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FEET OF SNOW FOR UPPER ELEVATIONS OF THE PNW- CHASES IN THE MIX FOR THE SIERRA NEXT WEEK.

2018-12-16

Summary:

The Pacific Northwest has reaped epic amounts of snow at upper elevations primarily in the northern areas. Mount Baker per automated snow telemetry (unofficial) nabbed 12 inches Saturday night in just a 6 hour period. Crystal is at 7 inches since 10 PM. Temperatures are warming rapidly in the northwest so if you can grab early chairs and ski some deep cream, it may be raining at the bases by 10 AM. The Sierra may offer the best chase for Monday with 5-10 inches by your opening lifts.

Below:  Crystal Mountain snow cam at the base of chair 6 (7-8 overnight).  

Forecast:

It's snowing heavily in the Northwest again this morning above 4,000 feet. Northern areas near Baker are favored for an additional 5-10 inches with snow levels rising to 4500 feet by late morning. Further south, the snow levels may rise to 5,000 feet or higher with less snow.  Can you believe that Mount Baker went from a 13-inch base almost a week ago to over 84 inches as of yesterday morning!  There have been many challenges in snow levels, avalanche danger, and other mitigation today with snow densities increasing.   Another 12 inches fell at Baker overnight!  

Snow will continue to fall in the Pacific Northwest with systems moving onshore every 24 hour period. Warm fronts will be proceeded by colder air with most of these systems. The most significant periods of moisture occur with snow levels around 4500 (Higher in the southern Cascades including Oregon) followed by colder air during the tail end of these fronts.  Heavy snow Sunday (Warming) will be followed by lighter snow Monday (Cooling).   The same occurs Tuesday/Wednesday with significant moisture depicted by the models (10-20 inches of snow above 5000 feet).  I like Wednesday the best with snow levels dropping to 3500 feet and some light frosting on top of the smooth wet pow from the night before.  Significant Avalanche dangers will exist in the Backcountry so be sure to check the NWAC reports before venturing out.  Avalanche warnings currently exist in many areas. If your chasing pow don't expect ideal conditions at the bases, and be ready to ski cream at the summits. If you time the cold fronts Monday or Wednesday , you may score some better density snow on top. 

Below: Warmer temperatures Thursday in the PNW 

Below: Cooling by Friday morning in the PNW.  Significantly colder temps will be found next weekend with snow levels dropping to 2,000 feet (Decrease in moisture).  

Below: Total snowfall through Friday in the Northwest.  The highest amounts will be found in northern areas due to lower snow levels (4000-4500 with lots of fluctuation all week).  Canada may be a better option. 

Interior BC and Whistler will benefit from lower snow levels (Just below mid-mountain).  Coastal BC including Whistler will see significant snowfall through the period with snow levels hovering around 5500 feet. Expect several feet of wet snow for the Alpine during the period.   Interior BC sees several rounds of light or moderate snow this weekend into early next week. We address this in the extended forecast. 

The Sierra has better odds of a decent powder day for Monday morning.  Snow will begin falling late Sunday and continue into the early morning hours Monday. Snow levels will keep amounts fairly light at the bases (3-5) with 5-10 inches at the summits.  It's a fast mover so any snow that falls will have ended by the time lifts are spinning on Monday. It's not overly cold (Low snow ratios) but fairly moist.  Decent moisture will provide a quick shot of snowfall for most of the central or northern Sierra. The Euro models are somewhat bullish for this solution, while the GFS shows less snow. The NAM is also bullish so I am inclined to believe the Euro.  The northern resorts of the Sierra are favored with this system.  Mammoth will see lower amounts.   Chase Monday morning!  The Good: Snow to most bases by late Sunday night.  Overnight Snow.  The Bad: Very warm temps proceeding the storm may provide an interesting mank layer below the new snow. Models are still not in consensus with GFS showing less snow.   Caveat:  The storm comes in fairly warm for the first few hours so it's possible a nice cream surface layer proceed the colder better quality snow?  Worth a chase?  If you're in the Sierra "Yes". If not and desperate for powder "Go for it, but dont expect perfection"

Below:  Total snowfall for the Sierra favoring northern resorts for Monday morning 

The Rockies grab light snow as early as Monday afternoon for the Tetons, Wasatch, Montana, and northern Colorado.  It's almost not worth a mention in this post.  See Extended. 

Extended:

The extended forecast brings an increase of snowfall to the Northwest Tuesday/Wednesday.  Interior BC will see a boost of moderate or heavy snow (Tuesday AM/PM).  Heavy high elevation snow continues for Whistler.  The Panhandle of Idaho including the northern Rockies gets an uptick of snowfall Tuesday PM and Wednesday.  Expect some Wednesday chases in these areas.  Snowfall for Whitefish Montana could be decent while resorts further south will see lower amounts.  The Tetons may approach 3-6 inches at some point Wednesday but it's too early to speculate.  The Wasatch has lower odds.  Colorado will see another round of light snowfall midweek. The further north you chase, the better your odds. 

The long-term pattern for the end of next week into XMAS timeframe shows an active period.  Models currently increase the odds for some systems to head further south from the PNW extending into most of the Rockies. These should come into play as early as December 23rd through Xmas (Light or moderate systems).  Stronger systems are depicted on the models for the tail end of December for much of the west.  The East Coast is likely to see an active period towards the end of this week!  

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Powderchaser Steve  

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We combine 35 years of experience forecasting and chasing powder to provide forecasts that help you find the deepest snow.