Hoping for Scraps

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 6:23 am


A light refresher fell overnight at most Wasatch resorts.  The next round of snowfall will start this afternoon with additional accumulations likely.  Storms will move into the PNW this weekend, but will struggle to bring significant snow to Utah.


Our first two weak waves are through the region.  Wasatch resorts reporting anywhere from 1-4″ of snow so far since Sunday evening.  Yesterday I mentioned that this series of weak systems in this west-northwesterly flow made me uncomfortable as a forecaster because there was such a finite difference between getting skunked and getting walloped.  Today I feel no different, so far precip has had a lot of trouble organizing into anything other than occasional light showers.  However, the strongest wave is yet to come.  So if we get lucky tonight, we still could reach the original forecasted numbers.

Personally,  I’m expecting another few inches tonight, knowing that there is a possibility for us to get lucky.  Keep my expectations low, but hope for the best.  The farther north you are, the greater your chances of getting lucky will be.

Snow should begin again by this evening and continue into tomorrow morning.  I’d expect an additional 3-6″ for Cottonwoods… 1-3″ for PC… and 3-6″ for Snowbasin/PowderMountain… with 5-10″ for Beaver Mountain.  Hopefully we get a bit more… but my confidence is VERY low in this storm.

Thursday and Friday should be dry and warm.

Next system starts to impact the area on Saturday.  GFS shows us getting a bit more than Euro.  Either way, we’ll be in the scraps as the Cascades and Sierra Nevada get the brunt of this storm.  The high pressure ridge to our south and east will make it difficult for the trough to progress inland.  There are significant timing differences, but generally models show the next wave moving in on Monday with another chance for precipitation.  Again, the GFS is far more optimistic with this.  For right now, until models can reach a consensus, I’d say Saturday thru Tuesday we can expect times with high mountain snowfall in northern Utah.  It definitely does not look significant at this time.  Some storm energy is better than no storm energy….

Long range:

It sounds like a broken record.  But until we can fully rid ourselves of this ridge, we will not be able to get consistent snowfall into the region.  All potential storm energy currently is subjected to splitting and weakening as it encounters the ridge.  All models currently indicate that dominant high pressure returns for the second half of next week and continues through the middle of the month.  There are indications, primarily in the ECMWF long range models that the ridge could retrograde off shore after mid-month and give us a chance for troughing…. However, that’s all super long range speculation.  There are also small signs starting to pop up that we can break this large-scale pattern late in February into March.  For now though, we can only hope that’s true.


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  • Jay

    What is the origin of the ridge? Rossby wave? how does one get stuck like this? I know there are persistent highs like the Azores high but has this southwestern u.s. high always been there?

    • Historically ridging is the norm for the west, but usually we see large periods of troughing between the ridges that brings us storm cycles. It’s really tough to put a finger on why the last 4 seasons have featured unusually resilient ridging. The strongly Positive PDO coupled with a weak El Nino seems to be the prevailing theory this season but I’m not sure anybody really knows. In short, your guess is as good as mine.

  • We will not get rid of this ridge this year and have now settled into the mindset that this is going to be a terrible winter for snow fall. Thanks for all your efforts and will continue to read and HOPE, but I have officially given up and will ski out this crud for the rest of the year!

  • Darren

    It seems that unusually persistent warm temperatures have accompanied this ridging in the west this winter. Do you foresee more seasonal temps when/if the ridge breaks down or are the predictions about warming winter temperatures coming true? Do we all need to move further north?

    • Generally warm temperatures are just a byproduct of being under a ridge. If we can get a cold trough in here, then yes, we’ll go back to more winter-like temps.

  • ben

    Perhaps the climate is changing? Maybe someone should look into it. Could be trouble….

    • Sam

      Someone should tell that to the northeast, they are walloped with snow.

  • I know how frustrating this “ridge” must be for you. It’s like groundhog day! Oh, wait a minute, it is groundhog day! 🙂 Thank you for all your great work and excellent forecasts. You are the best!

  • Jim

    I know Utah is your focus, but could you tell us how this might affect central colorado? We are heading to Vail/Bever creek for the World Champs tommorrow.
    Thank you very much and keep up the great work.

  • Mark

    300″ at Solitude is looking like a big stretch this season. Obviously it’s still possible, but given what we’ve seen in Dec, Jan, and now Feb it’s looking more and more unlikely (149″ snow total as of this morning). I went up Wed, Fri, and Sun this past week and the snow is getting mighty thin, with bare spots starting to form up on the Summit chair’s south facing slopes. I have the BCC pass so went over to Brighton on Sunday and the top south facing section of Sol-Brighton isn’t going to last much longer unless we get more snow. I’m really worried how it will look this weekend after back-to-back hot days on Thu and Fri. Spring skiing is fun when you’re riding on top of a full season’s base, but that is certainly not the case when spring arrives in Jan and sticks around in Feb!

    • Mark

      Having said that, it’s amazing to me how well the mountain is holding up given how little snow we’ve had. As long as you manage your expectations there is a lot of fun to be had. I’ve been focusing on my 5 year old the past 3 weeks and it’s amazing the progress he’s making. When I take my teenagers up we look for stuff to jump off. The landings are a bit firm right now, but it’s still fun. Solo I force myself to ski stuff that makes me nervous. I hiked EGP a couple of times Friday and while the base was crusty there was enough soft snow to hold an edge. It’s not ideal, especially by Utah standards, but if you leave the house with the proper attitude it’s not a total disaster!

  • Kristen

    If one were to ski PCMR 3 out of the next 4 days, which day would make the most sense to skip?

  • Sam

    Here is the new Ski Utah Promotion Video

  • Tuan

    This is shaping up to be worse than 2011-2012 and by quite a bit, which is truly sad. At least in 2011-2012 there were days that it actually snowed and snowed in the valley. This is my last season in Utah and I was almost certain that we would have at least an average year as my first 3 has been sub-par. Who would have thought that we would have 4 years in ROW that sucked.

  • Heaven help us all, but it does sound as though I’ll be skiing in my boxers before February ends. Trust me, nobody wants to see that!

  • Step away form the edge folks. Still too early to call this worse that 2011-12. Both Snowbird and Brighton snowtel sites are still above where we were in 2012 at this time. Snowbird only recently dipped below the median, Brighton has been a tad below median for a while, but not ‘that’ bad, and ahead of last year.



    A good wet spring – it can still happen!

    • Tbl

      Yeah but the tale of the tape doesn’t really equate to good ski days this year…

    • Mark

      I’m worried that if we do have a good wet spring that it will be rain and not snow. If our snow levels in Dec, Jan, and now Feb have been 7k-8k what does that tell us about Mar and Apr? Such a crazy season…

    • tuan

      Like others have said, snow total thus far has been misleading. Other than the big storm in Dec and the over producer mid Janurary, there has not even been days when it has snow even a few inches. Ill take smaller storms that keeps the snow in relatively good shape over a few days of epic riding. The temps has also been crazy warm this winter thus resorts are not even able to make snow. Its now Feb. and PC doesnt even have all the terrain parks open. Its FEBRUARY!!

  • Aztech

    Snowbird is forecasting lower temps than Powder/Basin for tonight and tomorrow, so will that mean lighter density snow too? 4 of us are planning on a sick day and heading up early tomorrow! Woot!!

  • Darren

    I’m here the last week of February for six days of skiing or maybe golf. I’ll pack my skis or golf clubs last minute. SLC is great, but golf is better in Phoenix this time of year.

  • Mark

    You know it’s bad when Snowbird is making snow in Feb!

  • Mat Stouffer

    This winter is a complete loss. You know its bad when you are even talking about 1 to 3. During a normal year it would be 1 to 3 feet, this year it is inches. Let’s go early summer!!!

  • Duck

    Here is an off the wall question –

    Regarding the ridging off the California coast is there anything the state or some rich guy can do to “kill” it? Such as dropping “chemicals” from a plane or something?

    • brig

      A question that has probably been in the back of a few heads. A huge fan to suck in the storms brewing right now in the northern Pacific.

  • Walter white

    At the base of canyons and its dumping… Rain. Jackson here I come