking at around 1.8-2.6″ of liquid for this storm. On the other hand, as soon as the cold front comes through and temperatures start dropping, ratios will likely increase above 12:1. So if the snowfall lingers for a good bit after the front passes, snow will stack up pretty quickly and Tom’s numbers will be safe. 

That said, I don’t think the cold temperatures and lingering snowfall will overlap for very long, so I think the storm total numbers will be a bit lower than his 18-30″. I like 14-24″ for the upper Cottonwoods and Northern Wasatch, with 7-14″ for the PC resorts. So I’m playing it a bit more conservative, but we shall see whether Tom, the young buck from Pennsylvania, can defeat this veteran Utah Ski Weather forecaster. But I guess there is a large range of snowfall amounts where we could both technically win, so this could kind of be anticlimatic.

Anyway, the long range looks like a real tease right now. As Tom mentioned, it looks like southern Utah will get slammed on Sunday and Monday, while ge get a scrap or two of precipitation up in the Wasatch. Then possibly a small storm mid-week.

Another Powder Filled Weekend

The high pressure that’s brought us mild, stagnant air will retreat as we head into tomorrow in advance of our next storm system.  All major models continue to indicate that central and northern Utah will be impacted by a strong system from midday Friday into Saturday night.  A second system will then push through on Sunday and Monday, mainly affecting the southern areas of the state.  


Snow showers will break out in the central and northern Wasatch midday Friday in advance of trough swinging in from the west.  As Trey pointed out, this trough will have ample moisture to deal with.  An “Atmospheric River” will impinge on the region as the trough moves through, leading to a 24-hour period of fairly intense precipitation rates.  Initially snow levels will be very high, around 7500 feet.  This means that some of the resorts located at lower elevations may mix with some rain for a brief period of time Friday afternoon and evening at their bases.  Once the front swings through, snow levels will drop dramatically and eventually reach the valley floor by midday Saturday.  The GFS has been much more bullish than the ECMWF with this event so far.  It’s advertising 2-3” of QPF, while the ECMWF is advertising 1-1.5” across the central and northern Wasatch.  Because the front will have so much moisture to work with, I’m gonna go a little higher with my forecast totals than Taylor and Trey.  I think areas above 7500 feet in the central and northern Wasatch will receive anywhere from 18-30” by Saturday night.  


A second storm will move through from Sunday into Monday.  As of now it seems like this system will favor southern Utah.  The central Wasatch could receive several inches from the northern edge of this system. If it trends north a bit, a moderate snowfall is possible in the central and northern Wasatch.      

 

There’s some uncertainty in the pattern heading into next week.  The GFS and ECMWF both have a weak system at the end of next week and then show signs of a strong ridge trying to build in.  With this potential pattern change being a week out and the fact that both models still show storm systems nearby in the PAC NW, it’s anyone’s guess if this pattern comes to fruition.

Weekend Storm Skiing

Before we get to the juicy stuff, I’ll mention that models are indicating a weak, quick-hitting storm will bring light accumulations to the far North (Beaver Mountain) overnight Thursday – Friday AM.  The Jackson Hole area will be the primary recipient of this first wave. Okay that was easy, now onto the good part of the forecast.

Models are continuing to converge on a significant storm (Atmospheric River) that will impact the Wasatch late Friday – Saturday. As Taylor alluded to in her forecast, moisture is the name of the game with this particular setup. High precipitable water values and a jet core will make its way inland late Friday. As a result of this moist jet slamming into the Wasatch, we’re expecting to see a 24-hour period of fairly substantial snowfall. The more reliable models are generally showing 1.5 – 2.5” of QPF or liquid equivalent. The first half – ¾ of snow will occur in a relatively “warm” environment with 700mb temperatures around -3 – -1 C. Lower elevation resorts early on in the storm will flirt with some rain (especially near the base) – cooling induced from heavy precipitation rates, though, should hopefully compensate and allow for a transition to mostly snow overnight Friday. By early Saturday, a front anchored to the jet core will sag southward bringing much colder temperatures (and lower density snow). AKA a right side up storm – this is good! Despite the high QPF values showing up in models I think 1-2 Feet by the end of Saturday is still generally reasonable for the Northern Wasatch, especially considering the warmer initial temperatures. Also, this storm will primarily feature westerly/wsw flow so this may be one of those “rare” occasions where the Cottonwoods do not perform the best. Enjoy the freshies!

Key points:

1. Storm impacting Northern Utah late Friday – early Saturday with 1-2 feet of snow expected. Storm skiing on Saturday (it’ll be windy) and clearing skies for additional powder skiing Sunday.

2. Storm begins warm with dense snow and ends colder with lower density snow Saturday.

Lots of Moisture.. And Hopefully Snow!

An area of high pressure has moved in to the area and looks to be hanging around through Thursday. Unfortunately these pleasant temperatures and clear skies bode poorly for air quality in the Salt Lake Valley. Just another excuse to get to higher elevations and escape the haze.. Pollution is bad and skiing is good, am I right? 🙂

If you are a true model junkie, you probably noticed that for a while now, long range model solutions have predicted a rather potent storm towards the end of January.  Well, lo and behold, it looks as though we will get some snow this weekend.. Here’s what we know so far:

Theres a large “stream” of moisture in the Pacific ocean, near Hawaii, that is being advected northeast towards the northern California coast. This phenomenon is adequately named an “atmospheric river”. The moisture that is able to make it over the Sierra Nevada range is what will fuel our weekend snowfall. Models are giving us a fairly wide range of solutions for QPF; ECMWF gives us about an inch of liquid while GFS produces around 2.5-3″. I would err on the side of caution for now and say the EC is more on the right track. 

Depending on the speed of propagation and total available moisture, the Northern Wasatch could see anywhere from 1-2 feet of snow as a storm total.  As we close in on the 72 and 48 hour range, model skill should improve so we will be able to give you a better handle on timing and amounts.  Cross your fingers!

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.