Anticipation building

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 at 6:55 am

Tuesday PM update:

A look at afternoon guidance hasn’t really helped me decide what will be the better powder day — Thursday or Friday.  EC/GEM both still bring in a strong second surge of moisture for Thursday night while the GFS/NAM both turn precip more showery by Thursday evening through Friday with lighter additional accumulations. 

What we know for sure, and all models agree on, is that snow will be heavy starting late Wednesday afternoon and continuing through Wednesday night into Thursday.  While the snow will be high density at first, it should lighten up considerably by daybreak Thursday.  Thursday is a safer bet for powder.  Friday has the potential to be even deeper and fluffier snow, but that is dependent on snow continuing into Thursday night which I have lower confidence in.  If we do not see this second impulse of additional moisture Thursday night, Friday could be a bit more tracked out than Thursday… Hopefully this will be more clear tomorrow morning.  I know there are some antsy people out there planning their “sick” day, but for now this is the best I can do. 

Otherwise, today’s runs continued to be mouth-wateringly good.  I’ll keep the 10-20″ with up to 2 feet forecast for now… but if the runs continue to look this good tomorrow, I may have to bump totals up a bit again.  Get the powder boards ready for action!




Today is the last day of quiet weather as a change to our pattern will bring a very moist system into the area between Wednesday and Friday with significant snowfall accumulations possible in the mountains.  10-20″ with 2 feet or more possible in some locations.


Quiet weather today with gradually increasing clouds this afternoon.  Early tomorrow, the first bit of moisture will start to be advected into the area.  A few light snow showers will be possible above 8,000 feet with a chance for rain showers below that level.  Snow will start to increase in the afternoon as an initial wave approaches the area.  Snow will be high density at first.

Snow should fall most of Wednesday night into Thursday in the Wasatch.  At the same time, a cold front will slowly sag south across the area, cooling temperatures as it does so.  Snow levels should fall to 5-6K feet and snow quality will improve in the mountains.  GFS/NAM have us entering a cool, showery period late on Thursday through the day on Friday with generally light additional accumulations.  The EC this morning, has another strong impulse entering the area after a short break Thursday afternoon.  In the EC’s solution, we would have another round of heavy snow for Thursday night into Friday.   While both solutions bring good snow to the area — the difference would have major implications on which day would be the best “sick” day for you to take.  The GFS/NAM would suggest Thursday — the EC would say Friday. Honestly, it’s probably hard to go wrong with either day.  For what it’s worth, the Canadian GEM also supports the EC’s idea of a second strong impulse for Thursday night.  I’ll update this afternoon if there is more consensus on this matter.

As for accumulations, they have potential to be big.  Yesterday, I was very conservative in telling you to set your expectations low at 6-12″ until we established more confidence.  I think at this point it’s safe for us to raise our expectations.  I think 10-20″ will fall throughout the Wasatch.  I also think there is a very good chance that certain areas (mainly above 9,000 feet) get 2 feet or more — at this point it is very hard to pinpoint where those places will be.

Later this weekend we’ll have a cool northwest flow.  We could see occasional instability showers.  GFS has a weak wave moving through on Sunday but the EC keeps us mostly dry.  Next week looks to start out dry.  Beyond that I have no idea… Some ensembles keep a dry pattern in place while others bring in more storm systems for the second week of February.  We’ll have to wait and see.


With all this said, where do we stand currently with our snowpack?  Well, the past two and a half weeks of dry weather has done a number on our snowpack with regard to how we are faring compared to average.

Here is the Snowbird SWE (snow water equivalent) of the snowpack compared to average:



Two long dry spells separated by only that five day snowy spell we had earlier this month has caused us to fall way behind average.  We currently sit at around 60% of normal at Snowbird.  The numbers elsewhere in Utah are generally slightly better… Here is a basin-wide view of the entire Western US:



Prior to this last dry spell, most of these numbers in Utah were in the 80s, they’ve now fallen to between 60-75% in most locations.  No hiding that this snow is desperately needed… Let’s hope we get as much or more than expected and we continue to see these numbers improve throughout the month of February.  Fingers crossed!


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19 thoughts on “Anticipation building

  1. Peter

    “While both solutions bring good snow to the area — the difference would have major implications on which day would be the best “sick” day for you to take.”

    – definitely interested in updates on this topic.

  2. Chandler

    Are we expecting any valley or bench snow at all or will snow levels be too high throught the week? If any snow, how much can we expect?

  3. Sam

    roughly speaking, an inch of water produced what amount of snow?

    On the Snowbird SWE chart, you’ve previously included the last few seasons, this time only 2014. if possible in the future can you include the last few season? I like seeing how it compares to the average, but I think it’s equally interesting to compare to the past few seasons, and how those seasons progressed to build that average.

    The average is too normalized over time, the other seasons show the dry periods and catch-up periods nicely (Step changes).

    1. Wasatch Snow Forecast Post author

      Snow ratios in Utah usually vary from 8:1 to 20:1 (8-20″ of snow per inch of liquid) With this storm, I’d expect them to start around 8:1 initially and increase as cold air moves in… by Friday, high elevation snow ratios will be around 12-15:1.

      For simplicity’ sake, I just wanted to post this year compared to average, but next time I will make sure to include that last two years again. 🙂

  4. jnrubens

    Will you be able to give us an update later today as the models bring more clarity? We are sitting back east changing flights chasing this storm. So any indication as to when the best days would be super helpful. Of course, we understand its the weather and could change on a moments notice 😉

    1. Wasatch Snow Forecast Post author

      Right now it looks like Thursday and Friday will both be amazing. Thursday might be safer because it’s a bit closer and therefore there is less time for something in the forecast to change. I would try to do both days if at all possible.

      1. Peter

        I hear ya on the potential for the forecast to change. I was thinking Friday might be the better day as the storm seems to be coming in wet. So Friday might have have the heavy, wet snow and then Friday might have some colder, drier snow on top and be deeper too. But it also sounds like the accumulations might be lower on Friday (showery?). These decisions drive me crazy.

  5. Yanks

    What does Feb 3-7 look like? We have a trip planned but wonder if we’ll only get dregs and leftovers…

    1. Wasatch Snow Forecast Post author

      Looks like it’ll be leftovers for the first part of your trip but there’s a chance for some snow toward the end of it. Still a bit far away to know for sure however, stay tuned.

  6. Eric Lewis

    Hey it may well be free refills for all! Thus, Fri, in bounds they will be opening up areas even Sat, I suspect (backside, etc). Plenty for all (this is my view, since I will not get out there until Fri PM!)

  7. Let it Snow

    Live by your forecasts. This one has been a long time coming.
    Need to drive to/from SLC/PC Weds and Thurs. Any thoughts on when the snow will cause problems on the roads, if at all? i.e. when do you expect the most accumulation?

  8. Corri

    Coming up to SLC for the first time next weekend the 7th -10th. Trying to decide which three mountains to ride. Staying in the Cottonwood part of town, was thinking about Brighton, Solitude, then finish the weekend with Snowbird. Any suggestions? I usually ride Mammoth in CA. Is it worth heading to the Park City area? Thanks.

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