Report From Powderchasers.com
After a seemingly endless stream of atmospheric rivers pounded the Sierra with snow and drought-busting rain last season, we once again see the volatility of mother nature as an extended dry period has returned to the Southwest. As we anxiously watch the drought creep back into the southwest and California, we simultaneously watch the forecast models for signs of change. Well, the first signs of change are here, in the form of a moderate storm this weekend followed by a potentially stronger storm next week. Along with high elevation snow, much needed rains will bring some drought relief to the Southwest and four corners regions, which have been exceptionally dry this season. Late next week will likely bring heavy snow back to the northern Rockies as well with the Wasatch finally getting into the action!
Below: This sums up the water supply comparison to last year in the Sierra. Image NOAA
SIERRA SNOW- KEEP READING
The good news is that the summits of many Sierra resorts will see a moderate storm this weekend with a significant storm likely on its heals by Monday night/Tuesday. There are a few things not working in our favor with the first storm though, as strong winds and unseasonably warm temperatures may limit snowfall and negatively effect snow quality. Warmer than average temperatures will bring high variability of snow totals depending on elevation. Its likely that on Saturday you will be skiing 5-9 inches of wet snow on the summits with minor amounts at lower elevations. The exception may be Mammoth, with a higher base/summit elevation, however the heaviest moisture may stick around North and South Lake Tahoe. Take the lighter amounts and no rain at Mammoth or gamble on higher amounts further north with a rain/snow mix at the bases. Its possible that some resorts exceed the 5-9 inch mark by late Saturday at higher summits along the crest.
In Colorado expect a quick shot of moderate snow (6-8 inches in the northern San Juans, Crested Butte, Aspen, and perhaps just north of Rifle(Flat tops). Steamboat, and most of the I-70 corridor including Summit County and Monarch should see 3-7 inches. Even though its’ not deep, I like the prospect of all overnight snow starting late on Saturday. Sunday may be a powder day! The Tetons get teased with 4-7 inches split during the day Saturday/and evening.
On Monday, snow will start falling by the afternoon with snow levels once again at the dreaded 8,000 foot level (above the bases and even mid mountain at many ski resorts). Snow intensity picks up late Monday night into Tuesday morning with perhaps 7-9 inches at upper elevations and slowly falling snow levels. Heavy snow will continue to fall at upper elevations bringing totals to 10-15 inches by the end of the day. Colder air works in Tuesday improving snow quality and driving snow down to the bases. The cold air may arrive just as moisture is weakening? Models are favoring areas in the central and southern Sierra range. My best guess for the highest amounts are Kirkwood and Mammoth. The Mammoth summit may score in excess of 30 inches by the time the storm exits late Tuesday night. Areas further north, and those at lower elevations, will see lower storm totals. Overall amounts should fall into the 15-20 inch range over most of the Sierra above 7500 feet by late Tuesday with the summit of Mammoth tipping the scales, perhaps approaching 3 feet. Kirkwood may also see these higher amounts and other areas along the Sierra Crest.
Below: Total snowfall through Tuesday afternoon in the Sierra. Snowfall includes both storms with 2-3 feet likely for most ski areas especially south lake or Mono County (Mammoth). Image: WX Bell
All of this welcome moisture heads towards to the 4 corners mid next week.
The good news for many resorts that have seen little snow this season is that the middle of next week will bring at least a foot of snow to southern Colorado, northern Arizona and southern Utah. Moderate moisture will stream north into the central and southern Wasatch near Salt Lake. A cold front and northern branch of the jet will likely kick off decent snows in the northern Rockies with Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming reporting decent numbers in the middle of next week as well as renewed snowfall along the front range near Denver.
The ridge returns following the 2-3 storms next week, but then the storm door reopens perhaps focusing on the PNW once again, especially during the January 17-21 period. Whether the storm door stays open after this round of snow remains the biggest unknown at this point, and may go a long way in determining whether winter can really make a comeback in the West.