Impressive Water Totals

Impressive snow totals are rolling in today as the storm continues. The biggest winner appears to be Sundance with 4.5″ of water weight and over 40″ of snow so far. Not surprisingly, the road to access Sundance is closed and some monster avalanches have come down in Provo Canyon.  Park City, Deer Valley and Snowbasin have all gotten roughly 20-30″ of snow with 1.5-2.5″ of water.  A real big storm for the Wasatch backside. Little Cottonwood did poorly early in the storm but is rapidly catching up with a 19″ storm total now reported at Alta.

And its not even close to over.  Most areas of the Wasatch will see periods of snow through Thursday morning. With the flow becoming more northwesterly, the Cottonwoods should do better than PC and Sundance in this phase.  I expect 5-10″ more in the Cottonwoods and 3-8″ more elsewhere by Thursday morning.  Winds will be strong at the ridgetops again Wednesday. Snow ratios should be moderate.  Not fluff, but not too dense either.

Another very cold trough will swing in on Christmas morning. The most reliable aspect of this storm appears to be super cold temperatures. Like -5 F at the top of Snowbird and Alta.  Make sure you bundle up if you are going to ski on Christmas. As with many troughs in Utah, this one may depend on the subleties of the wind direction.  If there is prolonged northwest flow behind the trough it could be really good, especially for the Cottonwoods. If the flow is too northerly, nobody really gets anything. Lake-effect snow is also a possiblilty. If I had to give a number, I would say all ski areas will get at least 6 inches. We will see.

Storm Update

The snow and wind have really been cranking up over the past few hours, and most mountain areas are seeing the snow piling up now. The forecast looks to be on track, although I’ll make a little tweak to it. I really like the looks of this storm, and I think a clean 2-4 feet for most high areas of the Wasatch is a good bet for now through Wednesday night. It also looks like the snow level won’t rise quite as high as I had thought…it probably won’t get above 5,500 feet, which is good news for the resorts with lower base elevations. That number will of course be dropping quickly to the valley floors on Tuesday, and staying there for pretty much the rest of the week. 

The Firehose is pointed at Utah

In the spirit of Christmas morning, I know some of you guys like to tear through the wrapping paper without looking at the boring card that your weird aunt wrote you, so I’ll give you the juicy stuff right away. Tom’s forecast from yesterday, and our predictions over the past few days remain consistent: it’s going to snow A LOT in the mountains over the next 5 days. It will be warm and windy initially, with very dense snow, and then beginning Tuesday it will get cold, with dry low-density snow falling for the rest of the storm cycle.

Details: The current period is what we call a “storm cycle” where multiple upper level features come through in rapid succession, bringing an extended period of precipitation, with some breaks in between the features.

After tonight’s snowfall winds down in the morning, there will be little or no break and then our main event begins. The wettest period will be Monday through Tuesday morning, with warm temperatures (i.e. rain in the valley) and high winds. During this period we will be under the influence of an Atmospheric River, which is an extremely moist jet extending all the way to the tropics/subtropics. As I mentioned the snow will be dense, Sierra Cement consistency within the Atmospheric River and then become lighter, fluffier powder beginning Tuesday morning as temperatures drop and wind speeds decrease. We then get a cold shortwave trough dropping in sometime late Tuesday/early Wednesday, which will crank the Wasatch snow machine back up with a nice burst of cold, dry snow. I’m thinking 20-40″ of snow from mid day Monday through Wednesday evening for most areas in the northern and central Wasatch. The highest amounts will fall in the Cottonwoods, with the Park City Resorts and the northern Wasatch coming in on the lower end. Also note the snow level on Monday and early Tuesday will likely reach about 6,500 feet, so the lower elevations will see rain during this period.

Edit at 12pm Monday: I would count on the Northern Wasatch doing about as well as the Cottonwoods, so not on the lower end of that 20-40″ range. Likely on the higher end.

The uncertainty grows for the upper-level features after Wednesday, but it looks like a short break and then the final storm of the storm cycle will affect us late Thursdaynight/Friday morning. A strong upper-level trough will move through the Great Basin, but the GFS and EC models differ on the timing and location of the smaller features within the trough though, so the precip amounts vary widely over Utah. Hopefully in another day or two we’ll have a better handle on the last phase of this 5 day extravaganza.

The long range forecast looks fairly dry over the weekend, but the ensembles of both models are depicting a storm coming in early next week. Until then, enjoy the concrete followed by dry powder this week. The skiing should be really good with this “right-side-up” snowfall, and the dense snow that falls early on will be great for building a base and sticking to those rocky areas.

Keep Them Coming

The weather certainly delivered this past week in the Wasatch with most resorts picking up anywhere from 3 to 4 feet of snow.  The low density snow made for some awesome powder days, but has done little to help build up a stable, deep base for the rest of the winter.  The good news is that this stormy pattern looks like it’ll continue for at least the next week and feature some higher density, base building snow.  

Pre Game:   Before that main event from Monday night into Wednesday, a couple quick-moving systems will roll through the region.  The first system will come through tonight into tomorrow morning and drop 4-7” over most of the Wasatch, possibly a little more in the Upper Cottonwoods.  A similar system will come through Sunday night into Monday morning and drop another 4-7” over most of the central and northern Wasatch.  The northern mountains will be favored with this system.  Both of these small systems will be fairly cold, with snow levels near the valley floor.

The Main Event: From Monday night into Wednesday all models are showing an atmospheric river event in Utah.  This event will feature very heavy precipitation, strong winds, and rising snow levels (up to around 7,000 feet).  All models are showing at least 2” of SWE (snow water equivalent), with some predicting up to almost 4”!  It’s early, but it looks like 2-3 feet of snow looks likely in most areas over 7,000 feet in the Wasatch, with possibly more in the Upper Cottonwoods.  With high density snow and strong winds forecasted on our current, unstable snowpack, avalanche conditions will likely be extremely high.  Stay safe and make sure you are fully aware of the avalanche risk before you head out.  

No End In Sight

The title says it all.  Latest model runs indicate this active pattern continuing through at least the next 10 days with the potential for a large amount of snowfall.. Great news for all of you hoping to get some good skiing in over your holiday break! Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s see what you can expect through the weekend. 

Tonight-Saturday Afternoon: Overnight, an embedded short wave trough will move across Northern Utah.  Snow water equivalent is forecasted to be around 0.15″, but with relatively warm temperatures in the mountains and WNW flow, snow ratios should be on the low end. Through Friday morning, it looks like the Cottonwoods, Snowbasin and PowMow could receive 1-3″, a dusting to 1″ at Park City and negligible amounts down south at Sundance.  
Friday night into Saturday, backing winds will become southerly and bring warmer temperatures to the valley and wasatch front ahead of the next system.  The next round of precip could start as early as Saturday evening. 

Late Saturday-Sunday: Another trough will move quickly across nothern Utah.  This system will have a high water content and plenty of energy to dump a decent amount of snow in the Wasatch and northern mountains. Winds will shift from southwesterly and eventually become northwesterly with the frontal passage. My early guess for the Cottonwoods and northern resorts would be a storm total of 10-15″.  5-7″ for Park City as they are not favored as much in northwesterly flow situations. 

Long Term: Utah is primed to reap the benefits of an atmospheric river event early next week.  By definition, this storm will be a wet one.  High liquid equivalent and WNW to NW flow that should keep on cranking for days.  While its too early to forecast precise totals, this storm has the real potential to produce snow to the tune of multiple feet. Don’t worry SLV dwellers, snow levels should be high so we won’t have to deal with the same mess we went through on Monday.

As always, we will keep you updated on the latest. 

Solid Storm!

Mother nature was generous these past two days, dropping up to 2ft in the Cottonwoods, 20” on the benches, and a little under a foot at the Park City resorts.  If you were able to get out, it was great to get those first knee-deep turns of the season.  Note that hidden rocks are still very much a factor (just ask the bottom of my skis), as well as the high avalanche danger throughout Northern Utah.

The big picture: While the center of the longwave trough is now to our east, an embedded shortwave is developing on its northwestern edge.  This shortwave will briefly clip northern Utah Wednesday evening from the northwest.  A ridge and associated warm front will raise resort temperatures Thursday through Saturday, although this does not entirely rule out additional snowfall possibilities.  A relatively weak and unorganized trough is in the forecast for Saturday night, and snowfall totals consequently look slim at this time.  Beyond Saturday, an active pattern looks to keep the snowfall possibilities coming.  

Short term:  Ridge-level temperatures will likely remain in the single digits into Thursday morning with northwesterly flow.  This recipe is favorable for intermittent lake-effect snow, which could sprinkle a few inches here and there depending on who gets lucky.  View these accumlations as a blessing rather than an expectation.  Snowfall looks likely Wednesday night, although only light accumulations are expected.  A few inches could go a long way with how soft the snow is.  

Enjoy the newly-opened terrain courtesy of this week’s storm!


UPDATE: The shortwave impacting northern Utah Wednesday night will bring much more snowfall than previously expected.  Wednesday night thru Thursday morning totals: 6-10 inches in the Cottonwoods and northern Wasatch, 3-6 inches for the Park City resorts.

Check back tonight for an additional, detailed update.

And its still falling…

Well, it has been a good storm. It probably isn’t exactly what most forecasters were expecting but I don’t think any skiers will complain too much.  The benches have gotten pounded. 22 inches in Cottonwood Heights and the Bountiful Bench.  The Oquirrhs, particularly the mid-elevations have gotten 2 feet or more as well.  Snowbasin got a foot. Alta-Collins is up to 16 inches including an unbelievable 8″ of snow from only 0.24″ water.  That is less than 3% fluff.  It doesnt get any fluffier than that.  It also doesn’t keep you off the rocks, but we will ignore that for the moment.  

While the storm isn’t over yet, it looks like Ansley’s forecast from yesterday is shaping up nicely. If anything we will have ended up underestimating. I don’t think anyone called for such big valley totals.  Hope all you jib kids got out to the Rail Garden today.

There is still quite a bit of excitement left. Showers are continuing over the valleys and the mountains Monday night under cold northwesterly flow. With such flows lake effect precip is always a question.  I give it a moderate chance of happening. If it does happen the flow will probably be too northerly to hit any ski areas.  Mainly the west side of the Salt Lake Valley and the Oquirrhs would be at risk.  Showers of cold fluff will continue in the mountains tomorrow into tomorrow night, when there is again a chance of lake-effect snow. Patterns like this can fool you easily, but here is my best forecast:

From Monday night through Wednesday morning I expect the Cottonwoods to see another 5-10 inches, with 2-5″ on the Park City side. Snowbasin and Pow Mow will see 4-8″.  

Looking further out, another weak trough may keep shower activity going into Thursday in areas favored by northwest with maybe some more minor accumulations. Ridging and realtively dry conditions look to move in after that, although I expect that this could change since we arent far from the precip.  The next storm in the GFS looks to be early next week.

Deep Powder on the Way

If you look at Tom’s post yesterday, the models were indicating a good storm headed our way, and they continue to look good today. The model solutions continue to indicate a favorable large-scale setup, favorable wind direction, and favorable temperature evolution for our first good, classic, deep-powder day of the season. 

Sunday will be warm and breezy, and winds will keep the temp balmy overnight. The action starts early Monday morning with a strong cold front blasting through the area, with heavy precip beginning in earnest and temperatures rapidly dropping. The snow level will quickly drop to the valley floor. Heavy snowfall accumulating in the valley on Monday morning…should be a fun commute!

No one really has any business working on such a beautiful, snowy day though, so I’ll get back to the forecast for the Wasatch. Following the burst of heavy precipitation with the cold front on Monday morning, an extended period of cold, moist Northwesterly flow sets up, and the snow will continue to stack up through Tuesday night. Here’s what I’m going with for accumulations for Monday morning through Tuesday night.

Upper Cottonwoods and PowMow: 12-24″, Northern Wasatch: 10-20″, Park City resorts: 8-16″

Light snow may linger overnight Tuesday, and then it looks like we will have another storm arriving on Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Right now it looks like a pretty minor event under a “dirty ridge” pattern, but we’ll take it!

Early Work Week Powder?

The front that rolled through last night dropped about 4-6” of snow in only a few hours over most of the northern and central Wasatch.  It looks like Big Cottonwood Canyon was the winner with Brighton reporting 7”, while Snowbird and Alta, up Little Cottonwood, reported 5”.  This made for a nice day on the slopes and allowed for a lot of resorts to start dropping the ropes on some new terrain.

This weekend will features cold, windy conditions with intermittent snow showers in the mountains.  Accumulations look minimal, if any, but any snow shower that developes could drop a quick inch or two.

I’m sure that by now most of you have heard about the strong storm forecasted to impact the region Monday and into Tuesday.  Now that we are less than 72 hours out and most models are in agreement, confidence has dramatically increased.  The cold front will sweep through the region Sunday night and drop 6”+ in most areas of Wasatch.  The difference with this system, as opposed to all of the previous storms this year, is that once the front passes through we will be left with a cold, moist northwesterly flow.  This will allow for continued precipitation in the mountains through Tuesday.  If all goes as planned, we should be looking at storm totals of 12-18” in the Upper Cottonwoods with slightly lesser amounts in Park City and the far northern Wasatch.  

Playing Catch Up

To say I’m excited for snow is an understatement! The last semi-decent storm I can recall was over 2 weeks ago around Thanksgiving. We’ve yet to see any truly significant storms, and because of this the snowpack in Northern Utah has fallen well below normal. Snowbird and many other Snotel sites are currently reading at only 60% of normal (SWE)… it feels like Déjà vu from last year. Fortunately, its’ been colder than it was this time last year (despite the warm past few days) allowing for more snowmaking and less snowpack melting. And the good news: over the next 5-7 days we’ll be in the most favorable pattern for snow we’ve seen so far this year! The big story will be “2 main storms”, Thursday night and Monday, bracketed by an overall cold/moist period from tonight through mid- next week.

 The first storm will be moving into our area by this evening (Thursday). Expect strong pre-frontal winds followed by a frontal passage and a short-lived burst of heavy precipitation. Right now it looks like most areas will only see about a 6-hour window for precipitation, mostly associated with the front and just behind it. For continuity I’ll stick with Taylor’s forecast for 5-9” for the Cottonwoods (3-6” elsewhere). If I had to place bets on whether we’re more likely to fall in the lower or upper end of forecasted ranges, (Sorry!!) it looks like the lower end is more likely due to the short precipitation duration. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, though!

 Things should quickly shutoff overnight. While we’ll be in a cold and somewhat unstable environment, flow/forcing will be very weak. Thus, any lingering snow showers will be isolated with minimal additional accumulations. This overall pattern will continue through Saturday, though a weak disturbance could slightly enhance snow showers.

 By Sunday we will rapidly move into warm air advection ahead of the next storm. Models differ on the amount of precipitation in response to the warm air advection – EURO gives us very little if any while the GFS would indicate at least a modest chance during the afternoon. Any snow that falls, however, will be dense due to the warmer temperatures.

Overnight Sunday and into Monday the next storm moves into the picture. While I’ll avoid too many details since this is still beyond the “3 day certainty” range, things are looking good and this is the period I’m really excited about. Most models indicate an even colder/stronger slower moving storm, something we haven’t seen in quite some time. Also, it looks like there’s a decent possibility of a prolonged moist northwesterly flow! I’ll let the other forecasters get into more details in the coming days.