An Oasis or a Mirage?

December 16, 2014 Matt Jeglum

The Cottonwood resorts were able to squeeze all of 1 inch out of the very weak disturbance last night and cloudy skies have been the rule today.  Matt L was thinking that there might have been more, but alas, it was only enough to produce some wisps as you cruised down the groomers.  A shearing, negatively tilted trough will come onshore in California tonight, adding more to their much-needed totals. 

The trough really falls apart tomorrow though, and the moisture and lift just aren't going to come together for Northern Utah.  I think an inch or less is a good bet Wednesday.  Like Matt L mentioned, Brian Head might be able to get to 6 inches or so as they will have more moisture to play with.  The shreds of the trough will hang around Thursday, bringing grey skies and maybe another inch to the Wasatch.  Beaver Mountain and the Logan-area mountain will do better Thursday, with 1-4 possible by Friday morning.  

Looking forward from Friday, the large scale pattern will begin to shift from what we have seen this week.  According to the current GFS, the polar jet over the eastern Pacific will become fairly static as a deep long-wave trough sets up over the Central Pacific.  Such a pattern will keep the proverbial firehose pointed right at Oregon and Washington.  Enough of this moisture will make it inland that Northern Utah could do pretty well in the moist WNW flow from Sunday to next Tuesday, albeit with high freezing levels. The ECMWF ensemble likes it too, with virtually all the ensemble members on board with the idea of a strong, wet westerly jet hitting the northwest US. 

The only question is whether we will end up too far south to get it!  This setup lookssimilar to the one that really gave our season a kick in the pants last February, where the Cottonwoods did well, low elevations got rain, and areas from Logan, UT to the Tetons just got hammered. 

In short, don't bank on it yet, but the 5-7 day outlook is hopeful.

Forecasting Dribs and Drabs...

December 15, 2014 Matt Lammers

The upcoming few days look to be unsettled, but without the dynamics to invoke some sort of dumpage. Thus the title - this is going to be some dribs here, and some drabs there...nothing to skip work for, but enough to build the base, and maybe you kick up a bit of white smoke on your groomer turn.

First off - tonight: some instability (a trough might be giving it too much credit, but sure, we'll call it a trough) will pass through the state, leading to some quick showers. Embedded in southwesterly flow, areas like Sundance, Brighton Crest, etc. might get as much as 4", but most areas are looking at 1-3."

Wednesday features the more impressive part of the trough rounding the south end of the Sierras and working its way eastward. Those of you who ski the sick terrain of Brian Head can look forward to a sizeable snowfall during the day, but the rest of us in Northern Utah can expect very little...the moisture will be there, but not the forcing. Maybe an inch or two in Sundance, Little Cottonwood, but it could also leave us all dry and cloudy.

Moving ahead to Friday (Thursday looks cloudy), things look most favorable in the Northern Wasatch - the Beav (and the as-yet-unopened, Cherry Peak) might see 4 inches or more, with totals in the 1-3" range for areas farther south.

So in the short term, we'll give a general 3-7" between now and late-Friday, coming in a few showery periods, with the best chances for greater totals being Tuesday in southwest-flow-favored areas and Friday in far-Northern Utah.

Long term, the unsettled pattern looks to continue, but timing is all over the place. A week out, some of the Euro Ensemble members favor a fairly bullish trough, while the GFS likes some snowfall a week from Tuesday...we'll see. It is, as they say, the "most wonderful time of the year." Any time you can be out skiing, it's the most wonderful time, so enjoy!

Turning a corner?

December 14, 2014 Jeff Massey

Not a bad storm!  Cottonwoods are reporting 11-14 inches, but there is significantly less new on the park city side.  Last night the cottonwoods benefited from a very producted northwest flow off the lake that really boosted totals.  USW was very consistent with our 6-12 inch forecast for this storm, even though some other forecasting enterprises were going considerably less.  It was a nice surprise that even we were too low!

A more active pattern is looking likely for Utah in the coming weeks.  This is good because we desperately need the snow and the water!  The next chance of snow comes Tuesday night as another splitting storm moves into Utah.  This storm was forecasted to drop further south into Arizona and New Mexico a couple of days ago, but models have trended further north with it.  Since the storm splits, it moves very slowly and brings chances of snow through Friday morning.  No particular period looks overly impressive, and southern Utah does look to get the most snow, but by Friday I expect 3-7 inches for the northern resorts.  Not enough to call in sick, but enough to keep the trails fresh.  I know I am being vague with timing and hopefully we will have more info tomorrow.

After this week another storm is possible Saturday night, but it doesnt look overly strong at this point. The pattern really begins to change 7-10 days out with a ridge likely forming just off the west coast.  The placement and strength of this ridge will have a big impact on our weather.  Currently things look good for the ridge to be weak and far enough west that storms will impact Utah in the days surrounding Christmas.  Things change fast in the long range, but I like what I see.

Dense powder is still powder

December 13, 2014 Peter Veals

As anticipated, the first part of this storm came in like concrete; shallow clouds and warm temps are a recipe for dense snow. We are now entering into the cold phase of this storm, so the snow that falls tonight and tomorrow should finish us off with a nice right-side-up snowfall.


Before I get into the forecast though, here's a look at how snowfall totals are coming along throughout the Wasatch for this storm:

Alta Collins and Top Cecret: 4"

Snowbird: 5"

Thaynes Canyon Snotel (PC resort): 2"

Snowbasin: 7"

Ben Lomond Peak Snotel: over 10"

Tony Grove Lake Snotel: 3"


All of these locations came in at over 10% water content, so like I said, quite dense, but the skiing on the 5" at Snowbird today was surprisingly good! Creamy powder is still powder, and it is also very good at covering up rocks and building a base. On a final note, you can't ignore that huge number on Ben Lomond! It appears that during the pre-frontal W/SW flow, orographic precip generation went big up there. I say over 10" only because there is no board to sweep at snotel sites, and settlement of the snow makes it impossible to say just how much fell. Needless to say though, they'll likely be the winners for this storm.


Now for the forecast, I'm gonna stick with the storm total numbers that others before me have put up. We're just shy of verifying within our ranges, so the additional snow that it appears will fall should push us into those ranges. Periods of snow will continue through tomorrow (Sunday), with things winding down in the afternoon/evening. One wild card with the cold upper-level temperatures though, is lake-effect, and there is a chance we could see a band Sunday. This would give us a few more inches in the Cottonwoods than forecast if were to happen.


Long range still looks similar to what Trey described, with a shot at a fairly weak storm in the Tuesday-Wednesday timeframe. In the mean time, get out and enjoy the snow!

Snow. Finally!

December 12, 2014 Trey Alvey

As I write this early Friday evening, precipitation can be seen moving into radar range..when was the last time we could say that?! As I'm sure many of you have noticed, it's been unseasonably warm. Today we broke another record high at Salt Lake Int'l Airport. Why's this important? It means any pre-frontal precipitation will fall as snow only at very high elevations. The bulk of precipitation is expected to be associated with the frontal passage, however, so snow levels will lower during the heaviest precipitation. A few quick model numbers for the Nrn Wasatch: GFS = .2" qpf, ECMWF = .5" qpf, NAM = .4" qpf, GFS (4 km) = .6" qpf,  NAM (4km) = .8" qpf. If we grossly used a 10:1 snow ratio that would yield about 2-10 inches for the model solutions. So what are we calling for?


Like Ian said in his forecast below, we'll likely see modest accumulations with the front overnight tonight followed by additional accumulations Saturday PM. Overall, I'm sticking with the 6-12 inches for the Upper Cottonwoods as we've called for the last several days. Lower totals in lower elevation areas like PC: 3-7 inches (higher amnts possible above mid-mountain). This storm will be "right side up" so it at least has that going for us. Groomers will probably be great, but off trail you'll risk hitting crust or hidden rocks. 


Long range

Another storm is on tap for mid-week! Unfortunately, it looks like the bulk will miss us once again, but any snow is welcomed. And it could still be decent: ECMWF gives us solid accumulations, GFS and ensembles not so much. We'll hopefully have a better idea once we get this storm out of the picture.




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