We remain in an active pattern with several more storms lined up to bring additional snowfall to the West. The Sierra remains the primary target of the next two storms, but plenty of snow will make its way inland. The jet stream will then likely retreat a bit north shifting the focus to the Northwest through the third week of January. Beyond that, the models are hinting at a more inland storm track with less moisture but more cold air. Amen to that. The last several weeks have result the Western US snowpack to explode. Look at these numbers compared to normal.
The East Coast hasn't been totally skunked either, with Le Massif (Mountain Collective) getting more than 16\" so far. The Gaspe Peninsula is getting good snow so far this year, so head north of the border!
Conditions are good at Selkirk Powder, and they still have some open seats from 1/16 - 1/21 and from 1/23 through the end of the month. There's some light snow in the next few days with a larger storm possible for the end of next week. Selkirk Powder is in northern Idaho and operates outside the upper gates of the Schweitzer Ski Area. They ride powder with snowcats and snowmobiles. The next storm is looking decent for them mid to late next week adding to their good snowpack.
Below: Selkirk Powder Guides (Cat and snowmobile backcountry) is looking deep.
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Short Term Forecast
Our next storm is already underway, bringing heavy snow with warmer temperatures to coastal British Columbia and some light snow to Washington. This storm will drop down off the coast before moving inland over California, where big results are expected. We will finally have some colder air with this event, producing some better-quality snow. Still, it's not excessively cold, but enough to get more excitement from us! With so many storms and so many areas impacted, we will break it down by state/region for the first storm, and then generally for the following storms, with additional updates to come later. This won't be a major storm for Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and New Mexico, so generally expect 3 - 6 inches during this first storm. Taos could see bit more, in the 5 - 10 inch range.
The main event reaches California Friday afternoon, with snow quickly turning heavy in the evening. Between today and Sunday night, moderate to heavy snow will be falling across the Sierra. The most intense snowfall should occur Saturday afternoon through Sunday morning. Temperatures will start out a bit warm, with snow levels above Lake Tahoe, but some gradual cooling will occur before a cold front moves through later Saturday afternoon through evening. This will drop snow levels below 4k for the final part of the storm. Winds will be strong, but not extreme, Friday through the end of the day on Saturday, with some lift impacts possible. By Saturday night though the winds will decrease and should stay moderate through Sunday. Compared to some recent storms, this event from today through Sunday morning isn't huge, but maybe that will help keep winds down and resorts open. The resorts along the crest should see 10 - 30 inches (Palisades, Sugar Bowl, Kirkwood) from base to summit, with lesser totals as you head east into the basin and still a bit less for the east side of the lake. Mammoth will get slammed too, with 20 - 36 inches from base to summit. With decreasing winds and cooler temperatures, Sunday looks like the best day for good quality pow. Below are the expected snow totals based on the National Blend of Models (NBM).
Once this storm finishes with the Sierra, a more southerly track than recent storms will bring moderate snow to Utah from Saturday to Sunday. Light snow will start to fall Saturday afternoon and evening, before picking up after midnight. Moderate to heavy snow will continue Sunday morning and continue through much of the day. A more gradual cold front will move through the region from Saturday night through Sunday morning, increasing snow to liquid rations and improving snow quality. Due to the track of the storm, however, there does not appear to be much of a post-frontal period of northwest flow to really boost snow totals. Still, this is a solid storm nonetheless with totals ending up in the 8 - 16 inch for the Cottonwoods (Snowbird, Alta, Solitude, Brighton) range during the storm. Snow will start out medium density and transition to lighter density during the day on Sunday. Winds don't appear to have any major lift or snow impacts, so the best day for powder looks to be Sunday. Park City, Snowbasin, and Powder Mountain should see less snow, in the 6 - 12\" range. And the NBM snow forecast for Utah:
Things have started to turn around for the mountains and resorts in Arizona, with some great base-building snow over the last few weeks. The next few storms will continue to improve conditions in the Grand Canyon state. Snow will pick up Saturday evening in Northern Arizona, and at the Snowbowl, and continue through Sunday evening. Temperatures start out on the warm side but quickly cool as precipitation begins. A cold front will really cool things off mid-morning on Sunday. At Arizona Snowbowl, their high base elevation of 9k will help with snow ratios a bit. Winds do look quite strong in Arizona with this first storm though, with the strongest winds Sunday morning resulting wind affected snow and lift closures. Expect 10 - 20 inches at the Snowbowl by the end of the day on Sunday. Below is the NBM snow forecast for Arizona also.
This southerly storm track is definitely one that favors the San Juans. Light snow will begin Saturday night and increase after midnight, continuing through midday on Monday. Southerly and Southwesterly wind favored resorts will do best, like Wolf Creek and Silverton. Expect 10 - 20 inches for Wolf Creek and 7 - 14 for Silverton. Snow totals will be much less for the rest of Colorado but still expect 3 - 6\" for most mountains. Winds don't look to be as much of an issue here, with the strongest gusts staying to the south.
Without much of a break, the next storm will be moving ashore on Sunday. Light snow from the second storm may start falling early enough that there is no break in the snow at all in California. Moderate to heavy snow returns early Monday morning and continues most of the day. As the storm moves east, heavy snow will fall in Arizona as well, with moderate to heavy snow for Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. This storm has the potential to drop another 1 - 2 feet in the Sierra, 8 - 16\" in northern Arizona, and for now we'll say 6 - 12 inches in Utah and Colorado. We will update all these forecast snow totals in the next post. Winds are a bit tricky with this next storm though, as models have been fluctuating between much stronger winds than the first storm, or mellow winds if the low pressure tracks close enough to the Tahoe area. We will have to keep an eye on this. Below you can see the latest GFS model run showing the low pressure system approaching the Sierra with heavy snowfall.
In the next image, you can see the winds at 10k at the same time point above. There is a closed circulation at this level of the atmosphere where the winds are much calmer, whereas to the east and west they are very strong. If this closed circulation moves over the Tahoe area in the right path, the winds would not be an issue.
Long Term Forecast
After this second storm moves out, there is still more to come. Below is the upper level pattern for the next seven days. Look at all those storms over the West! At the end go this GIF you can see the storm track changing to a more northerly inland path.
Stay tuned for updates as this active pattern continues. Thanks for reading. Also, type in the promo code POWDERCHASERS when activating your Zoleo satellite communicator device to waive the $20 activation fee!