Drying Out with a Storm on the Horizon

November 25, 2014 Peter Veals

A warm front brought a rather balmy airmass into the Wasatch today, and despite the (always gorgeous) sight of precipitation falling in the mountains, this storm is not really good for much besides covering rocks and adding some water to the snowpack. The northern Wasatch received a few inches of snow (or graupel) possibly exceeding 20% water content, with the upper Cottonwoods receiving up to an inch so far. Sierra Cement. Like I said though, good for building an early season base. It looks like there has been some riming on the ridgelines too.

So unfortunately, the beatiful snow from the Sat-Mon storm is now a distant memory. Today's storm will wind down tonight after dropping perhaps another inch or two of cement, and then we dry out and warm up big time in the mountains. A strong ridge will build and slide over the western U.S. beginning tomorrow and likely persisting through the weekend. So your Thanksgiving skiing should be warm and pleasant for those relatives in town that whine about the cold...*cough* *cough* Mom *cough* *cough*.

After that, we may be clipped in the northern Wasatch by a storm on Saturday, but it doesn't look to be a very substantial event. The model-to-model and ensemble spread begin to increase out in the long range, but it looks like a pacific storm will likely impact us early next week. I really want to discuss the details of the model solutions, but this far out things are likely to change, so I'll do the responsible thing and hold off on talking about fantasy land. It's really tough to do though...I'm already jonesin' for another storm.

The GOOD(s). The Bad. And the..storm cycle revamps next week??

November 24, 2014 Trey Alvey

The Good

Hopefully you were able to get out and sample the good(s) yesterday or today!! Several of us here at USW were able to get in a few turns, and for November the stoke level was pretty high! The Wasatch did quite well with most areas receiving a foot + at the higher elevation sites. The Cottonwoods, as anticipated, saw 2-3 feet +, and more importantly nearly 3 inches of SWE for building that base. And can't forget props to Peter and Jeff for nailing this one a few days out (see below if you don't believe me).  

Not sure if this should go in the good or the bad, but it looks like more snow for the mountains tomorrow. Unfortunately, this will coincide with warming temperatures and will likely turn the snowpack "upside down" with higher density fresh falling on top of the blower pow from the past 24 hours. All is well, though, and we can't be greedy. All snow is good snow this early in the season, right?! Overall, upper level forcing will be weak and the precipitation will be primarily driven by warm air advection. I'm expecting 2 - 4 inches of high density cement for higher elevations (above 8000-9000 feet) with areas in the far north likely doing best with amnts. Areas lower in the mountains will see lower amounts and may flirt with some rain.

The Bad

As is many times the case following a great storm cycle, we inevitably have to go through a period of ridging (also my least favorite period to forecast for...). A strong Pacific Coast ridge will build in over our region from the west throughout the week. This means don't expect any new snow through late week after tomorrow. 

All news is not bad news, though. Early indications are that a strengthening trough off the California coast is expected to move across the Intermountain West early next week. The ECMWF, GFS, and Ensembles all show the trough moving through our area, however, significant differences in timing, magnitude, and placement exist. We'll hopefully be able to paint a better picture in the coming days as the next big *fingers crossed* storm comes into play.

Quick Update on the Storm

November 24, 2014 Matt Jeglum

Well, it has been a classic Little Cottonwood storm.  With moist NW flow the dendrites have just kept falling. With 8 more inches of 5% blower overnight, Alta's storm total is up to 34 inches.  Snowbird has similar amounts. Brighton and Solitude are reporting 2 feet.  Everybody else has gotten less than that.  With Alta beng closed yesterday, the lucky few up there today have it pretty good.  

Showers are finally ending over Little Cottonwood as I write this.  More detail will come this evening, but it looks like there will be one last gasp of this strom cycle tomorrow before the ridge builds in.  Unfortunately the snow will fall with rising temps so while an inch of water is possible, snow amounts should be 5-10 dense inches.  Areas below 7000 feet might even see some rain.

Still Looking Snowy After a Slow Start

November 22, 2014 Matt Jeglum

As I write this a little after 4 pm Saturday, thw rain is pounding my window in SLC and the cold front just reached the Salt Lake Valley.  Snow totals so far in the Wasatch have been disappointing, with the wettest areas getting only 3-4 inches of snow out of up to 0.75 inches of water.  This poor snow/water ratio is likely due to a combination of wet snow due to high freezing levels and graupel.  I could complain, but its November, and water on the ground is always a good thing, even if its dense.

Looking forward, by 6 pm Saturday snow levels should be at the valley floor.  After the frontal band moves out precipitation will turn more showery in northwest flow.  The Upper Cottonwoods should do well in the northwest flow through late tomorrow morning.  I think the Upper Cottonwoods will wring another 8-16 inches out of the storm by noon tomorrow, with other areas receiving 5-10 inches.  Lake effect is possible overnight as well, and my totals hedge a little toward some lake enhancement. This will bring the storm totals up to 12-20 in the Cottonwoods and 8-14 elsewhere.  After minimal accumulations Sunday afternoon and night, another shortwave will drop in from the northwest during the day Monday. I expect 3-8 from that last gasp, with the Cottonwoods again getting the upper end amounts. 

The long range is currently very depressing.  Big ridge for the foreseeable future.

Calm Before the Storm

November 21, 2014 Matt Lammers

Not a lot of change from Jeff's post yesterday, but I'll say a few words just to put my own spin on things. We can expect snow to begin falling in the mountains around midday tomorrow, starting out on the dense, wet side as pre-frontal temperatures will be near or just below freezing. This combined with ridgeline winds gusting to 60mph will make for some intense storm skiing late in the day, although accumulations before lifts close are unlikely to be much greater than 6 inches.

With sunset, temperatures will drop precipitously, bottoming out on Sunday morning at most ski areas in the low-to-mid teens. Correspondingly, snow ratios will go from <5:1 at the beginning of the storm to pushing 15:1 by late Saturday night. The main thrust of snowfall should occur on Saturday night, with overnight totals (on top of Saturday's <6") of 6-12 inches, with the potential for more in favored areas (Little Cottonwood). For those rolling up the canyons on Sunday morning, that bodes well (along with a tapering off in snowfall early in the morning, meaning roads should be less treacherous).

Sunday holds the potential for light post-frontal snow during the day, although accumulations are likely to be marginal. With a secondary shortwave dropping in Sunday evening, expect some further fresh on Monday morning, as well as the chance for the infamous lake-effect turning on Monday morning to add a couple inches extra. If I had to put a number on this period, I would probably go in the 4-8" range for most resorts, although if somewhere in the Cottonwoods ends up under a lake-effect band, that could add another 3-6" on top.

So where does that put us on storm totals for the Saturday through Monday period (which is what you really read this post for):

 - Sundance: 8-16"

 - Park City: 10-20"

 - Beaver Creek, Snowbasin, Powder Mountain: 15-30"

 - The Cottonwoods: 20-40"

Long range I'm not going to worry too much about, as it looks like a ridge sets up over our area at least through Thanksgiving. Just enjoy the freshies this weekend and early next week as areas start opening up. Remember, though, the bases at a lot of these places are going to be pretty meager (Alta opened today with 14"...and most of that is on groomed trails), so don't look at the foot or two of fresh like it's fair game anywhere on the mountain. Also, early-season avalanche rules apply, so don't be surprised if things rip out more than usual.

If all else fails, Ski Fast, Take Chances!

-ML-

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