Snow returns to the West with a vengeance this week, with the focus shifting to the Northern Rockies this time. Finally, the bullseye is on Montana, with a long-duration snow event on tap from Thursday to Sunday. Northern Western Wyoming and northwest Colorado will be very deep as well, with lesser amounts for interior BCorthern Idaho and a minor event for northern Utah. Without much of a break, a strengthening storm will bring more widespread snow to the west, this time with a more southerly track from Sunday through Tuesday.
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Short Term Forecast
Our storms this week originate up in Canada, near Hudson Bay. A strong upper-level low-pressure system will hang out near the Hudson Bay for nearly a week, impacting our weather in the western US during that time. Several waves of energy rotating around this upper-level low will bring many rounds of snow before this feature begins to move east. This is why, initially, the northern Rockies, a bit closer to this upper-level feature, will see the biggest snow totals. However, one of these pieces of energy will break off the Hudson Bay low and drift far enough south and west that California, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico will see snow as well. In the upper-level pattern shown below, you can see the waves rotating around the Hudson Bay, down into the northern Rockies, and eventually breaking off into the southwest US.
The action gets started in British Columbia Thursday, with moderate snow for the interior. Snow continues through Saturday, with two heavier waves Thursday night and Friday night. The first heavier wave will focus a bit farther north, while the snow Friday night focuses more south, where resorts like Whitewater and Kimberly should see 5-10\" overnight, and around a foot total from this storm. Western Alberta will finally see some much needed snow too, albeit lesser amounts. Expect 3-6\" for Ski Big 3 (Lake Louise, Banff, Norquay) and 5-10\" for Castle Mountain.
The big story with this storm is definitely Montana. The storm track for much of the last two months neglected the Treasure State, but that is about to change in a hurry. Montana is positioned perfect for these waves of of energy coming from the Hudson Bay. Since these storms are originating so far North, not surprisingly, there will be some frigid air associated with them. The first round of cold air arrives late Thursday night into Friday morning, ish, while the second burst of even colder air arrives Friday night. Snow ratios will start high, around 15:1, and likely increase a bit higher with the second front. We may want some more dense snow to cover up the current surface, but this snow will be low density and getting lighter.
The models are a bit at odds with each other on exactly how much snow will fall, with some disturbing yet exciting ranges. From Thursday afternoon through Saturday night it will be snowing moderately too heavily in most of Montana. Big Sky, Bridger Bowl, and Montana Snowbowl are all in line to see very big totals. Expect 18-30 inches during this time period. We would not be surprised to see upper mountain totals approaching three feet if everything lines up perfectly. A combination of cold temperatures, decent pacific moisture, and support from these waves of energy are the ingredients needed to keep this storm going for a few days. The heaviest snow for all these areas will likely fall during the day time hours on Friday, but moderate snow will be falling Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday morning as well. Friday and Saturday look like great days to be skiing and riding. Expect 5-10\" Thursday night, 6-12\" during the day Friday, and another 5-10\" Friday night. The rest of Montana will do well too, including Showdown, Discovery, Red Lodge, and Teton Pass, where generally 10-20\" should pile up by the time this storm ends.
This storm will bring heavy snow to northern Idaho as well, focusing on some of the areas that have seen less snow so far this season. The timeline for snow will be similar, and the cold fronts just a bit slower here. Lookout Pass and Silver Mountain are looking best for this storm, with 8-16\" likely from this event. The snow will pile up a little more gradually here, with no particularly deep 12 hour period. The rest of the state should see just a few inches during the course of the next several days.
The Tetons are looking good for this storm too. Although the deepest moisture is farther north over Montana, a persistent SW/WW flow with cold temperatures and a decent moisture feed will bring consistent snow to Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee. The snow will arrive a bit later in western Wyoming, resulting in less impressive overnight totals going into Friday morning, but the heavy snow will ramp up quickly on Friday and continue through Saturday afternoon. We are a bit less confident in snow totals here, but by the end of the day on Saturday totals should also be in the 15-30 inch range, with the heaviest period occurring during the day on Friday. The best times to ski and ride will be mid to late day Friday and Saturday at Jackson and Targhee. Snow should stick around a bit longer in the Tetons allowing the totals to continue to grow.
Snow will kick off a bit later Thursday night in northwestern Colorado, but will ramp up overnight, especially in Steamboat. The heaviest snow should fall during the day Friday and Friday night, with some impressive totals, continuing through the day on Saturday. Expect 15-30 inches at Steamboat during the multi-day snowfall event, with some bitter-cold temperatures as well. The deepest day should be Saturday.
Accumulations in northern Utah are a bit less certain, being on the southern edge of this initial storm track. Far northern Utah near the Idaho border is more likely to do well, so expect solid totals at Beaver and Pebble Creek. Expect 8-16\" from Thursday night through Saturday near the Utah/Idaho border, and 6-12\" to slowly pile up in the Cottonwoods too. Snowbasin and Powder Mountain should end up in this range also, or maybe a bit higher. If you live in Utah be sure to keep an eye on Beaver (Family run affordable ski area) with the Logan area mountains a solid wildcard.
Below are the snow totals from the National Blend of Models, as well as the storm track indicated by the black arrow.
Long Term Forecast
We will lump the next storm into the long-term forecast, as the details are still a bit uncertain. As mentioned, a piece of energy rotating around the Hudson Bay low will break off and track through the southwestern part of the US. On Saturday night the snow should start falling in the Sierra, and spread east from there. Another solid dump for Tahoe, Utah, Arizona, and Colorado is expected, with 8-16\" generally during this second storm. Temperatures should remain cold allowing for good-quality snow. The Tetons are on the northern fringe of this second wave but could see more moderate to heavy snow if the storm takes a more northerly track, adding to their already impressive totals. We will have more details on this storm in the next update.
Below is the early estimate for snow totals from the American Model for storm #2. Keep in mind these ratios are 10:1, but this storm will have considerably higher ratios so totals should be deeper. The southerly storm track for this event is indicated by the black arrow once again.
Toward the end of the week, the models show another storm impacting the western US. This time, the storm looks to originate in the Gulf of Alaska, a more traditional storm track that would bring heavy snow to Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. More details to come.
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