White Christmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 6:22 am


A Christmas storm is going to bring us typically light and fluffy Utah snow — all the way to the valley floors.  White Christmas!  A cold, unstable flow keeps us active into next week.

Storm Wrap-up:

Our big atmospheric river event is finally over and snow totals varied greatly, but 72-hour totals are approximately as follows:

  • LCC: 28-32″
  • BCC: 16-19″
  • PC: 12-15″
  • Snowbasin/Powder Mtn/Beaver: 16-24″
  • Sundance: 17″

Not surprisingly LCC overperformed again as it so often does in a northwest flow.  Every other area fell right into the forecasted amounts.  The most incredible numbers were the SWE numbers, in which some locations pushed 4″ of liquid.  If this were a colder storm, that would equate to up to 60″ of snow!   It was an interesting storm because it is great news for the season moving forward and great base-building snow.  On one hand we’re all stoked.  But on the other hand, there was so much low elevation rain, mashed potatoes snow, and wind that it wasn’t the best storm for actual skiing/riding.  Yesterday several resorts weren’t even able to open.  Hats off to ski patrol for having the courage to make the mountain safe for us and make the necessary calls.


Is it just me, or does it seem like we’ve been talking about this Christmas storm for weeks? At least 10 days…  Well, the models have performed well, because here it is!   A cold, trough is going to drop into the region Wednesday night with snow beginning in northern Utah on Thursday morning.  Snow levels will fall almost instantly to all valley floors.  Winter Storm Watches already hoisted for both mountains and valleys:



This system doesn’t have nearly the QPF of our atmospheric river, but it does have good moisture and cold air, so what does fall will pile up quickly.  Here is the GFS graphical view of this system:



You can see it shows about 15″ of snow in the upper Cottonwoods by Friday PM.  Would not be surprised if this is a little underdone.  For right now, I’m going to say 12-18″ in the Cottonwoods is likely by midday Friday with 8-14″ elsewhere.  This is a bit conservative and I would not at all be surprised if we see more.  The NAM isn’t quite as on board with the totals as I’d expect it to be so I’m having a few reservations going higher.  As for the valleys, it really depends on where you live, but all locations north of Cedar City should see at least some snow.  Anywhere from 2-6″ on valley floors with up to 10″ on the benches.  White Christmas wishes do come true!  I suggest everybody stay at home with their families on Christmas Day.  I’ll take care of the skiing for you…  😉

After Friday, we remain in a cold northwest flow.  That could keep showers around into this weekend at times.  The next wave moves in Sunday into Monday.  Right now this doesn’t look like a strong system, however, it does generate a long duration of at least semi-moist northwest flow.  These type of systems often surprise us.

No matter what angle you look at it.   The next week is going to rock.  We have a much better base right now, especially on the upper mountain (I’ll take a look at snowpack tomorrow),  and we have a couple cold winter-like storms in the forecast that are going to make the skiing great.  The low sun angle will keep the quality of the snow from these storms good for many days and once the backcountry settles a bit, the skiing there should be excellent.  If you can’t tell, I’m stoked.  And you should be too!


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28 thoughts on “White Christmas

  1. Stick Fetchman

    Awesome! Loved reading that.

    Went digging through the comments to find this gem from Tim Bowers a few days ago:

    “But, the model also shortens the Christmas storm by delaying its onset by a few hours Thursday morning. Best bet again are in the Cottonwoods where 4-6″ are likely. Park City, etc, a mere 2-4″. After that, nothing significant from the 26th to Jan 4th except for a couple of passing waves on the Dec 29th and 31st where 1-2″ are all that’ll come out of them each.”

    Nice call, Tim! Haha. In WSF we trust!

    1. Wasatch Snow Forecast Post author

      Yep, I think he was just looking at the GFS, which went through a phase of trying to move this system to our north. The system was always much deeper and stronger in the much more reliable ECMWF model.

    2. Tim Bowers

      First, my comments were on 19-Dec….a full 6 days before Christmas. And, on that day WSF, Evan says, “Wednesday night – Christmas Day: The next storm moves into the area. This system is colder and more progressive. It should move through the region quickly but there is a good chance it brings snow to all elevations — with a decent powder day for the mountains!” – no mention of amounts. You could say a ‘decent powder day’ would definitely not mean 12″+ but more like 4-6″ but I’m not Evan so he may use ‘decent’ differently than me. So, on the 19th, I decided to put up numbers based on what I typically see, which are from the GFS, GFS-parallel and the GEMS. From reading our forecasts, you can definately agree no 12″+ was expected for Christmas, right? Good.

      Secondly, with another day closer to the event and another day to digest the models, Evan states on the 20th, “The Christmas Day system looks totally different in the two major models. The GFS brings only a weak cold front through the area that brushes northern Utah. In this scenario, we’d only see a couple inches of mountain snowfall and maybe a dusting in the valley, mostly late in the day on Christmas. The ECMWF (Euro) is much stronger and deeper with this system and would bring several inches Christmas morning to the valleys with up to a foot in the mountains. The Canadian model is somewhere in between. I have very little confidence but my guess is that we’ll end up somewhere in between. So probably a 6″ storm or so for most mountains with a chance for a quick inch or two of snow in the valley on Christmas day.” -that last sentence……what he said was not too far off from what I said one day earlier, huh? In fact, we can agree that my upper range for the BCC and LCC was in line with what he said and my Park City, etc range of 2-4″ was more than his “inch or two” in the valley. But, that depends on what he means regarding the ‘valley’ – Snyderville Basin or Salt Lake City Valley…. but then who skis the valley. Even then no 12″+ events were foreseen then.

      So, before you bash my forecast 6 days out, be sure to see what others are saying at the same time, ok?

      See you mid-month!

      1. dante

        When I read Evan’s forecast for “in the valley” I figure he’s talking about The Salt Lake valley ….. what will be on the roads near many of our homes.

        But why argue? Both seem to be similar forecasts, and we have plenty of snow (actual and predicted) to celebrate! Peace on Earth, goodwill toward all.

  2. Steve

    We are in jackson hole skiing and planning on driving back to park city during the day Thursday . When should we leave? Wednesday night? Thursday morning? Thursday mid day? Maybe it doesn’t matter!

  3. Nancy Stukan

    Thanks for bringing us a white Christmas, Santa! We promise to continue to be good, so you can keep it coming in 2015. :))

  4. Bruce Klein

    We fly into SLC from NY on Christmas Day; scheduled to arrive 4:45 staying at Cliff Lodge. Fingers crossed for flight from NY due to weather in NY, plus weather in SLC. How does SLC do in the snow? And will LCC road be open? And will their be good mountain access be open on Friday? Hoping for the best. Any thoughts (good/bad) are welcome.

    1. Darren

      See you on the same flight, Bruce. Weather in NY will be fine; concerned with SLC arrival, though the airport does quite will with snow there. Fingers crossed!

      1. Bruce

        Gotcha. My other issue is our kids are leaving at 7 am from a different airport on Christmas Day to go to Florida. So concerned about their flight too.

        And not hoping for so much snow that lifts/terrain not accessible on Friday. Fingers crossed on all.

  5. Steely Dad

    Having a birthday two days before Christmas usually sucks but this forecast is THE BEST birthday present EVER!!!

  6. Tim Bowers

    With the Xmas storm, WSF thinks it’ll be from 14-25″ in PC and 19-32″ for the Cottonwoods from evening of the 24th through the morning of the 26th. The Euro and GFS (0.50-0.75″), GFS Parallel (0.75-1.00″) as well as the SREF plumes (average 0.60″), don’t offer much moisture from this storm to warrant such high amounts. 15:1 ratio is probably a good bet here so perhaps from 4″ in the SL Valley to 6-10″ in PC bases to 10-14″ PC peaks and Cottonwoods bases (maybe an inch or two more) to 14-18″ Cottonwood (to 20″ in Snowbird) peaks is what I’m thinking. And, I would not be surprised if they’re all less as this will be a relatively quick storm. The 12Z GFS is quicker than 06Z and a tad wetter but still in the aforementioned liquid equivalent range. But, what do I know? High confidence of 6″-9″ in the ski areas, medium confidence for 10-14″ and low confidence for above that. Heck, even the WPC (Weather Prediction Center) of the NWS (http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/) give the Wasatch 10-20% chance of receiving 12″ of freshies through Friday morning.

  7. Tim Bowers

    And, I’m afraid the period from 27-Dec to 07-Jan don’t look promising for any snow. It did look good for 2-4″, locally 6″ from the 27th to the 30th but the 12Z GFS dries that all out. Perhaps a blip and the afternoon and evening model runs put them back into the forecast. The GFS parallel keeps the hope alive for the 28th and 29th, however.

  8. Matt

    So weird for a guy to come onto a forecasters blog and start making different forecasts in the comment section. Maybe you should start your own blog Tim Bowers instead of criticizing Evan’s

  9. Joe Kerr

    A story about little Timmy Bowers.
    Who argued the forecast for hours.
    He argued with Stick, oh my what a prick.
    I think he might like golden showers.

  10. tim bowers

    NWS has backed off their accumulation forecasts a teeny bit. 10-18″ max. 18z GFS is slightly drier from previous run

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