Potential to be Torrential

Tuesday, January 26, 2016 at 7:57 am


High pressure will keep our weather quiet with rapidly warming mountain temps over the next couple days.  Active weather returns for this weekend as a strong and moist trough drops into the region.  Significant mountain snowfall is a possibility.


A lot to talk about today, so let’s dive right in…

Yesterday was just as I was hoping.  An amazing, bluebird sleeper powder day.  LCC had a foot of fresh blower pow on top of the foot of fresh snow that fell Sunday morning.  Soft as ya like!  One of the best mornings of skiing I’ve had in a long time.  High pressure is now in control and temperatures are warming fast in the upper levels.  I doubt we’ll be able to maintain our snow quality this week.

Good news, however….  Our break is short-lived and active weather returns for this weekend.  I’ve been talking about this end of January storm cycle for a long time as models grabbed hold of it 10+ days ago and haven’t let go.  I was confident enough to write about it quite some time back due to the consistency models were showing and sure enough, it’s happening.  Score one for long range model performance!

Right now it looks like a very moist front is going to slowly sag south during the day Friday.  Snow could begin in the Wasatch as early as Friday afternoon.  Models have this front very slowly continuing to sag south during the day Saturday, all the while bringing copious moisture to the region.  The GFS has been stalling the front bit more over Northern Utah than the Euro, leading to higher totals.  Snow will likely continue through Saturday and possibly straight into Sunday.   The Euro keeps moisture around with occasional snow into early next week.  The GFS on the other hand, has a strong second wave pushing directly into Utah late Sunday into Monday.   Because of this, the GFS generates significantly more precipitation total than the Euro.

The Euro’s solution would bring an inch or more of liquid to virtually all Utah mountains with 2-3″ for favored areas.  That would equate to 1-2 feet of snow with more possible in places through early next week.  Not too bad.  I’m not allowed to post Euro images due to their privacy restrictions, but I’ll post the Canadian GEM instead, which has somewhat similar outputs:


The Euro is similar, but is decidedly more generous to central and southern Utah than the GEM.  (For what it’s worth, I rarely post the Canadian GEM model because I think it is a worthless pile of garbage, but sometimes it can be useful in deciding differences between GFS and Euro).

In contrast, the GFS is very robust due to a slower front migration south, then a strong secondary wave of energy early next week.  This is what the GFS puts out:


Widespread 2-3″ of liquid with 5 inches or more in the Cottonwoods.  Impressive.  However, the GFS has been overly bullish quite frequently this year and this solution doesn’t quite make as much sense to me as the Euro.

The NAEFS ensembles, which include the GFS members, are shown in graphical form here:



This goes through Monday, so it doesn’t cover the full 10-day run, but you can see that most ensembles show two separate spikes in precip with each wave.  Overall, the mean keeps rising.  I think this is overdone personally, I’d expect between 2-3″ for the upper Cottonwoods during this time period — more in line with the Euro.

Even if we end up with the more conservative Euro, that would still mean a good dose of snow.   Snow levels will start out around 6,000 feet on Friday, but should gradually drop down to valley floors through the weekend.  That means that in the mountains, the denser snow will be on bottom, which is always good.  Anything we get from Sunday onward should be blower snow as cold air moves in.   We’ll keep a close eye on this storm through the rest of the week.


Just in case you were wondering, here is what the state of Utah snowpack looks like as of this morning:


Most areas are above the median.  The exception is the Northern Wasatch which is just below the median, however, they are doing significantly better than last year.  Speaking of last year, this last storm finally put Snowbird’s snotel site above last year:


This year (blue line) was able to pass both last year (green line) and the median (purple line) with Sunday’s storm.  That puts this snotel at 103% of the median.  Looking at this graph is just a reminder of how awful last year truly was after January 1.  We are supposed to keep climbing until late April, instead, we basically just flatlined.  Luckily, this year we are going to continue that upward climb.   I feel like I’ve already skied a season’s worth of powder. Yesterday was my 23rd powder day (>6″ fresh snow) of the season!  As you can see, there will be plenty more opportunities for powder.  Statistically, we are less than 42% of the way done with our seasonal snowfall.

Thanks for reading!



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35 thoughts on “Potential to be Torrential

  1. rtkane

    Great to hear! Coming in late Monday night for 5 days of skiing. Looks like the forecast should set up conditions nicely for the week which will be a HUGE difference from the week I was there last year when temps at the base were hitting the high 50’s.

    With the potential of snow on Monday looking at the GFS, would that typically affect inbound flights into SLC much (so coming in late Monday night, should I worry about flight cancellations or being diverted)? Thanks for the continued service to all of us–I eagerly await your updates each morning.

    1. Erock

      Slc international knows how to deal with snow, unlike some of our east coast brethren. Unless we are talking 8-12 inches plus in the valley (which I really think we’re not), you will be fine. We got a few inches with this past weekend storm in SLC and 26 inches at snowbird, for perspective. Safe travels and go fast take and take chances.

      1. rtkane

        Great! Thanks.. that’s what I’d figured, but appreciate your input to help alleviate some concern! I wish I could get there Friday, but plane tickets and hotels are already booked–was there in Feb 2014 when there was 27″ in 3 days and am dying to experience that (or something close) again.

        1. Chad Niel

          We have had that already a number of times this year, and a few of them happened when the forecast was in the 6-12 range. I like your chances! Where are you going to ski?

          1. Kegfreak

            Less of a chance up there but it should be good. Was up there last week and the snow was decent.

  2. Jim

    Agreed, the GFS has been bullish on snow totals in the 5-10 forecast but it has also been pretty darn accurate. The Euro has been it’s usual conservative self on precip but has underdone almost every storm. So far I would say the GFS has been better. Understandably it is better to under promise then over deliver.

  3. Liz

    Skiing the Cottonwoods Thursday-Sunday. I hope the BCC/LCC roads will be ok this weekend. We’re renting standard SUV so they should let us up, right?

    1. Chad Niel

      Probably, however my mom said last Wednesday they were actually checking every car for snow tires. Even if they do, if you don’t rent a vehicle with snow tires, be extremely careful. A lot of people get in trouble coming down because they overestimate the effect of 4WD.

      1. Liz

        Oh yeah, I’m very aware of that overconfidence trap with SUVs! I’m a careful driver. I assume rental SUVs don’t have snow tires. What are our options if they don’t let us up the road without them? UTA buses? Hitchhiking (I’m serious! We’ve picked up our share our carless skiers in BCC/LCC over the years).

        1. Mark Billie

          UTA buses from the park and rides. There are a few, with a big one on Wasatch Blvd near the 6200S exit off 215. The park and rides can fill up (and probably will for a big pow weekend like this) so you may want to get there early. Buses are ~$4.50 each way (maybe free if you have a pass depending on the type of pass? definitely free with my season pass), route info here:


          1. Liz

            We’re renting a house off Wasatch Blvd midway between BCC and LCC so good for bus. Hopefully we can drive up ourselves. It’s a good problem to have.

        2. Kegfreak

          You are fine as long as it is 4wd. Chains are required on 2wd only. Cops don’t check for snow/all season tires. LLC will be shut for Avalanche clearing in the night and possibly midday.

      2. Seth Richardson

        4wd does nothing with out snow tires. Infact a front wheel drive car with studded snow tires can go pretty much anywhere a 4 wheel drive can unless you are going up something with deep steep snow…. in which case you break out the chains :).

        1. Chad Niel

          I take my little sub compact Chevy sonic with snow tires up that canyon any day. Only thing that ever stops me is a police officer 🙂

          1. Seth Richardson

            I’ve noticed Utah is pretty strict if the roads are bad. It’s probably for the best though. We dont have that in montana everyone drives on ice just fine though haha.

    1. Wasatch Snow Forecast

      Well, a lot of that isn’t the model itself, but rather whoever is providing the output. It’s not too hard with any model to make a quick algorithm based on temperature to assume real-time snow ratios. So I guess the question is, where are you getting your model data from?

        1. Wasatch Snow Forecast

          I think the Euro does deliver with a 10:1 ratio. The GFS, I am honestly not sure about. Most of my forecasting is done by looking at liquid QPF, then estimating snow ratios based on 700mb temps.

  4. Bob Lewandowski

    I am heading to Snowbird skiing with my 12 year old son Th through Sunday night heading home Monday morning. Should I change my flight to the 4:30 on Monday? If the storm continues into Monday I will but not sure that will happen. WSF, should I stay or should I go?

    1. Wasatch Snow Forecast

      Robert Lewandowski! At this point there is much less confidence in anything after Saturday due to the large discrepancies in the models. So I wouldn’t push anything back just yet… but if the Euro starts to trend toward the GFS… then maybe… Stay tuned.

  5. Neve

    Excellent work (as always)!

    My untrained eyes suggest that the most recent model runs can’t figure out whether there will be a strong second wave of energy for Sunday night/Monday/Tuesday. GFS still likes it. The other models seem uncertain or want to push the energy elsewhere.

    If you had to choose between skiing either Friday+Saturday or Monday+Tuesday, what’s your choice? I was leaning towards Monday and Tuesday because the snow totals looked similar–or better–than the Friday+Saturday option, but without the crowds that Saturday promises to bring.

    Likely need to make the call this evening so that I can book flights, arrange for things at work, etc.

      1. Neve

        Thanks. Wish the storm would arrive a bit earlier. Skiing Friday does not look prime. And while Saturday looks excellent, the crowds (coupled with potential area closures) are bringing out the gambler in me (i.e., flying in Sunday night for a Monday-Tuesday trip).

  6. Steve French

    Hey Evan, should I plan a trip for late February? Will the models hold up? How should I get myself to the ski mountain? What can I expect for snacks at the mountain? Will it be sunny or cloudy? Im nervous about my ski choice, also can you please call my boss and tell him about my upcoming vacation? THANKSSSSS

  7. chris

    Evan, thanks for a great forecast as usual. Do you foresee any break in snowfall after Friday afternoon? I was planning to drive to Vail on Sunday morning from SLC but I’m thinking the drive might be risky with so much snow. I am hoping I can maybe drive through a break in the storm but if no such break exisits I may leave Friday morning instead.

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