An incredible storm cycle just dropped through the Cascades to the Sierra this week. Moisture ramped up as the low tapped an Atmospheric River over California and dumped feet of snow from the Sierra, Dessert Southwest (Flagstaff), Utah, southern Colorado and New Mexico. Somehow the Tetons just grabbed 20 inches Friday night making this week one of the best in a long time. Storm totals and winners are below! More snow is on the way this weekend and again late next week Cover Photo: Matt Baydala skiing deep powder at Deer Valley Ski area on Saturday.
Earlier this season we saw many systems drop from Canada under N or NE winds favoring the northern Rockies and Canada. Then high pressure settled in for what seemed like an endless wait for snow. We expected the ridge to buckle towards the last weeks of November. The Sierra was bone dry and most of Utah (Weak snow layers from 3 weeks ago).
Suddenly, as forecasted, a deep trough with an atmospheric river and unseasonably cold air swept quickly through the Cascades and slowed over the Sierra. That system has resulted in significant snowfall! The southern mountains of Colorado came in per my forecast at 15-20 inches in the past 48 hours however the timing was off (Came in slower). The northern and central mountains of Colorado hit the 4-8 inch mark this morning per my forecast from a few days ago. Here are a few storm totals that might have you squirming if you missed it.
Sink of the stomach time! Warning! Not for the addicted powder junkie.
1) Alta Ski area – 69 inches
2) Arizona Snowbowl- 54 inches (Dessert Pow).
3) Mammoth- 52 inches
4) Snowbasin- 48 inches
5) Park City 29 inches (48 hours), 49 inches in 7 days.
5) Squaw Valley- 38 inches
6) Wolf Creek- 38 inches in the past week
7) Jackson Hole/Targhee- 20 inches
8) Purgatory -19 inches
9) Silverton- 15-20 inches
10) Taos- 20 inches
Below: Alta Ski area this Saturday morning (Looks like mid-winter).
Below: Alta this morning- Skier Hans Smith – Photo: Jay Goldberg (There’s a skier in there)
So as a forecaster and chaser I ended up at Wolf Creek on Friday (Snowing heavily with only 5-9 inches of wind impacted powder) and Vail on Saturday (5-8 inches of blower pow). The Wolf has decent coverage (Another 1-2 feet would put them in very good shape), and Vail has very good coverage up top with much less at lower elevations. Looking back, I am kicking myself for not chasing for Dessert Pow at Arizona Snowbowl who had back to back mornings with more than 20 inches! How many times have we missed the deepest storm of the season? Most lifts were running both days at the Snowbowl. Alta had decent low elevation terrain open today while Snowbird was more limited (AVY mitigation is intense right now). Both Solitude and Snowbasin are expanding their terrain this week (Deep). I suspect Mammoth is buried at the summit.
The forecast brings a warm system into the Sierra Saturday night to Monday (Peak snowfall on Sunday). Snow levels will start out around 5500 and rise to about 7,000K. That will bring snow/rain to some bases and all snow (Great for base building) to the upper elevations of most of the Sierra. Expect 2-3 feet of dense snow by Monday morning above 7000 feet. Much less will fall at lower elevations. Mammoth will see higher amounts with all snow due to higher base elevations. Kirkwood will also likely do well in this pattern especially at the Summit. The last deep storm was very light density, where this storm will be dense (Great for the base build). High winds will impact some lift operations.
The Tetons will sneak out some additional powder Sunday Monday night into Tuesday. Models seem to be in the 4-7 inch range! The base depth at Targhee right now is 50 inches (Not bad). Somehow 20 inches blessed the Tetons Friday night with my original forecast for 4-9 inches. I’m not sure I know what happened!
Below: Warmer air over the west including the Sierra with 4800-foot elevation temps at 4C. Slightly cooler as the front enters initially (Snow to the bases) but warming slightly thereafter.
A fast-moving trough will impact southern California Tuesday. That system with weak energy will add to the snowpack for the 4 corners taking a path through southern Utah and Colorado (South and central areas, perhaps I-70). This will be a quick refresh late Wednesday into Thursday. The Wasatch is on the northern fringe.
In looking for chaseable pow, there is another cold system expected for the Sierra next weekend. That system will bring another 1-2 feet of powder to these areas. This will likely push east over much of the Rockies late next weekend but its too far out to forecast with accuracy (Looks promising). It is possible that the Wasatch, Tetons, and most of Colorado pick up cold leftovers during the Saturday or Sunday timeframe.
Another piece of energy will be hung up over the Pacific Northwest with perhaps some snowfall for Whistler and the Cascades late this week.
The extended models beyond 7 days show some hope of more systems pushing further north, perhaps Canada and the PNW. More to follow on a future post.
Below: Low-pressure trough entering the West late this week!
Below: Trough extending over the Rockies by late Saturday or early Sunday
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