The Waiting Game

Tuesday, January 6, 2015 at 7:04 am

Tuesday PM update:

12z Euro and 18z  GFS show even less moisture this weekend, which means that we probably won’t see any precipitation.  The good news is that both of them have a much better trajectory for the following wave about Tuesday of next week.  Doesn’t look like a major system by any means, but hopefully we can at least get something out of it.  Details in the morning…


High pressure will dominate the region this week with warm and sunny conditions on the mountain and cool, hazy conditions in the valley.  Good time to be in the mountains!


Much advertised high pressure is taking control which means temps will be warming aloft with warm, sunny days on the mountain.  This will be a good week to treat your ski days like spring and bring up some bbq and brews and have a beach celebration in the parking lot after a day of skiing/riding.   You’ll be happy just to be out of the valleys where inversion conditions will be developing and poor air quality is likely.

Got a very good question yesterday about why we are saying inversions are developing but the forecast for valleys is not freezing cold like we often see in inversions.  The reason is that we are not starting with an arctic airmass.  Luckily we were able to move much of the freezing cold air from last week out of the area before the high pressure set up.  Still, if you look at the forecasted high temperatures, you can spot the temperature inversion.  For tomorrow (Wednesday), both the town of Alta and Salt Lake City airport have forecasted high temperatures of 46F.  Alta is nearly 4000 feet higher than the airport in elevation but is going to be just as warm…. something funky must be going on.  If we didn’t have the inversion capping valley temps, SLC might be 60F or higher tomorrow.  Even though we don’t have the arctic cold air in the valleys, it won’t change the fact that thick urban haze is likely to develop.  Yuck…

Looking at the forecast for snowfall, there’s not too much to talk about at least in terms of major storms.  The GFS, and to some extent the Euro, retrograde the ridge of high pressure far enough west to allow a weak piece of energy into the area this weekend.  It doesn’t look like it will do much other than bring us a chance of some light snow and perhaps and inch or two in the mountains.  Another similar piece of energy could do the same thing middle of next week.

As for major storms, in order for that to happen, we need a full pattern change to rid ourselves of this strong ridge over the west coast.  Here is a look at heights anomalies for tomorrow:



This image above demonstrates the strong high pressure over the area this week.  Warm colors are higher than normal pressure, cool colors are lower.

9 days from now, on January 15, the ridge is still overhead, but likely not quite as strong.  You can also see a large area of low pressure (trough) developing in the Gulf of Alaska:



Then, in this final image, we can see the low pressure has progressed toward the western US.  This would likely open the storm door to stronger Pacific systems:



The development of a pattern similar to the one shown above is in every major model currently, so there is reason for optimism.  However, two weeks ago, every major model was showing this type of pattern developing now — clearly they were wrong.  With this being over 10 days away, we are just going to have to watch and wait and content ourselves with a few weak impulses that make it through the ridge in the meantime.

As I mentioned the other day and others have pointed out in comments, January can often feature a long break period before winter gets going again.  Winter will return as always, and we’ll be ready for it when it does.


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9 thoughts on “The Waiting Game

  1. Steve

    How is Jackson hole? I was there 2 weeks ago and it was great! It seems like over the last 4 years, we continue with this short storm and then prolonged ridging problem. Maybe global warming has pushed the Jet Stream North? The future of skiing may be in Wyoming and Montana?
    I think it is finally time to give up on the Wasatch. 4 years of pain is about all I can take!!

    1. Wasatch Snow Forecast Post author

      Jackson Hole was a bust. It was the same type of warm advection system that brought us all that wind and wet snow the weekend before Christmas. The heavy, wet snow created bad avalanche conditions and the wind kept most upper-mountain lifts from turning. Such is the life of powder chasing — sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But when you win big, there’s nothing more rewarding. Next time!

  2. Paul

    That is what makes this site so awesome! Not only are the forecasts accurate, but you’re also a ripper who likes to chase powder just as much as anyone. Sorry your trip to Jackson was a dud… my buddy did the same thing and got screwed too. hope this forecast works out for the second half of the month.

  3. B

    What is the date for the third image you’ve shown on here? Headed to snowbird/alta january 15-19 and trying to remain hopeful. Thanks!

  4. Bob

    The only way you can say this last storm was a dud in the Tetons is if you’re being paid by SkiUtah to lie. The skiing up here has been phenomenal since Saturday afternoon, with Sunday delivering the deepest turns I’ve had all season, including spending the Christmas week cycle skiing in the Cottonwoods. Yesterday was epic as well, heavy and dense, but divinely smooth and every bump and compression was smoothed over. Everything skied like a perfect groomer, except you could throw them sideways and spend some quality time in the white room at will.

  5. Mike F.

    Yesterday at Jackson Hole was not good. Way too windy and most of the good stuff was closed all day. I eventually got my lift ticket refunded because everything was closed. Teton Pass backcountry was awesome on Sunday and I’d imagine that the skiing is good there today.

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