What a week it has been! Snow has been falling over most of the Western US for the last ten days, and we have taken full advantage of it. Today was our first day off after six straight days of chasing. We left Utah Sunday night for 10\ at Targhee on Monday. We were first chair on Dreamcatcher, and due to a mechanical issue, we caught the opening of the new Colter chair later in the day. The we hurried back to Utah to catch 15\" at Snowbird from the same storm. We managed to get fresh tracks down upper cirque and Baldy. We jumped on a place to Seattle that afternoon, as the next storm took aim at the Cascades. With a 4:30 wake up call we headed to Crystal, where 18\" fell overnight. We made it just in time for first chair on Chinook, and Grubstake and Powder Bowl were excellent. Another 9\" of low density snow fell the next night, and refreshed the upper mountain. Southback opened for the first time this season and was incredible. Two plus feet, untracked, and open for the first time this season. Check out the footage from that day here. We jumped on a flight back to Utah as the same storm moved inland, dropping 12\" of snow at Solitude, where we were on the first chair at Powderhorn. This storm dropped 21\" at Jackson Hole, who was planning to open their tram for the first time this season on Saturday. So after riding at Solitude we went back up to Jackson, and managed to make the first public tram of the season. Six days, five mountains, four states, and 85\" of snow. Not too bad for the end of November/beginning of December.
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Short Term Forecast
That might be enough powder for an entire season for some, but we already want more. And fortunately for us, and all the other powder hounds out there, there's several more storms on the horizon. We have a long duration event underway, as a storm will move down the coast, wobble a bit over the California coast, and slowly move inland. Tahoe and Colorado will be the big winners, and Montana will be deep as well. Solid totals for Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, and even some snow for Arizona too.
As mentioned, this storm is already underway, with significant accumulations in the Sierra. This forecast will review additional totals from this morning onward, region by region. One of the key pieces is that once again, we have a strong plume of Pacific moisture extending inland. This gif shows that type of moisture is available in the atmosphere, should there by a mechanism to squeeze that moisture out as snow.
You can see initially that this anomalous moisture is over the Sierra, before it extends northeast into Montana, then down into Utah and Colorado, where it then stays for several days due to the location of the southern branch of the jet stream. The jet stream and upper level storm will give this the lifting mechanism it needs to squeeze out the ample moisture. However, as is often the case with a plume of moisture from the Pacific, some warmer temperatures are going to be streaming in as well. As the storm tracks inland, it will bring some colder air as a cold front passes, but the available moisture at this point is considerably less. You can see the progression of the cooler air below.
Both the northern and central Sierra have already received healthy totals from this storm, with 22\" in the Tahoe Basin at Palisades and Sugarbowl, 19\" at Kirkwood, and two feet at Mammoth. Moderate to heavy snow will continue in the Sierra on Monday, adding an additional 6-12” through Monday evening, before tapering to light snow Monday night. The cold front has already reached the Sierra, so the snow quality will be much better for this phase of the storm. The winds will be more reasonable as well now that the front has passed, and coming from the SW this will generate favorable conditions for heavy snow.
Montana will benefit from this Pacific moisture as well, but will get its rising motion from a different upper level storm. The result will be the same though, with accumulation snow across the region. The last 24 hours delivered totals of 7 inches to Big Sky and Bridger Bowl. The next phase of this storm will focus on Northwest Montana. While no single 12 hour period will be deep enough to warrant a chase, 3-6\" will fall every 12 hours from today through Thursday. The biggest snow totals won't fall at the resorts, but instead in the Mission, Sawn, and Flathead ranges. At the resorts, expect an additional 3-6\", with light snow tapering Wednesday night.
This does not look like a huge storm for the Wasatch, especially with the higher temps lowering snow to liquid rations and limiting snow accumulations. Resorts are reporting 6-11\" so far, with another 3-6\" possible by Tuesday. Another solid round of snow to an already deep base.
From Monday onward, Colorado will see the most snow. It will be snowing pretty much non stop through Thursday night. For most mountains outside the front range, snow will pile up at the rate of 2-8\" every 12 hours. The northern mountains and Steamboat will be heaviest from today through tomorrow, with continued light snow after, totaling 14-24\". The focus then shifts to the central mountains, including Aspen and Crested Butte, where the heaviest snow will fall Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning, although there will be a second wave Wednesday night to Thursday morning. By Friday, totals should be in the 16-26\" range here. In southwest Colorado, the heaviest snow will be from Tuesday night through Wednesday night, with lighter snow otherwise. Totals at Telluride will be in the 10-18\" range and Wolf Creek 14-24\". Overall a really good storm for Colorado, albeit a little bit spread out. Below are the snow taps through Friday for Colorado.
In the Tetons, Jackson and Targhee have seen 4-6\" so far, and another 8-12\" will slowly pile up through Wednesday. Again, this is more of a long duration event with no particularly heavy period, but instead light snow continuing for the next few days.
As this long duration event is starting to wind down in Colorado on Thursday, the next snow producer will already be underway in the Northwest, as another low pressure system moves in from the Gulf of Alaska. Coastal British Columbia and northern Washington will start to see more snow Thursday morning, and the rest of the Cascades will see snow shortly thereafter. Moderate to heavy snow is likely for British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho from Thursday to Friday. The focus will then shift to the Sierra for Friday to Saturday, with very heavy snow possible. As usual, the storm will eventually track inland bringing snow to Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado as well. Broadly speaking, this storm has the potential to bring 1-2 feet in Washington, Oregon, and California, and 6-12\" in Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. This is just an early guess at totals, we will have an update on storm #2 in the next few days. Below is the GFS prediction for snowfall for the second storm, showing the 4 day snowfall ending Saturday night.
After the second storm, the pattern remains active. There is no end in sight for snowstorms in the Western US. The third storm looks to arrive right on the heels of storm #2. Right now, it looks like snow should pick up again in the Northwest by the end of the weekend, with another significant snowfall possible. More details later.
Thanks for reading everyone! We're in a very active and snowy pattern right now, and it looks to continue. MAYBE there's a break around the middle of the month, but it's a bit too early to say. Stay tuned for updates!