Uncle, anyone? Have we reached the point where we're saying "please, no more snow"? Records have been broken in the Sierra and shattered in Utah. Mammoth Mountain, Alta, Brighton, Solitude, and Snowbasin have seen their SNOWIEST seasons in history, and several others are within range across the West. The extreme drought covering much of the Western US has been mostly erased, and for the first time in years reservoirs are full. There are so many benefits from this relentless barrage of storms, but it's not all positive. We have seen damaging flooding as well as roof collapses from too much snow. Moving forward, with all the snow, and the water stored in it, we have to start to worry about flooding. The longer we see accumulating snow, the more likely there will be a rapid warm up and melt. The best case scenario is a gradual warm up, allowing the water to be slowly released from the snow. With the endless powder days, drought relief, countless snow records, this Winter has been one every skier and rider will remember for the rest of their lives.
Alas, there is more snow in the forecast. As has been the case nearly the entire Winter, a strong upper level low pressure system will make its way down the west coast from the Gulf of Alaska, and slowly makes its way inland. It will bring down anomalously cold air as it descends into the West, and bring several days of snow resulting in impressive April totals.
The first impacts from this storm arrived yesterday, with snow falling from Washington through Idaho and western Wyoming. As the low pressure moves south and east, snow will begin to fall in California, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado, while continuing in Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming. As mentioned, the deepest totals, by Wednesday, will be in Oregon and Utah, with deep snow piling up elsewhere as well. With the cold air being pulled down from higher latitudes, snow quality will be very good. This storm will develop very strong winds, but these will stay mainly south of the the heaviest precipitation, We'll do a state by state breakdown for timing and totals below.
Before we get into the forecast details, let's take a quick look back at last week. On March 27th, Snowbasin received 28" overnight, with mid mountain temperatures hovering around 12 degrees. In the 24 hour period, the resort picked up 40" of snow. This turned out to be one of the deepest days of the season, in the deepest season in history. This storm put Snowbasin over its previous annual season total also. Check out how ridiculously deep it was that day here.
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Heavy snow will continue on Monday, as the upper level low pressure system moves southeast. Moderate to heavy snow will fall across the Cascades in Oregon and in the southern part of Washington, before becoming more showery Sunday night. Snow showers persist through Monday, before another round of heavier snow arrives Monday night and lasts through Tuesday, mainly for Oregon, with light snow elsewhere. Additional scattered snow showers remain a threat through Thursday, with only light accumulations. Snow levels start below 2k and will lower to below 1k, as the cold front continues to lag south. An additional 10-20" are likely through the latter part of the week, the majority of which will fall by the end of the day on Tuesday. The highest totals are expected at Mt. Hood, Bachelor, Timberline, Hoodoo, and Willamette Pass, with up to two feet at upper elevations. Meanwhile, totals will be lower in Washington, with 3-6" more at Crystal, decreasing as you move north.
Mainly light to moderate snow will continue Sunday morning across Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming as well, adding to their totals form the last two days. With winds mainly out of the southwest/northwest, the mountains of western Idaho will add several more inches, including Tamarack, Brundage, and Bogus. By the time light snow winds down Wednesday evening/night, an additional 3-6" is possible. Some light snow/flurries may linger through the end of the week as well. Expect lesser amounts north, and in Sun Valley, where without winds from the south, moisture is limited. The main exception in Idaho will be along the Utah border in the south, at Pomerelle. With cold air and west/northwest winds, moderate to heavy snow will fall from Sunday through Tuesday night, where 10-20" are expected.
Snow continues in western Wyoming too, adding to significant snowfall from the past two days. Accumulations won't be as impressive in the Tetons, but a fairly moist atmosphere with west/southwest winds will deliver an additional 2-4" through the end of Sunday at Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee. Light snow may continue off and on through Thursday, adding a few more inches to the totals. This should keep the side county sweet for the early and middle part of the week.
Overall, Montana is a bit too far north to face big impacts, but light snow will fall off and on from Sunday through Wednesday. There may be a bit of a brea from Sunday night though Monday morning. Generally, 2-5" can be expected at most resorts in Montana, with the exception of Red Lodge, where 3-7" are possible mainly from Monday afternoon through Tuesday. A recent massive dump has enabled them to extend their season.
The storm track will be a bit too far to the north to deliver another blockbuster storm for the Sierra, but they won't get away scot free. Light snow will begin around midday Sunday, before increasing Sunday night. Moderate to heavy snow continues overnight, and then tapers to snow showers that last through Monday night. Modest snow totals of 5-10" are possible near Tahoe, with the highest amounts along the Sierra Crest at Sugar Bowl, Kirkwood, and Palisades. Lesser totals are expected the farther east and south you go.
Ok, this is what you really came here for. Around a month ago, we were optimistically wondering if we would break the all time seasonal snow records in the Cottonwood Canyons. At that point, 700" seemed possible, and the previous season total of 748" at Alta was not out of the realm of possibility. Those questions were quickly answered, as the the Cottonwoods blew by 750", and the ludicrous notion of 800" become the next goal. We didn't have to worry about hitting that number for too long, as the last storm pushed totals in the low 810s. With the next massive storm on our doorstep, reaching 900" by the end of April is now a legitimate possibility.
This storm will be yet ANOTHER behemoth for northern Utah and especially the Cottonwoods. Alta and Snowbird were unable to open on Friday due to too much snow as well as strong winds in a short period of time. For better or worse, our next storm looks even more impressive for snow totals. Winds don't look as bad either, although very strong winds associated with the upper level area of low pressure will be whipping just to the south Sunday night. If the storm track shifts north, these extreme winds may impact the Cottonwoods, and create incredibly dangerous avalanche conditions again. The latest model runs still keep these winds south of the Cottonwoods, and the strongest post frontal winds Monday night look to stay west of the Cottonwoods as well. We will be monitoring these two periods very closely.
As previously mentioned, this storm is packing a serious cold punch, with the cold front bringing colder air than the last storm. Snow will be right side up, overall, with slightly more dense snow falling Sunday and Sunday night prior to the cold front Monday morning. At least we should have right side up lower density snow and less strong winds than the previous storm. Still, with over 3" of liquid possible with this behemoth, road and resort closures are quite possible in the Cottonwoods. Outside of LCC/BCC, snow totals won't be as obscene, so operations should be potentially less severely impacted. Park City, Snowbasin, and Powder Mountain will all get crushed once again. We are looking at pow days on Monday and Tuesday, with Wednesday a possibility as well, with continued light snow and terrain openings, as temperatures remain cold. Temperatures around -15C at 10k elevation for early April is quite unusual, and is one of the reasons snow totals will be so impressive. One inch of water will produce 15" to as much as 20" of snow.
It looks like we're still beating around the snow totals bush here, so let's give it a shot. As mentioned, most of the models are showing around 3" of liquid for the Cottonwoods, which would equate to 45" assuming 15" for 1" of water. At times, these ratios may approach 20:1. Further, one or maybe two periods of Northwest flow (Monday night/Tuesday night), may further enhance snow totals in Little Cottonwood Canyon at Alta and Snowbird. We think 3-4.5 feet is a reasonable range for the Cottonwoods by Thursday, though lake effect snow could push those totals closer or 5 feet or more, with 2-3.5 feet for Park City, and 1.5-2.5 for Snowbasin and Powder Mountain in the northern Wasatch. Additional lake effect snow Tuesday to Wednesday could increase that range for the northern Wasatch, especially Snowbasin.
This storm will bring decent accumulations to Colorado as well, with light snow starting to fall as early as Sunday in the northwestern part of the state. Snow picks up a bit Sunday night, and becomes more widespread Monday afternoon, filling in across the state. Moderate to heavy snow will fall through the day on Tuesday, before becoming more showery Tuesday night. Once these snow showers wind up, potentially by Thursday afternoon, accumulations in the 8-16" are possible for the northern half of the state, including Winter Park, Steamboat, and Powderhorn. As you move farther south, totals will decrease, but overall 5-10" are likely for most resorts, with this storm being more of a moderate long duration event. As is the case in Utah, we will have a period of southwest flow followed by a period of northwest flow, allowing more uniform accumulations across the state.
We can't have post without a snowman, so below is the total snowfall through Thursday across the West, from the National Blend of Models. You can see the huge totals in Oregon and Utah, with still solid totals elsewhere during this time.
Long Term Outlook
After this storm finally winds down toward the end of the week, models are showing, wait for a it, a ridge. This would block the constant barrage of snow storms seen over the last few months. If anyone just read that and got upset, the models do show a return to an active pattern around the middle of the month. Ok, wow. We will call it a night right here. Get out and see the record snow depths if you can, and enjoy MORE powder turns while doing so. You know that's what we will be doing this week.
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