Messy Storm

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at 8:04 am

Wednesday PM update:

Main change to the forecast today was models bringing the front thru at little bit later than they were this morning.  That moves the frontal passage for the SLC/Cottonwoods/PC area to around noon on Thursday rather than the morning hours.  Best skiing will likely be during the afternoon.   Lots of wind still expected with high snow levels tonight!




A storm is approaching the area today with winds picking up and clouds increasing.  High elevation snow (with rain possible below 8,000 feet) will begin tonight.  The cold front will drop snow levels on Thursday with a period of heavy snow likely in the morning down to valley floors.  High pressure will take control again for next week.


A messy storm upcoming for the Wasatch.  The first period of this storm will be gusty winds today.  Tonight moisture will be drawn into the area in a SW flow.  Snow levels should be very high tonight — likely at or above 8k feet.  Don’t be surprised to see a bit of rain.  Luckily, the meat of this storm is with the cold front on Thursday morning.  Snow levels will crash as the cold front passed through.  Even lower valleys should see a period of snow tomorrow morning.  Snow should taper off in the mountains during the afternoon.

The models still look good with this morning’s NAM generating over an inch of QPF for the Upper Cottonwoods:

NAEFS ensembles still showing 1-1.5″ of liquid as well.  One would think this would translate to a healthy storm, and perhaps it will.  But I have my concerns.  The first concern is snow levels.  These warm storms seem to deliver way less often than cold storms, and the dense snow just doesn’t accumulate quickly.  This is an even bigger concern for areas outside the Cottonwoods that could see rain at the base for the first half of the storm.  Another concern is duration of the storm.  The cold front brings a few hours of heavy snow, and that’s pretty much it.  There’s no prolonged NW flow behind the front which is often prime time for accumulation.  Finally, this storm is fighting a ridge the whole time, and could lose a lot of strength as it moves east into our area.

With all that being said, I think I’ll go with 6-12″ for the Cottonwoods.  For the upper elevations of PC, Snowbasin, Sundance, Beaver, perhaps 4-8″ will be possible.  I think anything below 8k feet will probably just see a few inches during the passage of the cold front.

Definitely a storm for the high elevations — with that being said, if you can get up high on Thursday morning, you should have free refills.

Long range:

Right now, we have a weak trailing wave for Friday night and Saturday that will be mostly clouds, then we go high and dry for the foreseeable future.  Long range models have the ridge sticking around as stubborn as can be thru the end of the month.  I wish I had better news, and certainly things can change, but at this time we seem to be stuck under ridging.  Models still hinting at an active March, but until I see storms within the ten day window, I’m not getting my hopes up.


P.S.   During this “February Thaw” we’ve been having, the topic of cat skiing has come up several times in the comments section as a good option for those of you who are booking from out-of-state to guarantee you’ll have your shot at some fresh snow while you’re here, just in case mother nature doesn’t deliver.  These were very good suggestions.

Yesterday, some friends and I were fortunate enough to do some cat skiing with a new operation based out of Paradise, Utah (Cache Valley) called Whisper Ridge.  With over 30,000 acres of private land out their disposal, and a cat driver / guide who’s part of a family that’s owned the land for generations.  They really have a great service with so many different options for skiing from glades to open bowls to straight up BC-style pillow lines.  I was really impressed with both the expert guide service and the terrain.  Perhaps the most amazing thing is that from a weather perspective, we couldn’t have had a worse day for cat skiing.  Aside from a couple creamy inches this past weekend, the area hasn’t seen much snow in the past two weeks and with the warm temps, the snow has seen a vicious freeze/thaw cycle.  Despite this, there was still untracked snow abound and lots of fun to be had.  All we could talk about while we were there is how amazing this place would be during somewhat normal winter conditions.  I can’t wait to go back.

Anyhow,  Whisper Ridge is one of several cat skiing operations in the region and is certainly an option to be considered whether you’re visiting from out of town or even a local looking for something new and extraordinary.  Here are a few pics I snapped with my phone yesterday:

Photo Feb 16, 12 20 08 PM Photo Feb 16, 2 16 42 PM Photo Feb 16, 2 34 21 PM Photo Feb 16, 2 35 31 PM


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9 thoughts on “Messy Storm

  1. Pilot 3D

    Concise and educational, planning-wise. Clearly, you’re figuring out the homework. I’ve been a fan for years now.

    Sometimes, your page is helpfully applicable to other locales too; at least partially how/why I was in CO – which you likely heard about – during the end of Jan-early Feb. Aspen long-timers were skeptical at my obsessive weather reading and optimism…. then deeply surprised twice, inbounds and with cats.

    Lack of pow’ isn’t any forecaster’s fault. But other than properly tired legs, no complaints on this annual lap!

    Thanks! keep up the fine work.

  2. Dylan Foster

    Man, I really hope we get some snow out of this storm. PC was in pretty poor shape yesterday and today with ice and chunder. We really don’t need any more rain!

      1. Dylan Foster

        We’ve been having quite a freeze/thaw cycle the last few days with temps in the 50s, so it really depends what time of day you go. In the mornings a lot of runs are totally bulletproof, other areas soften up pretty well by noon. High elevations have been good, Thaynes/McConkey’s/Jupiter. Jupiter was great yesterday morning, not sure about today since it was closed due to wind.

        I would say just watch the temps for the day, it looks like it won’t be quite as hot after this storm, so it might improve pretty quickly.

  3. Justin Wehner

    Crossing my fingers that our nordic base will survive – things are thin and grim down in Round Valley. At least the sun didn’t manage to do much damage today.

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