Storm on the Way

There is pretty good agreement amongst the models that the first real snow of the season will arrive in the Wasatch on Thursday. Can I get a hallelujah?!?! Before you get too excited though, I should mention that I don’t see this storm bringing us *quite* enough snow to get real skiing in the backcountry. I know that a lot of you are more than happy to shred 6″ of snow on the grassy slopes though, so this may do it for you!

Timing: Snow should begin in the Northern Utah mountains on Thursday morning, and end by early Friday morning. So this should be a quick hitter.

Snowfall: The main energy will be to our south and the flow direction is not ideal for a big dump in the Cottonwoods, or many of the Wasatch resorts, but the storm has decent ascent to work with, so I’ll go with 4-8″ in favored areas like Powder Mountain and the Cottonwoods, and 3-6″ for other areas.

Snow Level: 6,500-7,500ft

Next Storm: Early next week. It could be a decent storm, but it looks like most of the energy may dive south of us. Keep your fingers crossed, and we’ll keep you updated.

Finally Fall

After a long stretch of having to use my A/C at night the past few weeks (overnight lows were typically what we would see in July!), it FINALLY feels like fall in the Wasatch this morning. An upper-level trough dropped into Utah last night, and brought some much needed rain and even snow above about 10,500ft in the Wasatch.

So after a glorious summer of river trips, trail running, mountain biking, and climbing, it’s about time for us here at Utah Ski Weather to start shaking the cobwebs off our snow forecasting skills and prepare for the ski season! We…well at least most of us…have made good progress over the summer on our thesis and dissertation research here at the Atmospheric Sciences Department at the U, so we are once again recharged and ready for another season of bringing you all high quality snow forecasts for the Wasatch!

That being said, you may be wondering, “will we finally have a normal or above-normal winter?” It’s been 4 very long years since this happened.

Well as you may have heard, it’s a virtual certainty that El Niño conditions will be present this winter, and confidence is increasing that it will be a strong El Niño. So what does this mean for Northern Utah? Unfortunately not very much. Strong El Niño years typically mean a high chance of a wet winter in the Southwestern U.S. and a high chance of a dry winter in the Pacific Northwest, but Northern Utah is of course in neither of those regions. Southern Utah (I’m looking at you, Brian Head) looks like they have a decent shot at a good winter though. If you take a look at the NWS Climate Prediction Center’s 3-month precipitation forecast, you’ll see that they made their forecast based primarily on the forcing from El Niño (there are many other oscillations that affect global weather patterns), and that the Wasatch is indeed in the region between high chances of above normal and high chances of below normal. Fight the temptation to conclude that that means we’ll have an average winter…it just means that there is no predictability this winter for Utah. It’s a total crap-shoot. I know I know, many of you are probably thinking “a meteorologist just told me that there’s a 50-50 chance we’ll have a good winter, that’s really helpful.” Well while 7-day weather prediction has become quite skilled in the modern times of super computers and satellites, the truth is that season-scale climate prediction is still in its infancy. So you can always take a look at the absolute garbage that is spewed from non-scientific sources like the Farmer’s Almanac, but I prefer to do a snow dance, pay attention to the forecast each weak, and make my ski plans accordingly!

We’ll be keeping an eye on the weather from here on out, and as soon as it looks likely that our first big, skiable Fall storm is on the horizon, we will be sure to let you know. We look forward to a great season and thank you for checking out USW!

End of Season Powder

The atmosphere is once again going to drop some spring goodness on the Wasatch, just in time for Alta’s (2nd) closing weekend. Don’t be expecting the incredible dry powder skiing we had with the last storm 10 days ago though…with such a warm storm this snow will be of the more dense variety, not as much snow will fall, and snow levels will be rather high at times (staying at or above the benches even during the coolest periods of the storm). Nevertheless, this multi-part storm will be with us for the entire weekend, and it should have plenty of moisture and dynamics to work with. So we could see some decent powder skiing.

The first wave of precipitation arrives with a shortwave trough tonight, and then a second, colder and stronger trough will bring another round of snow Saturday night into Sunday morning. These will be the periods of heaviest precipitation, but showers will likely continue in the intervening periods. I’m going to go with 9-18″ for the Upper Cottonwoods. The snow density will be highest with tonight’s wave (not quite Sierra Cement density though), and then the powder will be a bit drier Saturday night/Sunday.

Sunday morning will be the best time to ski. Accumulations will be near their peak, and the temperatures begin to warm through the day. 

After Sunday, we warm up and dry out. It looks like the Bird will stay open a few more weeks, but we at USW will be hanging up our forecasting hats this Sunday. In the meantime, enjoy the snow this weekend!

The last gasps of the ski season

In short, a succession of weak trough will cross Utah between tomorrow and Sunday.  There will be just enough moisture with these troughs to set off light showers over the mountains each day.  Accumulations should be minimal until Friday afternoon into Saturday, when there is potential for enough snow to actually improve the riding conditions.  

The snow quality might not be too bad Saturday either, as the current GFS run brings the freezing level down to around 6000 or 7000 feet.  Not bad for late April.  The ECMWF ensemble is also in agreement with the GFS on the possibility of a mini powder day.  Lets keep our fingers crossed.  




Well, my forecast back on Monday of 8-16″ in the Upper Cottonwoods busted pretty badly, but I’m not too upset about it because it busted on the low side. Moist northwestery flow following Tuesday’s cold front, and some likely periods of lake-enhancment (especially at Snowbird), produced some Cottonwoods Magic yesterday. We haven’t seen any of this magic since January, so it was really nice to see a storm go crazy over the upper canyon and produce way more snow than anticipated.

The snowfall totals through this morning include 44″ at Snowbird, 32″ at Alta-Collins, 22″ at Brighton, and 7″ at PCMR. To add to the awesomeness, the cold atmospheric temperatures kept the water content of the snow quite low, so the “Greatest Snow on Earth” was back in Utah yesterday. Jeff, Trey, and I skied at Snowbird yesterday, and the conditions were incredible…some of the deepest snow I’ve skied there from a 1-day storm.

Anyway, this is a forecasting website, so some of you probably want to know when/if it’s going to snow again! That’s a good question. Occasional snow showers will continue in the mountains through tonight, and then skies look to clear somewhat for Friday and Saturday…although the storm to our east will continue to affect us with some clouds. Temps will be much warmer though, so go get the fresh snow today before the April sun puts a crust on it. I mean it…the snow will not be light and fluffy for long with the high sun angle this time of year. Sunday it looks like a weak shortwave will move through, bringing some showers to the mountains, and beyond that we will warm up and dry out.

So enjoy the brief return to winter while you can!

Impending Winter Blast

It appears that the atmosphere has a sick sense of humor this year, as a strong, cold storm system will roll into Northern Utah tomorrow afternoon/evening. For the resorts that are still open (PCMR, Brighton, Alta, and Snowbird) and those willing to earn their turns in the backcountry, this storm has the potential to bring a nice little April powder day on Wednesday.

A strong cold front will blast into the Salt Lake Valley sometime tomorrow afternoon, with gusty winds and a burst of heavy precipitation along the front. Precip will begin as rain in the valley, but the transition to snow should be fairly quick with such a sharp cold front. The resorts may see a a brief rain at the lower bases with the leading edge of the front, but the transition to snow will be rapid, and snow will begin stacking up quickly. The post-frontal airmass will remain fairly juicy through Wedsnesday afternoon/evening with a favorable wind direction for heavy snow in the Cottonwoods. It even looks like there is a decent probability of an area or band of lake-effect snow forming Tuesday night and lasting into Wednesday morning. This may affect the Cottonwoods during some periods (and increase snowfall totals), but position and intensity of lake-effect is very tough to forecast. The snow will be of fairly low density after the frontal passage, so expect blower pow to top off a right-side-up snowfall.

Needless to say, despite my overall lack of skiing morale right now, I’m excited about this storm. With the low density snow falling, we’ll need a lot to cover up the crust that will be underneath, but I’m optimistic we can get there. For snowfall amounts through Wednesday night, I’ll go with 8-16″ for the Cottonwood resorts, and 4-9″ at PCMR.

Let’s hope my forecast verifies on the high side, because none of us got enough powder days this year.

Not a bad refresher

A last gasp of the storm in the wee hours last night boosted the storm total snowfall to 10 inches at Alta and Snowbird.  Brighton and Solitude were just a few inches behind.  The Park City side didn’t get much, with 1-5 inches reported.  I would expect that only at high elevation in the upper Cottonwoods might there beenough snow to stay off the underlying crust.  Anything not high and north facing will likely be crusty tomorrow.

Conditions this weekend look marginal with a trough brushing by to the north.  Some wind, some clouds, no new snow.  The high elevation areas might have a tough time softening up on Saturday.

While I wish I could share Matt L’s optimism on the trough coming in next Tuesday, it looks like it might bring alot more wind and dust than snow. There could indeed be a really nice cold frontal passage, but only a true weather nerd will appreciate that.  My best guess right now is that we would see at most 10 inches, with much less on the Park City side.  A significant caveat with snow amountsis that with temperatures as cold behind the front as current model have them, lake-effect snow is a possibility.  A with lake-effect we often can’t forecast it well 2 hourse before it starts, let alone 6 days.

In other news, only 3 of 10 long-term snow measurement stations in the Wasatch are NOT at a record low snowpack.  Alta looks very likely to set a record for the worst snow season on record there.  Hey, a bad year in Utah is still better than a good year almost anywhere else!

A Return to Winter

The forecast is still on track for a very winter-like storm to impact us Wednesday-Thursday.

Tomorrow will be breezy and mild, with the chance for a shower in the northern Wasatch. Then on Wednesday morning a cold front will roll into the region, and the action really starts. There will likely be a burst of fairly heavy precipitation along and behind the front, starting as rain, and then changing over to snow. Depending on the intensity of the precipitation, snow levels could fall to the Valley floor during the day on Wednesday. Accumulation at the resorts will be rapid during and immediately after the frontal passage, and then we shift to a more showery snowfall with the cold airmass overhead. Snowfall will taper off early Thursday morning as the large-scale ascent moves away from us and the airmass begins to warm/stabilze. Then it looks like another weak wave will clip us late Thursday/early Friday, potentially bringing up to a few more inches, especially for the northern Wasatch.

For accumulations, I’m gonna go with 6-12″ in the upper Cottonwoods, 5-10″ in the northern Wasatch (PowMow/Snowbasin), and 4-8″ for the Park City Resorts.

Long Range: the GFS and EC disagree about the potential for another storm on Sunday, with the EC keeping us dry and the action to the north. I’m more inclined toward the EC solution since it has full support from its ensemble members, but there is certainly a chance that the GFS verifies. We shall see.

Snow on the way

Today (Monday) will be breezy and cooler than the weekend before a quick warm-up Tuesday. SW winds will also increase ahead of the next front making for breezy conditions again on Tuesday. Wednesday into Thursday we will have periods of snow as a cold upper level trough slowly traverses across Utah. Stronger forcing will lead to widespread precipitation initially on Wednesday AM before things taper down. Later on Wednesday we’ll transition into a regime with less forcing but colder mid-upper level temperatures leading to “showery” and more scattered precipitation through Thursday. A secondary weak shortwave trough could also add a couple extra inches, but models have been less consistent with this feature, so confidence is low towards the latter half of the forecast. Overall, I’ll go with 5-10 inches. Hopefully we’ll hit the higher end of that range considering the colder temperatures associated with the storm…sadly I can easily count on one hand the number of 10″ storms we’ve had the last couple months.

Deep Freeze

A cold front will finally move through Northern Utah late tomorrow (Tuesday). Now it won’t actually be a “Deep Freeze” by climatological standards, but for this season it will sure seem like it. We’ll have some of our first “below normal” days in months. Unfortunately, because of the big warmup today and Tuesday ahead of the front, the sudden drop of temperatures (and refreeze) will likely create some pretty terrible ski conditions. And it doesn’t look like there will be enough moisture or lift to produce any substantial snowfall. At “best” we’ll maybe get a little dust on crust action. The skiing should improve in time for the weekend, though, as we warm back up and return to spring skiing conditions.