An incredible storm cycle just dropped through the Cascades to the Sierra this week. Moisture ramped up as the low tapped an Atmospheric River over California and dumped feet of snow from the Sierra, Dessert Southwest (Flagstaff), Utah, southern Colorado and New Mexico. Somehow the Tetons just grabbed 20 inches Friday night making this week one of the best in a long time. Storm totals and winners are below! More snow is on the way this weekend and again late next week Cover Photo: Matt Baydala skiing deep powder at Deer Valley Ski area on Saturday.
Earlier this season we saw many systems drop from Canada under N or NE winds favoring the northern Rockies and Canada. Then high pressure settled in for what seemed like an endless wait for snow. We expected the ridge to buckle towards the last weeks of November. The Sierra was bone dry and most of Utah (Weak snow layers from 3 weeks ago).
Suddenly, as forecasted, a deep trough with an atmospheric river and unseasonably cold air swept quickly through the Cascades and slowed over the Sierra. That system has resulted in significant snowfall! The southern mountains of Colorado came in per my forecast at 15-20 inches in the past 48 hours however the timing was off (Came in slower). The northern and central mountains of Colorado hit the 4-8 inch mark this morning per my forecast from a few days ago. Here are a few storm totals that might have you squirming if you missed it.
Sink of the stomach time! Warning! Not for the addicted powder junkie.
1) Alta Ski area - 69 inches
2) Arizona Snowbowl- 54 inches (Dessert Pow).
3) Mammoth- 52 inches
4) Snowbasin- 48 inches
5) Park City 29 inches (48 hours), 49 inches in 7 days.
5) Squaw Valley- 38 inches
6) Wolf Creek- 38 inches in the past week
7) Jackson Hole/Targhee- 20 inches
8) Purgatory -19 inches
9) Silverton- 15-20 inches
10) Taos- 20 inches
Below: Alta Ski area this Saturday morning (Looks like mid-winter).
Below: Alta this morning- Skier Hans Smith - Photo: Jay Goldberg (There's a skier in there)
So as a forecaster and chaser I ended up at Wolf Creek on Friday (Snowing heavily with only 5-9 inches of wind impacted powder) and Vail on Saturday (5-8 inches of blower pow). The Wolf has decent coverage (Another 1-2 feet would put them in very good shape), and Vail has very good coverage up top with much less at lower elevations. Looking back, I am kicking myself for not chasing for Dessert Pow at Arizona Snowbowl who had back to back mornings with more than 20 inches! How many times have we missed the deepest storm of the season? Most lifts were running both days at the Snowbowl. Alta had decent low elevation terrain open today while Snowbird was more limited (AVY mitigation is intense right now). Both Solitude and Snowbasin are expanding their terrain this week (Dees along I-70 favoring areas east of Vail Pass. It's likely that southern Summit score higher amounts (Breckenridge, Keystone, A-Basin) than it's neighbors north of I-70? Berthoud and Loveland Pass should score similar amounts Some additional light snow will be falling Friday evening that will bring storm totals slightly higher. Best times to ride powder will be Friday while it is snowing in most of the above-mentioned areas.
Below: University of Utah plumes showing a mean total of 8 inches for the Eisenhower Tunnel by 00Z (4 PM MST). You can see slightly higher amounts by Saturday morning (10). There is a decent amount of lines below the mean (Outliers), giving me only moderate confidence. Lines below the mean =less snow. As mentioned above the GFS is the pessimist so it's possible that lower amounts end up falling Friday. The Plumes tend to be overdone somewhat. Berthoud Pass had similar amounts. Vail Pass had 3-7. I think 4-8 is a safe bet for Summit County and its possible higher amounts fall south of I-70.
Below: Optimistic NAM showing moderate to heavy snow for Colorado and NM (6-11).
Below: The pessimistic GFS showing much less snow for Summit County (2-4).
The Euro splits the difference between the NAM and GFS (4-8).
New Mexico reaps the leftovers beginning Friday and ending Saturday morning. It's possible that Taos or Ski Santa Fe report 3-7 inches by Saturday morning (Ride late Friday or early Saturday).
The Rockies dry out this weekend and early next week. The models are pointing to a very wet pattern setting up for the Sierra beginning on Monday next week. Several warm and moist systems will push into the Sierra Monday-Thursday next week. The upper elevations of the ski areas may see an excess of 2-3 feet of snow during this period. Warmer temps may limit snowfall at the bases. Colder temps are likely to trend in by midweek bringing snowfall to the bases. Significant snowfall may continue into Thursday morning. The southern Sierra may initially be favored early next week with the northern areas more favorable Wednesday/Thursday (Too early to predict).
The leftovers, split and edge into the Rockies bringing several periods of light or moderate snow to the Wasatch, Tetons and most of Colorado at some point Tuesday-Friday. This may end up being several events of light or moderate snow that add up nicely by the end of next week. I am not sure there will be any single deep event in the Rockies. I am confident of several deep events for the Sierra.
Below: Models show several feet of snow at upper elevations of the Sierra through Thursday.
Powderchasers has a new sponsor! Ski Ride Tours
These guys have full ski trips with dates for both February and March open. The cool thing, is that they base the location on the weather (POW) to determine where they will be taking you. It's essentially a powder chase with set dates and a mystery location. That location is determined by where the powder is falling. Ski Ride Tours also has organized trips to Japan. Please check them out on their website. They have a high repeat following!