Colder this weekend . . . Chance for more light snow . . .

Monday, December 3, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Wednesday, 11 PM:

Late night update…looks like this “system” is over with, don’t think we’ll see much more snow, if any. Bases received virtually no snow with the high snow levels and mid-mountain elevations received 1-4″ throughout the Wasatch. Not quite what we were hoping for, but there just wasn’t much precip behind the front when the snow levels finally fell a bit.

Over the next couple days we will evolve into this new pattern of colder weather with occasional weak systems dropping down the Northern Rockies and brushing Northern Utah. Expect snow showers off and on in the high elevations, with snow down to valley floors by Saturday. None of these systems through the middle of next week look particularly strong but sometimes they can surprise us. My guess is we’ll see 3-6″ every two days for the next 10 days or so. Might not be the best pattern for heavy snow, but at least it’s something. And temps should drop low enough for round-the-clock snow making. Still hoping for retrogression of the Eastern Pacific high by mid-month . . .


Wednesday, 2:15 PM:

Front has now moved through but is rapidly weakening as it moves south. Precip should start to dwindle quickly. a couple reinforcing shots of moisture could bring a couple rounds of snow showers through tomorrow but it looks like we’ll only be left with a few inches of wet snow above 9,000 ft.

Wednesday update:

Front and associated moisture working its way south through the Wasatch right now. Expect snow to start falling before noon throughout the range above 7,500 feet. Snow levels should lower to 6,000 feet be this evening as snow starts to taper off. Above 8,000 ft., 3-8″ is likely today. Tomorrow could be another little powder day if it doesn’t get too tracked out this afternoon.

This weekend is still looking colder but the questions of how much precip we will get is starting to look clearer. It looks like just a few snow showers with limited accumulation. The infamous ridge over the eastern pacific is looking like it will set up farther east than we hoped for which will keep the best cold air/snow to our east for at least the weekend. We’ll still be much colder with clouds and occasional snow, but nothing major. Models still want to retrograde the ridge around mid-month which could open the storm door a little more before Christmas. Stay tuned . . . Enjoy the fresh snow.


Quick Tuesday update:

Overrunning moisture mentioned in yesterday’s discussion is quickly moving through the area causing high elevation rain and snow showers. Snow levels will run between 8-9K feet today so it’s likely the bases of resorts will see off and on rain or rain/snow mix showers today, with off and on wet snow showers from mid-mountain upwards. Tomorrow, a stronger impulse will enter the area during the afternoon hours. I would estimate that anywhere from 3-8″ is possible at mid-mountain elevations by Thursday afternoon from this wave. Snow levels will also drop to 6,000 ft so the snow won’t be quite as dense.

This weekend still expect weather to turn much colder. Questions with regard to how much snow we’ll get. Don’t think it will be a major system with only modest amounts of moisture to work with. GFS now shows the best dynamics and coldest air moving east of Utah a la yesterday’s Euro, whereas the Euro is now farther west. The old flip-flopping of the models. For right now I would just expect colder air and another light snow storm but if the models become more aggressive again we could see at least moderate amounts.

Next week, GFS and Euro still want start retrograding the eastern Pacific ridge, potentially opening to door for stronger storms around mid-month. Snowy Christmas? Let’s hope so!



Today was a great day to be on the ski slopes. It wasn’t a blower powder day by any means, but above mid-mountain there was 5+ inches of fresh snow. It was wind packed in places but there were some sheltered areas that collected a lot of that wind blown snow and made it seem a lot deeper than it actually was. Good day for sure.

November was not a good month overall for the Wasatch with an average of about half the normal precipitation throughout the range. The exception was the areas that saw the lake effect band during the second week of the month. Because of this system that dropped 40-50″ in the Cottonwoods and 2-3 feet over PC, these areas saw near average precipitation for the month. However we quickly dried back out again for the second half of the November. Only in the last couple days have we seen a return to fresh snow, but obviously these storms did little more than replenish a dwindling base from earlier in the month. So now we move forward with a below normal snowpack for 90% of the range and a near normal snowpack in the Cottonwoods.

Looking ahead, we will have another system drop into the area starting late tomorrow bringing a chance for snow above 7,000. This will be mostly very light overrunning showers so any accumulation will likely hold off until later on Wednesday when the front itself moves into the area. This front is not overly impressive but it does have a good moisture connection and it won’t be moving quite as fast as the last two systems. It may also have a reinforcing shot of precipitation behind it for Thursday. Best guess right now is another 4-8″ for the high Wasatch by Thursday PM. We will have to keep an eye on it because it could be one of those long duration events that gives us more snow than we are expecting. At the very least, the snow will be softened up again on Thursday and Friday.

Attention then turns to another cold system that is progged to drop into the Great Basin this weekend. Not a ton of moisture with this system but decent dynamics and cold air will allow for orographics and low density snowfall that could pile up quickly. GFS has been pretty aggressive with this system but the Euro tries to keep the best moisture and coldest air just to our East. We are thinking the GFS is the best model right now but it warrants watching over the next couple days.

The big reason for the switch from warm, tropical air over the last few days to colder, more winter-like air is the building of a strong ridge of high pressure over the Eastern Pacific. If you are a regular reader, then you’ve probably heard me discuss this several times over the last couple days. The reason why this is so important is that if the ridge sets up too far east near the coast, it would likely block us from any moisture or cold air reaching us. This is what happened last year from mid-November to mid-January and we saw virtually no snow. If the ridge, however, sets up near 140w or farther west, which is where the GFS wants to place it, we will be on the backside of the ridge and therefore see cold arctic air and storm systems drop into the area. The models have been battling back and forth with each other over the last few days as to where the ridge will set up, and like we said, its looking more favorable for us today than it was a few days ago.

Beyond this weekend, the pattern will depend on the ridge’s placement. Stationary, near 140w, would mean more cold air and weaker but frequent systems. Progression of the ridge farther East, we would probably dry out again leading up to Christmas. Retrogression farther West, and we would see more moisture-laden, cool systems. Latest model guidance suggests gradual retrogression through the third week of the month — not bad at all. But it would be very easy for the models to back track and progress the ridge at some point. All factors that bear watching.

The good news though should be obvious, we’ll have a continuation of storms for at least the next week, hopefully increasing in strength. And there will be lots of cold air working into the area by the weekend as well. This means snow to the valley floor will be likely and snow-making conditions will be great. Hope everybody enjoyed the fresh snow, even in modest amounts!


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  • Dennis Avery

    Excellent commentary and snow forecasting. I just started following your site.

    • Anonymous

      This IS the best snow forecast around. I’ve been reading WSF for about a year now … great stuff. Intelligent descriptions, and I learn something about snow forecasting in many (most?) posts.

      • Dennis Avery

        Thanks! I drive up from Albuquerque 3/4 times year to ski solitude/alta/ snowbird. Of those 3 which would be the best terrain to ski under current snow conditions later this week assuming the snow comes in Wednesday or not.

        • Thank you both for the kind words! All the Cottonwood resorts have similar conditions right now. I’ve heard from a couple of our readers that LCC has slightly better coverage than BCC right now. Snowbird might be the best for skiing on Thursday after the Wednesday system. Just because snow levels might be an issue and Snowbird has a lot of high elevation terrain at almost 11,000 ft. But you’ll find good early season conditions at any of the Cottonwood resorts!

  • MG

    Woot! This forecast made my day. Cheers to the ridge placing near 140w or farther west!

    • MG

      darn, this December 5th update put a damper on things, storms panning out weakly and ridge setting up too far east (at least in the short term). 🙁

  • James

    Do you think my projection of below average snow but above average moisture is plausible this year?

    • Plausible, sure. But unlikely. Usually if you have a bad snow year, it’s a bad water year and vice versa. If it does happen, it would have to be close to normal. Example: 95% snow with 105% water.