One Week, Two Storms, & Many Happy Skiers

I know you all are dying to know the latest on the impending storms, so lets cut right to the chase.

The forecasted high temperature today in the valley today is 60 degrees (what?!). 20 degrees above normal for this time of year! Though, later this evening, the winds will pick up and the temperatures will drop quickly.  A short wave bringing a quick pulse of energy is forecasted to quickly move across Northern Utah tonight.  Light rain and possibly snow along the benches should continue into the early morning.  The higher elevations could receive a dusting to 1-2″.  Now getting to the good stuff

First Round: Tomorrow evening the Salt Lake Valley should experience a frontal passage right around 5-6pm (00 UTC Friday).  Most of the snow that falls will be of the post-frontal variety. There isn’t an excessive amount of moisture with this system, but wind will be from the NW and crest level temps are low (-10 to -11C) so snow to liquid ratios will be high.  I feel confident in forecasting 5-9″ for the Cottonwoods through Friday, but as always, I’d be happy with more!

Second Round: This system has less certainty accompanying it since it is approximately 100 hours out from the 12 UTC model runs from this morning.  What seems certain as of now is that sometime Sunday night a second frontal passage will make its way across the state. Snow will begin falling Sunday night and showers should persist as this trough appears to want to stick around through Tuesday. It is still too early produce reasonable snow estimates from this storm, but QPF totals from the GFS and Euro are suggesting the possibility for some great powder days early next week.  We will be able to hammer out some more precise details for you as we head into the weekend. 

Now, just gotta get through humpday and pray for powder.

The Generous Forecasts Continue

The forecast has continued to look very good for the powder hounds.  At this point, ECMWF/GFS/NAM all indicate that a longwave trough will bring snowfall to Utah.  While the details may change over the next 3 days, the heaviest snowfall will likely occur Thursday night in association with the frontal passage.  Conditions on Thursday should be relatively warm and windy.  Some scattered showers may occur before Thursday night, but they won’t amount to much.  There is much more spread in the ensembles after Friday morning, but most show continued accumulation through the weekend.

I am still hesitant to nail down predicted storm totals 3+ days out, but the models suggest we can start getting excited.  The Euro model and all GFS ensembles indicate that we should see around a foot at higher elevations before the weekend, with weekend accumulations likely.  To add to the good news, the long-range forecast shows yet another trough in the works for next week.

If this post seems similar to Matt’s post yesterday, that’s because it is and we should all be excited about that!  Model consistency is a wonderful thing.

A Promising Outlook

Let me get right to what every one wants to know.  After 4 more days of dryness and brush-bys, a significant storm system looks set to enter Utah Thursday afternoon. I wouldn’t yet say it is a slam dunk, but it is looking better than many of our recent storms. Virtually all the ensemble members of the GFS and Euro model are indicating that an upper-level trough will enter Utah with an associated cold front late Thursday.  They differ however, on the amount of precip that will fall and when.  

This is the kind of storm that can work out well: a dense prefrontal snow period, intense snow with the front, then fluff falling in the cold postfrontal northwesterly flow. Many of the Euro ensemble members are missing significant precip in one or more of these storm phases, so uncertainty is still high on exact phasing and amounts. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see storms totals of over a foot in the upper Cottonwoods by Friday night.

The long-range outlook is about as positive for snow as I have seen it yet this season, too.  A succession of wet troughs dropping out of the Pac NW with relatively cold temps.  Hopefully the upcoming week will be a turning point for this young season. 

Oh, and if you were wondering, conditions between now and late Thursday will be relatively warm and quite windy at times with alternating periods of light snow, overcast and partly cloudy skies. 

Pray for snow!


Dribs and Drabs

This post comes to you all the way from the Olympic Peninisula of Washington, where I am working on ground instruments for a field program. We had over 6″ of rain here yesterday, and many mid-elevation sites will receive >20″ of additional rain over the next week…snow levels will be above 5,000ft, so unfortunately this storm cycle will only be marginally helpful for Northwest skiers (which I guess includes me for the next couple weeks). 

Anyway, you probably want to know about the weather in the Wasatch! Light snow is falling this evening up high, but as Tom said yesterday, this won’t add up to much new snow. We’ll see mainly clear skies Saturday and Sunday with valley inversions strengthening once again. The weather looks great to get some turns in up at the resorts this weekend. The next shot at scouring out that cold air in the valleys with a chance of light snow in the mountains will be Sunday night. Then a slightly stronger storm should bring us a some snow on Tuesday morning.

The long range looks encouraging! I’m thinking we’ll see some decent snow late next week, but this is juuuuust starting to come into the range of semi-reliable model solutions (7 days out), so that’s all I can give you for now. In the meantime, enjoy the sun for me. I won’t be seeing it for a very long time up here.

Patience is a Virtue

While the start to the ski season in Utah hasn’t been great, it hasn’t been awful either.  The snowpack (specifically, the snow water equivalent) for most areas in northern Utah is running about 75% of normal for this time of year.  We experienced a favorable pattern for snow during the first 2/3’s of November, which brought with it many storms.  The majority of these storms split as they crossed northern Utah dropping only modest amount of low density snow.


For the past several days, our weather has been dominated by a strong ridge, which has led to an inversion and build-up of pollution in the valley.  Thankfully, a weak system will cross through the region Friday night and sweep out the inversion.  We don’t expect much snowfall with this system – maybe an inch or two up in the Cottonwoods and a dusting elsewhere.


For the next week the weather will continue to be dominated by the strong ridge that’s currently overhead.  This will lead to continued relatively mild, dry, and sunny conditions.  Fortunately, the long range is starting to look interesting.  Starting late next week all major models show a pattern change and the potential for some substantial storm systems to roll through.  Keep your fingers crossed that one of these breaks right and we get our first major dump of the ski season in the Wasatch!

A Work Week Weather Hiatus

Happy Tuesday Utah Ski Wx readers!


My take on this week is you can either look at this lull in the weather in one of two ways: 
1. The glass half-full approach – A relatively boring weather outlook for the week is a great time to actually put some hours in at the office. Or in my case, study for finals and write that long research paper that I have been putting off.  OR
2. The glass half-empty approach – Be super salty about the lack of snow in the short-term forecast.  

Hopefully you chose the first choice, cause come on, we live in UTAH.  Its GOT to dump soon, right?

Short-Term Forecast: As mentioned, this weeks weather looks rather uneventful thanks to an upper-level ridge building in.  This pattern will bring stable, quiescent conditions to northern Utah until at least Friday.  This ridge should also cause the first real persisting, multi-day inversion (yucky, stagnant air) to the valley and surrounding areas. Luckily, mid-day on Friday, a shortwave trough will move into N. Utah, which will bring cooler temperatures and slight chances of snow.  This short little impulse of energy shouldn’t be a huge snow-maker, but the northwesterly flow shift on Saturday morning should irradicate our inversion.  It’s early, but it looks like the Cottonwoods will receive 1-2″ through Saturday with the rest of the northern Utah resorts getting an inch or less.

Long-Term Forecast: Out in the far reaches of the model time scales (~9-10 days, or what I like to call la-la land) the GFS and ECMWF are producing a solution where a long-wave trough moves into our area around mid-week next week.  Might it be our first real “big storm” of the season?  We’ll keep an eye on it for you 🙂 

A Calm Week Ahead

Hopefully everyone was able to get a few turns in the soft stuff this past weekend.  Utah’s last chance for snowfall from this trough will have passed come Monday afternoon, but the cold temperatures will linger through Tuesday.  A ridge will bring significantly warmer temperatures aloft through the work week, which will stabilize the atmosphere and suppress the dispersion of valley pollution.  The higher elevations of Utah may have a chance for at least some snowfall next weekend, but current model runs aren’t being very generous.

Out of the Freezer Soon

Snow showers Friday night and Saturday added up to an inch or 3 in most mountain locations. Temperatures remain quite cold as well as the cut-off low continues to sit over Utah.

As the cut-off starts to move out it will bring one more round of light showers tomorrow with continued cold temperatures. Accumulations will total 0-3 inches of fluff. By Monday afternoon the low will be mostly east of Utah and temperatures will be significantly warmer.

Unfortunately, the model guidance is still indicating a relatively high amplitude ridge over Utah for the work week. This pattern will leave us warm, dry and sunny in the mountains. The valleys will begin to get a little hazy as well. Inversion season is here.  

From the climatological perspective, so far the southern tier of the West is doing well relative to average while the northern tier is lagging behind average. Utah is somewhere in the middle. It is probably a little premature to say this, but that is about what you would expect from El Nino, which has now become the strongest on record. However, the deepest US snowpack right now is in the North Cascades, including Mt Baker Ski Area.

Bundle Up

Hope everyone survived Black Friday madness, or like me, avoided it altogether. If you’re planning to hit the slopes this weekend be sure to bring the extra layers. With a cold upper level low entrenched over Utah expect a couple more days of the coldest weather thus far this season. Fortunately, because of this upper level low we’re also still in a somewhat unsettled weather pattern. A vorticity maximum currently to our east associated with this low and has been bringing snow showers to the Grand Junction area in NW Colorado. Because the upper level low center is just to the west/southwest of Northern Utah this means that vorticity max will rotate into Northern Utah overnight and early tomorrow (with our flow direction primarily from the east/southeast). Light precipitation will overspread the Wasatch and with very low densities (20:1) I wouldn’t be surprised if some locations picked up at least a couple inches by the end of tomorrow.


Overnight Saturday will be a brief break before a second round of snow showers will affect Northern Utah Sunday PM – early Monday. Beyond Monday the upper level low finally begins to move east and things will quickly warm back up. Quiet conditions will prevail for much of the work week until another trough approaches by late week. Hopefully this will be our next shot for precipitation, but it’s still 6 days out so that remains to be seen.

A Lingerer

Like a Thanksgiving guest that can’t seem to take a hint, the cold upper-level trough over the western U.S. that brought us yesterday’s snow continues to spin and linger over the region. As Tom mentioned, small scale impulses within the trough will bring us off and on snow showers over the next few days…so I guess this would be a welcome guest? Although I wouldn’t expect more than a dusting to a couple inches through Saturday. Anyway, the trough finally lifts out to the east late Sunday/early Monday, and this will likely be the most productive period of snow showers for us. Temperatures will remain very cold through the entire period, and with the addition of light winds, any snow that falls will be very low density (blower powder).

Long Range: the EC and GFS both indicate that after a brief (and small) warmup, more storm action could be knocking on our door late week, but it’s too early to determine whether we’ll get clipped, missed, or a direct hit. All are possible, so hopefully we’ll have a better handle on this in the next day or two.