A classic Sierra snowstorm is on tap for the weekend, with very heavy snow, strong winds, and cold temperatures. Before this event gets underway Friday night, we have a fast moving storm that will serve as the appetizer to the main course, with solid accumulations from Washington down through the northern Sierra. En route to California, this behemoth will deliver respectable totals, and will continue to do so after departing the Sierra as well. The models are showing yet another storm towards the end of the week as well, with more significant snow. Choo Choo powder hounds, don't miss this powder train.
Short Term Forecast
The best way to break down the next week is by storm, and by region, so we will get started with the first of three storms aimed at the West. You can see the three storms below.
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As mentioned, this will be a fast moving storm, and has already started sending flakes to Washington. Snow will continue through the day in Washington, bringing a widespread 4-10\" of additional snow, with the highest amount at Mt. Baker, who has already received 13\". The Cascades of Oregon will see 6-12\" form this one, mostly during the day on Thursday, with some snow showers lingering through Friday. Mt. Hood, Timberline, and Bachelor should all wind up in that range by Friday. This storm will race down through California next, delivering a blow from Thursday midday to Friday afternoon. Things should get started Thursday night in Tahoe. Most of the moisture will stay in the far northern Sierra, but resorts around the lake should see 3-7\", with up to 10\" NW of the lake at Palisades and especially Sugar Bowl. From Friday morning through Saturday morning, this storm will bring a quick burst of snow to Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah as well, with 3-6\" likely. A few spots like Brundage may wind up closer to 8\". Some light snow is possible, amounting to a few inches, across most of the mountains in Colorado as well.
Ok, did you enjoy the appetizer? Well the entree is going to taste a lot better. Those of you waiting for that MEGA deep storm, well here it is. In case you forgot, Tahoe jus got nailed with 1-3 feet of snow in the last several days. More terrain is opening up daily at resorts across the basin. This storm has the ingredients for a big big dump; conveyor belt of Pacific moisture, lift from an upper level low pressure, precipitation behind a respectable cold front. As is often the case with these rivers of Pacific moisture, the winds will be extreme at times. If you pay close attention though, you will be rewarded. First, check out the model forecast from the NCEP National Blend of Models.
Before sliding down the coast, this storm will bring more snow to Washington and Oregon. The storm will move in Friday night, with the focus on the southern Cascades in Washington. Crystal will be on the northern edge of the heavy precipitation, and will see 5-10\" from Friday night to Saturday night. The Cascades north of Crystal (Stevens, Snoqualimie, Mt. Baker) will likely land in the 4-8\" range. The biggest overnight totals will be reported Saturday morning. The river of moisture is more focused on the mountains of Oregon, so this storm will bring better totals than the last, as you can see below.
Expect 8-14\" across the Cascades of Oregon (Mt. Hood, Timberline, Bachelor), with the deepest overnight totals occurring from Friday night to Saturday.
Now onto the DEEP forecast. The storm will bring light snow into the Tahoe area Friday night, becoming steadier after midnight. Overnight into Saturday morning won't be especially deep, but the winds will start cranking Friday night and continue through the early hours of Sunday. Winds from the southwest are good for snow in the Sierra, but they will be very strong at times. The heaviest snow will occur from midday Saturday to Sunday morning, with moderate snow on Sunday becoming lighter in the afternoon. From Friday night through Sunday morning, 2-4 feet (from lower elevations to mid mountain) will fall on the resorts of Tahoe, with up to 5 feet at the upper elevations of Sugar Bowl, Palisades, and Kirkwood. The rest of the resorts west of the lake will see a bit less, and east of the lake should come in around 1-3 feet. We will be dealing with a warm front moving through Friday night to Saturday night, but it should stay all snow at lake level and the bases. A cold front Saturday night will drop snow levels close to 3000 ft, and deliver some lower density snow on top the dense wind affected snow that fell up to that point. A really good set up for deep, bottomless, turns. Lift closures from winds are possible on Saturday, and delays due to avalanche danger from strong winds and snow totals will be an issue on Sunday. We would not be surprised to see lots of lifts and terrain closed over the weekend, but Monday will dry out and skies will clear.
Mammoth will get crushed this weekend too, with 2-4+ feet, albeit with a delayed onset due to it being farther South. Similar wind/avalanche concerns will be present.
Light snow Saturday morning will intensify midday and persist throughout the day. As is often the case with these southerly tracking storms that unload on the Sierra, Southerly winds will help Sun Valley pile up snow quickly. From Saturday night to Sunday morning the snow will be heavy, becoming more showery thereafter. Sun Valley should see 10-20\" form this storm by the time things wind down, with 8-16\" at Brundage. Winds won't be too much of a concern in Idaho, and temperatures will be cold enough for great snow quality. Up in the Idaho panhandle, expect 6-12\" for Selkirk Powder and Schweitzer.
We're getting a little bit farther out out in the future for Utah and the rest of the West, so the details are a bit less clear. But, from Sunday afternoon through Tuesday morning heavy snow is possible, with potential accumulations of one to two feet. The atmosphere is stocked full of moisture, there's a frontal passage with winds shifting to the NW, and cold temperatures behind the cold front. Another healthy dose of snowfall is likely for most of the state and especially the northern part.
Although not the in the bullseye this time, Wyoming and Montana will get in on the action with this storm. From Saturday night through Monday morning, light to moderate snow will be falling across this area. We're not seeing any deep overnight dumps, but a nice refresh of 3-7\" over the course of a couple days is expected at most of the resorts in western Montana.
In addition to the fresh snow in northern Arizona the last few days, this next storm will deliver even more snow for this moisture starved area. Sunday night through Monday will be quite snowy, with Arizona Snowbowl seeing 6-12\" during that time. Conditions will continue to improve in northern Arizona in the coming week.
By Monday morning, this storm will bring snow to Colorado as well. Right now, it looks like SW Colorado, and the San Juans, will be the big winners, with 8-16\" possible, as southwest winds dominate the storm.
The next storm could arrive as soon as Friday, with a potentially more inland track. This would feature less moisture overall, but much colder temperatures, allowing a lot of snow to accumulate with minimal moisture. We have a Severe Barney Warning for the end of the weekend in the Intermountain West as well.
When the models are forecasting temperates so far below normal, it is indicated by the purple color on the map. Thus, the Barney warning. The models are currently showing temperatures way below normal for most of the western US. We will have more details on this third storm in a future post.
Thanks for reading!