A Dump, Another Dump, and then a Much Bigger Dump
We’ve had a bit of a roller coaster this month, alternating between some big storms and some long dry periods. The storms were significant enough to open a large number of resorts, many of them well ahead of their planned opening dates. However, thanks to a fairly stubborn and unusually strong ridge, storms have been diverted around the Western US. Some record high pressures were set in Alaska, parts of Washington tied or broke consecutive November days without measurable precipitation, and record Lake Effect snow fell in New York. These are all related. The record high pressure stretching from Alaska down to the western US blocked the storms from reaching Washington, during what is typically the wettest time of the year. This same high pressure diverted storms toward the northern/central part of the US, leading to the record Lake Effect snows. Below is a look at the ridge that's been present for most of the last 10 days.
For snow lovers in the West, this resilient ridge will finally break down, and snow is once again in the forecast. From Monday night through Thursday night, the first round of snow will impact a large swath of the Western US. Right on its heels, a fast moving storm will bring more snow primarily to the Northwest. And finally, on the heels of the second round of snow, a stronger, larger, and the most far reaching of these storms will impact the West toward the end of the weekend.
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Short Term Forecast
The action will begin in British Columbia late Monday night as a fast moving upper level area of low pressure traverses the Northwest. You can follow the storm as it enters the Northwest Tuesday and travels southeast from there, all the way to Texas! Let’s go through the timing and totals below. Temperatures will be cool with this first storm, but not especially cold. Snow levels will be below the base elevations though, so we don’t need to worry about that. The storm will pack the biggest punch in the Northwest, with lesser impacts south and east as the storm weakens.
The heaviest snowfall will be in the coastal range of British Columbia, where 8-12” will fall at upper elevations above 7k. Below that, expect 5-10” at resorts like Whistler, with a bit less at Mount Washington and Mt Cain. Generally 4-8” for interior BC, including Kicking Horse and Revelstoke, with just a few inches for the western Alberta resorts like Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, and Mt. Norquay. Snow will begin Monday night and wrap up Wednesday morning.
The storm will reach Washington Tuesday morning, and Oregon, Idaho, and Montana Tuesday night. Washington will be the US winner in the Northwest, with southwest winds favoring Mt. Baker, who is expected to see 5-10”. Stevens and Snoqualmie may catch up or even pass Baker, with 6-12” up high if the convergence zone develops. Crystal will see a bit less, in the 3-7” range.
In northern Idaho, expect 3-6” for Selkirk Powder, and in northwest Montana, expect 2-4”. Just a few inches are likely for the resorts in Oregon, central and southern Idaho, and the rest of Montana.
The rest of the West, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, will see lighter amounts for the first round of snow. Generally, just 2-5” for the resorts in these states, as the storm brings light snowfall to these states Wednesday through Friday.
Storm #2 will move in to the Northwest before Storm #1 is even finished in Colorado and New Mexico. On Thursday, snow will pick up again in British Columbia, and continue through Friday night, impacting Alberta, Washington, Northern Idaho, and Northwest Montana. This quick mover will barely be gone before the most significant of the three storms moves in.
Once again, snow will pick up in the Northwest, with little break, if any, in between storms. Whereas the most significant impacts for storms #1 and #2 were in the Northwest, storm #3 has the potential to unload over a much broader area.
The 5 day snow map below illustrates the potential with storm #3, with big totals across most of the Western US. The Sierra, Utah, and Colorado would see significant snowfall if this model forecast were to hold. This is still a week away, so we need more time for the models to come into agreement.
Thanks for reading! Check back in a few days for an update. Follow me on Instagram @lstone84 to chase with me all season!