Building the Base

A couple of us went up to Snowbird for the second half of the day and had a surprisingly awesome time on the slopes.  The snow started around 12:30PM and came down hard the rest of the day.  By the time we left there was already 4-5 new inches of snow on the ground.  We posted some pictures and videos of today’s snow on our twitter account (@utahskiweather).  Most resorts in the Wasatch will pick up another 3-5 inches tonight.  Those looking for some pre-Thanksgiving powder turns should be able to find them tomorrow morning.

The upper-level low thats gave us the today’s snow will stick around for a couple more days.  Expect on and off snow showers at all of the resorts in northern Utah through Saturday.  Any one of these snow showers could drop an inch or two snow.

The two major global models (GFS and ECMWF) continue to show an active pattern in in the western US for the next couple weeks – let’s hope one of these systems is able to deliver us our first major storm of the year.   

Storm’s A Comin’

High clouds have spread across our area today along with gusty winds at ridgeline ahead of an upper level low near the Oregon coast. Southerly flow will continue as the low approaches our area tomorrow from the west, and starting around lunch time we should begin to see pre-frontal precipitation in the mountains. Given the setup I wouldn’t be surprised if the best pre-frontal precipitation is in the Oquirrhs. By mid-late afternoon the front will be knockin on our doorstep and associated precipitation will quickly increase along the Central and Northern Wasatch. My best guess for max snowfall rates is from late afternoon (around or just before lifts stop spinning) until around midnight. Things will then begin to taper off Thursday AM as a dry slot punches into Northern Utah from the SW. Beyond Thursday models are in fair agreement showing the upper level low cutting off and meandering around the region for a couple days. This could help maintain at least a slight chance for snow showers through the weekend.


Snowfall Totals:

Overall, a quick look at most model guidance yields about .4 – .6” of liquid precipitation (SWE or QPF for weather gurus) across the Wasatch in Northern Utah through Thursday PM. The highest amounts unsurprisingly showing up in the higher resolution models. The flow direction isn’t favorable for preferential orographic enhancement in the Cottonwoods, and I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the far Northern resorts outperforms the Cottonwoods. One thing going for this storm, however, will be the cold temperatures (700 mb temperatures < -10 Celsius and ratios ~15:1 – 20:1) – thus it won’t take a lot for snowfall totals to quickly pile up. All this being said, I’m expecting 6 – 12 inches for the Cottonwoods and resorts in the Northern Wasatch (Snowbasin, PowMow, Beaver Mntn) and 4 – 8 inches in Park City (slightly lower amounts for Sundance). Probably your best bet for fresh pow is first thing Thanksgiving morning. And remember, while it may look really nice off trail, be careful of those hidden treasures (rocks)!

Stuffing, Skiing, and More Snow!

Happy Monday!   I hope everyone was able to get out this past weekend and enjoy the beautiful, late-November weather!  Coming from Oklahoma, I still can’t believe that I was able to ski on Friday, then hike in City Creek canyon on Saturday in a t-shirt.  Gotta love these western winters.  Well, except for the awful visibility we are experiencing today in the valley thanks to the strong, surface-based inversion that has built in.

As Ian mentioned in his post, this pattern is looking quite similar to the one we forecasted for just a week ago.   With the holiday approaching and some precious days off work, I know all of you would be thankful for a few inches of fresh powder to shred… Let’s see what we have to work with.


Synopsis: Mild, pleasant weather expected for northern Utah through Tuesday with highs in the mid-50’s and a southerly wind.  A weak, upper-level short-wave trough may increase southwesterly flow on Tuesday, but won’t result in anything as far as precipitation is concerned.  On Wednesday, the weather becomes more interesting.  The latest model guidance seems to be agreeing on a slower progression of the impending cold front that will bring frigid temperatures to the valley on Wednesday evening.  This slower progression will allow for the possibility of a longer duration snowfall on Wednesday afternoon. This deep upper-level trough appears to have enough energy (relative vorticity for you weather weenies), but the availability of sufficient low-level moisture may be the restricting factor on a truly epic snowstorm.  This cut-off low appears to want to meander around the Great Basin through the weekend, so there is definite potential for lingering snowfall.

Early Snowfall Projections: Forecasts change everyday as new information becomes available, so I think I am going to deviate from Ian’s forecast a bit.  I think this storm should be good for at the very least, 6 inches in the upper Cottonwoods through Thursday, with it being a little too early to determine an upper-limit.  I am going to give Park City and northern resorts a similar forecast, though I would knock the lower snowfall limit down to about 4 inches.   Trey should have a better handle on the mesoscale impacts tomorrow and will give you a stellar forecast, I’m sure of it!


Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving holiday!

Open Trails and Sunny Skies

Temperatures will increase over the next few days ahead of our next chance for snowfall.  A deep trough will bring snow and cold temperatures to Utah Tuesday night into Wednesday, with valley temperatures likely reaching teens by the end of next week.  At this time, the models are showing a large spread of snowfall possibilies, but most resorts will likely see several inches.  Whether it nukes or not, if you’re anything like me then it’s blatantly obvious that the legs could use some more early season conditioning. 

Disappointing Totals

Snow has ended over Utah by Friday night and the snow totals came in well under our expectations. Snowbasin was the winner with 5″. Park City is reporting 4″ and the Cottonwoods got less than 3″. Saturday through Monday look to be depressingly warm and dry. The air in the Salt Lake Valley might get a little hazy, too. Not a good skier forecast. Right now there is a deep trough and an associated cold front that is progged to move into Utah next Tuesday. However, precipitation amounts out of the storm look. I wouldn’t worry about that too much at the moment though.  More reliable will be the arrival of very cold temps with that storm. 

Despite the unfavorable forecast, the resorts are open and there is snow on th ground. And it’s Utah, so we will always get it eventually. 

Keep ’em Comin’

The weather was not ideal for Brighton’s opening today, but at least it looked and felt like winter with snow flurries falling and cold temperatures. The current disturbance overhead will clear out tonight, and we’ll see a brief break tomorrow before another system moves in tomorrow evening. That storm should be fairly warm, but will bring us some accumulating snow before it departs on Friday morning…just in time for opening day at Snowbird and Alta.

Details: the clouds will clear a bit this evening, and will then increase again tomorrow morning ahead of an approching shortwave trough, which will pass to our north late Thursday/early Friday and actaully warm our temperatures as it approaches. It will pass close enough to bring a shot of snowfall to the northern and central Wasatch. Temperatures will cool briefly behind it, before warming for the weekend.

Snowfall: expect 4-8″ for the northern Wasatch resorts, 1-4″ for the PC area, and 4-8″ for the upper Cottonwoods for the Thursday night-Friday morning timeframe.

Long Range: after Friday’s storm clears out, the weather will be beautiful for the weekend. Sunny, warm, and great for skiing the limited terrain at the resorts, or getting out for a hike or bike ride. For those that actually consider that to be horrible weather, I have some good news. Early-to-mid next week we have a pretty good chance of a big upper-level trough carving out over the Great Basin, and bringing us snowfall and VERY cold temperatures. While the details of this may change as the event gets closer, I think we are just over the threshold where I can say with some confidence that we’re in for a big pattern change. We’ll be keeping a very close eye on this event.

Things Are Looking Good

Slowly but surely, the snow pack has been building in the Wasatch.  Most stations near 9500ft in Little Cottonwood Canyon report a snow depth of around 2’.  Opening day at most resorts is just a few days away – Brighton opens tomorrow, Alta and Snowbird open Friday, and PCMR opens Saturday!  Considering that most of the snow that has fallen this season has been fairly low-density, we’ll likely need to add at least another foot of snow in most places before the natural snowpack is ready for skiing.

Short Term:  Over the next several days, we’ll be under the influence of a moist, northwest flow, as a couple shortwaves dig in from the north.  The first shortwave will come through tonight and into tomorrow.  It should drop around 2-3″ from the northern Wasatch down into the Upper Cottonwoods and a dusting to an inch in Park City and the southern resorts.  Another shortwave will enter the region Thursday night and persist into Friday morning.  There’s still some uncertainty with this system, but it has the potential to drop several inches in the Wasatch.  These types of systems sometimes surprise us on the upper end, so watch carefully.  

Long Term:  The long range forecast is starting to look very interesting.  Confidence is building that a strong trough will sweep through the region around Thanksgiving Day.  Both the GFS and ECMWF show this trough coming through with very cold weather for the entire region behind it.  Obviously we are way too far out to pin-point details, but the potential is there for a sizeable storm.  Stay tuned and enjoy opening weekend on the slopes!

Solid Storm..When’s the next?

All things considered we can’t complain too much about this storm. Taking a quick look at Taylor’s forecast, totals appear to have verified pretty well AND on the upper end – which is always welcomed especially this time of year! While the storm didn’t give us the very high liquid water equivalents we like to see for “base building”, Snowbird and Alta have around a foot of fresh snow and even other resorts did pretty well with 9″ at PCMR. The exceptions being the more northern resorts (Snowbasin and PowMow); looks like they got skunked with the Northern Wasatch right on the edge of the precipitation.

Moving forward it looks like we’ll remain in a somewhat moist northwesterly flow. A break’s on tap tomorrow, but it looks like another shortwave trough/impulse embedded in the northwesterly flow will bring a chance for snow showers to the mountains on Wednesday. Overall, models agree that the shortwave will be weakening and tracking generally north of our area. I wouldn’t rule out the possiblity for a couple inches, however, and sometimes these shortwaves in northwesterly flow can surprise us.

Looking ahead into the late week timeframe, models are much more uncertain. GFS shows a more favorable solution for precipitation in the Wasatch with a weak frontal boundary stalling out over our region – combined with northwesterly flow and weak shortwaves embedded, this would give us at least some continued chances of mountain snow through the weekend. The European, on the other hand, maintains this front farther north keeping most of the precipitation in Idaho and Wyoming. Something we’ll have to keep our eyes on and fingers crossed for opening weekend.

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

As promised, this system will bring significant snowfall, just maybe not the highest amounts in the areas we were hoping for. A “splitting” low pressure system will make its way across Utah, driving the highest expected snowfall amounts towards south central portions of the state. The cold front associated with this system will cause temperatures to fall to and below freezing, where they will remain for the next 48 hours.  Temperatures should recover to near 50 in the valley by Wednesday afternoon. 

Timing & Details: Pre-frontal snow will begin falling in the valley and mountain ranges overnight. Lake effect doesn’t appear to be a possibility with winds out of the Southwest through the early morning.  A northwesterly wind shift will occur around 4-5 am as the front moves across the state. As mentioned, this will be a very cold system with 700 mb temperatures (mountain crest level) will be hovering around -11 degrees Celsius (12 degrees Fahrenheit). 

Snowfall Totals: Being 5 days out from the opening day of ski season, I wanted it to dump in the Cottonwoods as much as the next person, but that seems less likely given the splitting system. The valley is expected to accumulate 1-2″, Northern Utah ranges are looking at 3-6″, Cottonwoods could see 6-10″, and the highest totals of 8-12″ in south central Utah through Wednesday. 

The latest GFS run is hinting towards another chance for the good stuff on Saturday.  The Utah Ski Weather team will keep you posted as the details become more clear.  Enjoy the week knowing that in a matter of days the best time of the year will be upon us!

Monday Funday

Like last week, this weekend should be relatively warm and sunny under prefrontal southerly flow that will strengthen into Sunday.  A cold front associated with an upper level trough is expected to pass through the area late Sunday night / early Monday morning, with snow levels likely reaching the valley floor.  There is some uncertainty with this system regarding its potential to split, which may affect snowfall totals.  That said, both GFS and ECMWF suggest we should see at least a few inches early next week for the higher elevations of northern Utah.  Check back this weekend for a more detailed storm update.