California, Utah, and Colorado Score Ahead of Drier Pattern to Come

This week has seen some legendary totals across the West. A lot of this storm’s energy was focused in the northern Rockies, burying the Tetons, parts of Idaho, and parts of Montana. Let’s take a look at some of the deepest storm totals:

  • Jackson Hole: 44”
  • Grand Targhee: 26”
  • Steamboat: 16” (more to come)
  • Bridger Bowl: 31”
  • Big Sky: 18”
  • Schweitzer: 8”
  • Alta: 12” (more to come)

Check out some epic photos from today at Jackson:

Most of the remaining snow left in this system will linger in California, Utah, and Colorado. 

In California, showers will begin early Sunday morning and last through the evening (later storm timing further south at Mammoth). Fairly short lived storm. The good news is that temperatures will be quite favorable for the duration of the storm, meaning the snow quality will make for some excellent turns. Here are what I see as reasonable storm totals around the state:

  • West Tahoe (Sugar Bowl, Palisades, Kirkwood): 3-6”
  • Central Tahoe (Northstar, Homewood): 3-5”
  • East Tahoe (Mt. Rose, Heavenly): 2-5”
  • Mammoth: 4-6”

Check out the output from the American NAM model showing forecasted snow ratios between 15 and 20:1 during the storm on Sunday:

In Utah, a strong secondary blast of snow will occur on Sunday as a band of moisture passes overhead. Snow rates will start off light in the morning and ramp up throughout the day, peaking in the afternoon. During the ski day on Sunday, I can see Cottonwood resorts (Alta, Snowbird, Brighton, Solitude) picking up 5-9” and Park City & Deer Valley picking up 2-4”. Snowfall rates will drop off throughout the evening, but resorts will pick up another inch or two overnight, ensuring soft conditions on Monday. Areas north towards Snowbasin, Pow Mow, or Beaver Mountain might see higher amounts! As of 5 AM Sunday Powder Mountain had 7 inches (Telemetry) and it is still snowing (Overnight pow). This band moves south over Park City and the Cottonwoods south of I-80 by 6 AM. Amounts will build for these areas during the morning Sunday before tapering (5-9). Ride north early Sunday and drop south by 12 Noon. 


In Colorado, the most favorable conditions will be found in the north, particularly at Steamboat. Snow will continue Saturday night, during the day on Sunday, Sunday night, and then finally wrap up on Monday. Steamboat should pick up 3-7” on Sunday and another 3-7” on Sunday night, so it could be a decent chase target on Monday, especially with the already deep storm total from this week. Winter Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are also strong wildcards as energy is focussed just north of I-70.  Other centralorthern Colorado resorts are looking at 1-3” on Sunday night and another 1-3” during the day on Monday (Aspen, CB) NW wind direction on Monday afternoon and Tuesday could sneak out additional snow a bit further south along the I-70 corridor. Some of these numbers could be decent late Monday to Tuesday, especially over Vail Pass and west. 

Above: Canadian (left) and GFS (right) snowfall through Monday evening. Keep in mind that the resolution of these models means that they are likely underestimating snowfall on higher terrain. Regardless, it's a great sign that they're showing such promising totals! Keep an eye out for resorts just north of I-70 and any deviation south might spell well Summit County albeit lighter amount initially. 

After an unusually active January, things will finally quiet down for a bit this week. A small storm is expected in Washington, Idaho, and Montana on Tuesday, but totals will be low, a few inches at best. For Washington, the good news is that this storm will come in nice and cold, so snow levels will not be a concern.

The models agree on the next major system arriving late next week on either Thursday or Friday. The American model suite is leaning a bit earlier (which would make for nicer conditions on Friday) while the European and Canadian models are leaning toward a later solution. The exact positioning of the precipitation is still very much in the air. Some models have the storm impacting the entire West and others keep the snow relegated mainly in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and northern Colorado. I personally am leaning toward the storm being concentrated further north, though California and Utah could still see respectable totals. But the one thing we do know is that this storm will not take a southern track into California and Utah.

Above: the GFS is showing the system late next week impacting the entire West, but I think the highest totals will be found further north. PNW, Idaho, MT/WY.

Looking ahead into the fantasy range, the first half of February looks to be on the drier side, however, a persistent negative PNA will keep temperatures in the West below average. More favorable conditions for big snowfall will gradually materialize as we head into the second half of the month, so keep your eyes out for an active mid to late February!

Below is the GFS extended ensemble forecast for the Pacific North American Oscillation, which is a good indicator for East-West pressure anomaly position and magnitude. Negative PNA values is favorable for the West, and positive PNA values favor the East coast.

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