The splitter

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 at 5:50 am


Dry and very mild through Friday.  Storm moves in Friday night with snowfall developing and continuing into Saturday, along with much colder temps.


Status quo today and tomorrow with dry, warm weather.  Friday will be warm as well but we’ll see the wind pick up ahead of our next system.

The next system is a splitter… I’ve been saying all along that it will split to at least some degree and the models continue to fall into line regarding the split.  It looks like it will move ashore in California as a consolidated system and start splitting as it crosses Nevada on Friday.  The southern split will drop south in southern Utah and Arizona while the northern split will bring precipitation to Northern Utah and Southern Idaho.  It does look like most of the state will see some rain and/or snow, however amounts will be limited due to the disorganized nature of the system.

So how much can we expect in the mountains?  That’s a tough call.  Yesterday I said a foot would be possible if everything went our way.  Well, after another day of model runs it seems less likely to go our way.  Right now I think 3-6″ is reasonable for most areas with a few pockets seeing higher amounts.  This will mostly fall Friday night and Saturday morning.  The skiing could be good on Saturday.  But at the same time, the rapidly cooling temps could freeze the top layer of the this week’s snow and create a gnarly dust-on-crust scenario.  The more snow we get to cover that crust the better.

We should start to clear out late Saturday but a few snow showers could linger in the mountains into Sunday.  One thing is for sure, we’ll be much cooler behind this system — which at the very least will allow resorts to resume snowmaking.

Long range:

The long range pattern is a war between a progressive (active) pattern to our west and a ridge just to our east.  As systems move into the west coast, they encounter high pressure and weaken and/or split.  Each model run has had slightly different ideas with regard to how successful these systems will be at breaking through the ridge and making it to Utah.  For example, the 00z GFS showed virtually no storm energy making it to Utah next week.  It’s subsequent run, the 06z GFS, showed a decent system for middle of next week and perhaps again the following weekend (Dec 20-21).   The inconsistency leads to poor forecasting confidence.  In short, we’ll have to wait and see.  Mother Nature is trying to send us storms but this gd high pressure ridge is ruining it for everybody!


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  • aaron

    wow what a joke! im coming jan 8th ,wish i wouldve cancelled while i had a chance!

    • January 8 is in a month… This forecast only applies to the next week to ten days.

  • aaron

    sorry just getting impatient..had to vent

    • For all we know we could get slammed in the weeks leading up to your trip. Its a slow start but the signs in the long range arent all bad. Keep the faith!

  • Darren

    great.. so if all goes well possible two storms before Christmas? Will be there on the 23rd for two weeks..

  • Eric

    Also getting pretty bummed – arriving on Christmas day for a week. Can still cancel but can’t figure out where else to go. Too bad flights to the Caribbean will be too expensive – could go diving instead of skiing. Fingers crossed!

    • NeverSummerRyder

      Go to Baker

  • Tom

    For visitors, travelers: Having lived in Park City now for 8 years, it’s safe to say it’s typically never really good until mid-January. There have been exceptions, but not many. I know that does not help anyone now….

    Having said that, if you had to be stuck someplace with a minimal though, this area has the most possibilities if you’re willing to travel a bit. Sometimes I drive an hour north or south can find 50 to 100% better conditions. Be open minded and you’ll have a good time.

    • Darren

      I’m good with it. Besides the snowfall being important I’m more concerned that the temps drop to allow snowmaking. 2011 was horrible for snow but the resorts showed how much snowmaking can make it better.

  • Steelydad

    How do we slip this ridge a Mickey?

    • Tely Rob

      Burn more skis and go to the Sierras!

      -Tely Rob

  • Bryan

    The warm eastern Pacific is contributing to a persistent high pressure in the western CONUS. Any significant storms we get will require a forceful break down of this pattern.

  • David

    How should I interpret this model predicting ~1.5″ liquid? Does it tend to overstate totals for splitting storms?

    • It’s not a “model” per se, but more of a composite of models that the HPC uses to predict QPF. I think it is extremely overdone. That 1.5″ is one specific favored spot, most areas in the Wasatch are well under an inch. Somewhat misleading…

  • Sam


    I love when you put the snowpack graphs up with previous years and avg.

    I know the totals are most likely below average, but I’m curious how this compares to recent trends.

    • Yeah, I like using those too. But in the early season the data isn’t nearly as meaningful as later in the year. Once we build up a 40″+ snowpack those graphs will be of better use.

  • Eric

    We (family of 4 from east coast) bought our ticket using miles so I can rebook the flights without a huge cost. Should be bail and go someplace warm? I welcome any advice. Thanks

  • Eric

    Sorry – heading to Snowbird from 12/26 – 12/31. Expensive trip for us and considering canceling and using the funds for local weekend trips later in the year.

    • Well, Snowbird has a good amount of terrain open and a decent base. From what I’ve heard, the entire mountain should be open by the time you get there. The only concern would be off-piste exposure of rocks and tree stumps, etc. But if you spend most of your time on the trail, the current forecast should not affect your plans. And it does look like we’ll get some snow this weekend, some snow next week, and perhaps more storms leading up to your trip.

      • Fred

        I think sometimes people forget or do not understand that big and little CWs are at 9k+ feet. WHOLE different world up there. Especially compared to the East coast ice.

  • Ross

    First, I am really grateful for the honest appraisal of the snow conditions here.

    Second, I had planned to come from Dec 18-Jan 6 with family, and I have a few questions and would appreciate your views.

    1) With all the warm weather, will there be avalanche issues for off-piste if it snows (I’ll be honest I don’t plan to do too much back country, and will probably stay in the resorts)?

    2) Even if the runs are open, how icy do you think it is/ will be?

    3) In your experience, do you think Wasatch will get a reasonable amount of powder (over the ski-boot) during my visit or is the high pressure likely to continue?

    • Answers:

      1) Avalanches are not really an issue inbounds. In the event that inbounds terrain would slide, the resort would likely close that area if not the whole mountain. Not a concern. Backcountry is condition dependent and those are always evolving, so check with UAC for further details.

      2) Ice can be possible, but again it is totally condition/weather dependent and it is too early to forecast that quite yet. If you’re used to east coast ice, then I think you’ll find our snow generally is not very icy, but there can be exceptions.

      3) Sounds like you are here for a long time and I would be very surprised if you didn’t get at least a few powder days in while you’re here. That what Utah snow is all about!

  • Darren

    Dear all,
    Love the back and forth and greatly appreciate the professional and expert input from WSF – thank you for your advice.
    I am an east coaster but have a home in PC and have been skiing Utah for over 25 years. This time of year can be very variable as far as snow conditions are concerned, but I do agree with the above comments that if you are willing to travel around, you can find decent snow somewhere. LCC/BCC are your best bet due to elevation and their typical snow accumulations during storms.
    For travelers making one trip per year, my advice for best snow and highest likelihood of powder: early-mid March. Usually deepest base, most open terrain and lots of storms!