Dust on Crust

A storm is cranking up this afternoon in southern Utah, and the scraps from this system are impacting northern Utah and the Wasatch with occasional light snow falling through tomorrow morning.

These scraps on the edge of the storm/moisture are rather difficult to predict, but I am going to go with a forecast of 2-4″ for the upper Cottonwoods, with amounts rapidly decreasing to a dusting as you move north toward Snowbasin and PowMow. Snow levels will likely be around 6,500 feet. As Ian mentioned, our friends down at Brian Head look to do quite well today/tonight, with a storm total of 8-12″. So although we aren’t expecting much in the Wasatch, at least someone is gonna get some good powder turns this weekend.

The storm will make a hasty exit tomorrow, and a brief low-amplitude ridge will build in through Monday. This ridge will likely break down a bit on Tuesday and Wednesday, allowing some moisture, lift, and precip into northern Utah. This “dirty ridge” setup is quite precarious though, as a slight shift in the postition can make a huge difference in who gets snow or not, so the details are still up in the air at this point. Another day of model consistency and a tightening of the ensemble spread will allow for a better idea of whether this will be a decent storm for us, or if it will go down as yet another “brush the Wasatch, dump on the Tetons” situation.

Keep doing those snow dances!


Deja Vu and Desperation

The quick hitting storm from the south on Tuesday night / Wednesday AM actually provided decent totals around 5 inches for Pow Mow and Snowbasin where a mesoscale band was able to form. Farther south in the Cottonwoods and PC area, resorts didn’t fare as well topping out at only an inch or 2.

I’ve had some serious deja vu writting blog updates the past few weeks…I guess that’ll happen when you’re stuck in a crappy pattern with nothing new or exciting to report on. Out of desperation I’ll try to give every one a little hope..bust desperate hope usually isn’t a good thing..I’ll get to that in a sec.

Another storm will brush Northern Utah from the south on Friday. Southern Utah looks to be the big winners as a shortwave trough / upper level low moves east southeast across the region. A prolonged period of light – moderate precipitation will impact the four corners region and I’d expect 6 inches + at resorts like Brian Head who desperately need the snow. For Northern Utah the primary ascent will be just to the south meaning we likely won’t see any significant precipitation. PC and Cottonwood Resorts may see a couple inches of snow through Saturday but no “pow day” to speak of. Resorts farther north likely won’t see more than a dusting at best.

Moving into the beginning of next week we move into a more zonal flow followed by a transition into NW’ly flow. Several weak disturbances will affect the region, but uncertainty remains too high to know just how much they’ll impact Nrn Utah. The GFS and EC currently are not giving us big totals and keep the “sweet spot” a few hundred miles to the north. Time for the “desperation” I mentioned above. While several EC Ensembles aren’t exactly showing us in the sweet spot, they are at least giving us some modest snowfall. The Canadian Model (or Crazy Uncle as we like to call it when forecasting hurricanes in the tropics), however, shifts that sweet spot directly overhead and hits us pretty good as several disturbances move through the NW’ly flow. Right now obviously you have to go with consensus (GFS and EC) for marginal snow totals at best. There is at least potential, as small as it may be, for some “real snow” again. Don’t count on it, but hopefully models trend in this direction in the next few days and the others will have better news to report!  

Anyone else in a bad mood?

First things first: The trough that is currently to our west will continue to drift north and east tonight.  No measurable snow has fallen in the Wasatch today and I am going to stick with Matt L’s forecast from yeserday of 2-5 inches tonight.  The snow should be over by noon tomorrow.  Storm total: 2-5 inches.  Sigh.  Did I mention is will be mostly rain below 6500′?  We can’t catch a break this year.  But hey, you could live in Washington.  At least our snow doesn’t get washed away by rain. 

The models are fairly consistent now on another trough digging a bunch of moisture up from low latitudes and pushing it in to Utah on Friday.  Moisture, orographic lift, and dynamic lift with this system will be meager, so it won’t add up to much.  I am thinking another 2-4 inches in the Cottonwoods and Park City with less further north. Snow levels will be near 6500′ again. We will be on the northern fringe of this storm so don’t try to escape to the desert this weekend due to the marginal skiing.  You might get rained on unless you are just down there on Sunday.

The long range forecast looks relatively dry, although there is some dim hope for somw snow next Tuesday or Wednesday.

A Storm on the Way

Alright! I am pleased to see that the models have been in reasonable agreement for a while now, so I can put some faith in what I’m seeing as far as a (modest) storm coming our way this week.

First, a brief mention of today’s conditions. I got out for a great tour today in Big Cottonwood, and found pretty variable conditions…wind board in places, a sun crust on the sunnier aspects, and some recrystalized powder in the shady spots up high. Not amazing, but it was still great to be out on the big peaks though. The temps have been great for comfortable skiing lately.

As far as the forecast is concerned, I have some bad news for tomorrow before we can talk about the upcoming storm. In short, we’re all going to get baked tomorrow and Monday…and I’m not talking about any products from Colorado. It’s going to get really warm in the Wasatch. Near record temps in the mountains on Monday. Normally, a January warm spell like this, due to the low sun angle and radiational cooling at the snowpack surface, will not destroy the high north-facing snow. However I am worried about what looks to be a continuation of today’s ridgetop clouds for tomorrow. This would very effectively radiate the atmospheric warmth down to the snowpack (a process known as “greenhousing”). I also worry that this isn’t your typical January warm spell…we’ll be near record territory on Monday. So, I guess we’ll have a crust to deal with in most spots as we hopefully break this dry spell.

Now on to the good stuff. Tuesday evening will see some precip beginning to work into our area, and it should last through late Wednesday. It’s a little early, but I’m thinking 3-7″ for the upper Cottonwoods would be  reasonable, and snow levels look to be somewhere around 6,500ft for most of the event. I’ll be curious to see what Jeff goes for tomorrow though, as he has thus-far outforecasted me this season.

Looking our further, the models have another storm affecting us late-week, although more precip will likely fall the further south you go from the Wasatch. Still looks like we’ll get something though, and it bears watching. We’ll keep you updated.

A Quiet Week

Not much for me to add to what Trey said yesterday, as there is little change in the forecast for the next week.

As Trey had called for, there is some light snow falling across the far northern Bear River range this evening, with an inch or two likely to fall before things clear out tomorrow. Looks like we’ll have some clouds around tomorrow, but then skies will be mainly sunny for the rest of the week. Temperatures will also remain on the cool side, keeping the snow relatively fresh compared to some of the other dry spells we’ve had this year.

Another bright spot to consider: despite what we may call a “disappointing” winter here in Utah so far, the Big/Little Cottonwood resorts still have some of the deepest snowpacks of any resort in the Continental U.S. right now. Seriously! Alta is right around 70″ at mid mountain, with Brighton reporting 58″.  Crystal Mountain (WA) reports 45″ at the TOP, Big Sky (MT) has 34″ mid mountain, Arizona Snowbowl (AZ) 32″, Squaw Valley (CA) 34″, and Vail (CO) checks in at 39″. Only the Tetons have as much or more snow than us right now, with Jackson Hole sitting at 68″ mid mountain.

Just thought I’d add that little tidbit to keep all you powderhounds from getting too restless this week 🙂

Not much but Still skis well

Despite only getting a couple inches Friday night conditions are still quite good on the mountain (at least in the Cottonwoods). The snow’s skiing well on and off groomed trails for the most part. I’d imagine conditions have been solid in the far northern Wasatch (Beaver Mountain) as well with over 5 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours. 

Looking ahead, we’re currently stuck in a pattern of large scale ridging with several embedded WEAK disturbances or shortwave troughs “rounding the top of the ridge” (and primarily just grazing Northern Utah). A weak shortwave is moving across Idaho and far Northern Utah tonight. Based on radar trends Beaver Mountain will probably get a dusting and possibly even areas slightly farther south. Regardless, though, no substantial accumulations are expected. A slightly stronger shortwave trough will move through the region overnight Sunday and through Monday. Accumulations with this subsequent trough also look fairly minimal in Northern Utah. The far North will once again do better with a few inches of snow expected. We might be able to squeeze out an inch or 2 farther south in the Cottonwoods but don’t expect much. If you want some good powder skiing go north.. resorts up near Jackson Hole will do quite well with totals likely over a FOOT. Although these disturbances are weak and not contributing much towards the snowpack in Utah, at the very least they’re helping mix out valley inversions.  

Looking longer term another shortwave trough will move through Utah around Wednesday, however, things also look dry with this feature at this time, and it’ll likely just cool things down / mix out inversions. Right now the models aren’t indicating any kind of big storms in the next 7 days. For those grasping at anything, a few ensemble members indicate a potential trough and precip late next week.

Can you call them storms?

Over the next 5 days Utah will primarily be on the downstream side of ridge that is going to set up camp over the Pacific coast.  This will put us in gererally westerly or northwesterly flow.  Current model runs have 3 distinct but weak shortwave troughs rippling along the top of the ridge.  Matt L. mentioned two of them yesterday (Friday night, Sunday) and there is currently a third on Monday.  I hesitate to even call them storms, but each will bring the possibility of light snow.  As is often the case with weak systems the details may change, but it is unlikely that any big dumps are gonna happen in the next several days.  Things also look fairly dry beyond Monday. Even the long-range Euro ensemble is producing next to nothing over the next week, so you know its bad.

Ensembles in weather modeling are many different runs of the same model that are each tweaked slightly at the beginning.  Looking at how different each of these model runs is from one another helps give an idea of the uncertainty in a particular situation.  For instance, the surprise dump on Monday was only picked up by a few of the ensemble members, leaving us forecasters to doubt the likelihood of it happening.  But the potential was there, and we just happened to realize it.  A good time to be wrong.

For some actual snowfall numbers, I am thinking 3-6 inches for Snowbasin, PowMow and Beaver by Saturday morning.  2-4 inches in the Cottonwoods, and 1-3 elsewhere.  The Sunday system might add another inch or two.  Too much uncertainty to put number after that, but its mostly dry.  Valley inversions shouldn’t be too bad, though.

If you are jonesing for pow think about heading north to Jackson.  Whenever we are just getting brush-bys to the north it is not uncommon for Jackson to be piling up the snow.  They might be having the best snow year in the United States so far, although snow totals in the Upper Cottonwoods aren’t too far behind.  Right now the snowpack in the mid and upper elevations of the Wasatch is pretty close to average for the date. 


A Pretty Nice Storm

With snow winding down in the mountains (but not completely over), here is  a look at how a few folks fared from this storm:

Alta: 19″

Brighton: 16″

Canyons: 15″

Ben Lomond (Northern Wasatch): 6″


So it was a pretty impressive event, especially when you consider the fact that most of this snow fell in about 10 hours. As I mentioned in my previous post, there were some very heavy snowfall rates during the day today. Not too bad for a storm that looked mediocre in Saturday’s compuer model runs…as I said, if our forecast is gonna bust, I’m glad when it busts on the high side.

Suffice to say, the skiing is going to be quite good at the PC resorts and in the Cottonwoods tomorrow. Snow showers will taper off through the day, with additional light accumulations. Temperatures will be comfortable, and winds will be light. Then for the rest of the week, the dreaded ridge returns. This means warm temperatures in the mountains, and inversions in the valleys.

Long Term: there is a lot of uncertainty in the models after Saturday. The GFS and Euro have trended toward not giving us a storm in the early-week timeframe, but this doesn’t mean much at this point. I have faith that we’ll get something during that period.


In the social media world these days, some of the ski areas like to throw around the hashtag “#nuketown”. I’ve been in some pretty incredible snowfall rates in my day, so I try to save hyperbolic statements like “it’s NUKING out there” for times when it is truly snowing as hard as it can possibly snow.

This morning, however, it has truly been NUKING in the Upper Cottonwoods.

Our University of Utah Department of Atmospheric Science site in Albion Basin recorded 3-4″ of snow in ONE HOUR! Storm total now sits at 9″.

So the question then becomes: how badly is my forecast of 7-14″ for the Cottonwoods going to bust? With this much snow having fallen already, we won’t need much more to get past 14″.

A storm total of 14-20″ seems more reasonable, with 10-14″ for the PC side. The forecast for the Northern Wasatch still seems on track.

Sorry about the forecast bust, but hopefully no one is complaining about extra snow!

Storm Update

The forecast is still largely on track, but I’m gonna go ahead and bump up Ian’s numbers. As the resident pesimist at USW, Ian likes to keep it a bit low (I guess it is better to have storms exceed your expectations, than vice-versa), but I really have felt good about the model solutions for most of the day today.

The timing of heaviest snow still looks to be tomorrow late morning through late evening, with snow tapering off by Tuesday morning. I expect 7-14″ for the Cottonwoods, with 6-12″ for the Northern Wasatch, and 5-10″ on the PC side.

So it looks like the skiing should be decent on Tuesday morning IF the forecast verifies on the high side of our numbers…I think 7″ on the current hardpack wouldn’t be quite enough for powder day type conditions. The snow will be of moderate density though, so this should help keep your skis off the bottom better than low density powder. Winds also look to be relatively light, so this will make for good skiing.

Long Term: another ridge settles in after this storm, with warm mountain temps and valley inversions. The good news though, is that it looks like a storm is in the works for the upcoming weekend.