Elevation Is Everything

Thursday, December 15, 2016 at 8:09 am


A very potent storm is on our doorstep.  Warm, sub-tropical air will push snow levels above 8,000 feet for the first part of this storm.  Cold air and crashing snow levels late in the storm.  More snow possible middle of next week.


Overrunning moisture yesterday proved more efficient than expected at producing snowfall.  Snow stayed mostly light for most of the day, but several hours of snow added up.  Anywhere from 3-8″ of snow being reported today.  The skiing yesterday was fun with graupelly snow that created a perfect smooth surface to surf around on.  Now, all attention turns to a much stronger system.

This is a remarkable storm.  From a weather nerd perspective, it will be very fun to watch.  From a skier perspective, it may not be so fun to watch — at least initially.  Here is this morning’s satellite loop:

The first thing to note is the huge plume of moisture heading toward southern California.  This is the sub-tropical moisture that will be fueling this storm.  I would call it an atmospheric river, but usually you see those long, narrow bands of moisture with AR events.  This looks more like an atmospheric tsunami to me.  The other thing to note is the cold air behind the front.  This can be seen with the speckled clouds of the PNW coast.  This is the cold air that will filter in behind the front tomorrow afternoon.

What to expect?  Rain. Lots of rain for all elevations below 8,000 feet.  Rain will start tonight and will continue thru tomorrow morning before snow levels finally drop midday Friday.  It’s not out of the question that snow levels could even push 9k feet for a time tonight.  If you’re wondering what the base elevations are for some resorts.  Some of the lower ones are Park City (~6,900 ft), Snowbasin (6,391 ft) ,  Sundance (6,100 ft).  So with the high snow levels, we could see rain 1000-2000 feet above the base elevations.  For reference, the Cottonwood resorts have bases around 8k feet, so they’ll be flirting with rain too.  Snowpacks can absorb a lot more rain than many people realize.  It’s not really that detrimental to a snowpack.  Just ask our friends in the PNW, they frequently see rain on their snowpack.  It’s not pretty, but it doesn’t kill the snowpack as much as one might think.

The good news is that for the highest elevations, it will be all snow — and lots of it!  Snowfall totals by Saturday morning still looking like:

  • Cottonwoods – 8-16″ for base elevations, 16-24″ for upper mountain.
  • Park City – 4-8″ for base elevations (after switch to snow), 8-16″ for upper mountain.
  • Snowbasin/PowMow/Beaver – 4-8″ for lower elevations of mountain, 10-24″ for upper mountain.
  • Brian Head – 8-14″

We still have a chance for some lake effect to enhance totals a bit Friday night southeast of the GSL, so we’ll have to watch for that.

Saturday and Sunday will be bitterly cold.  Which is kind of a slap in the face after a storm where we struggle so much to get cold air into the area in time for the heavy precipitation.  But, the cold air this weekend will keep the snow in good shape both at resorts and in the backcountry.

Long range:

It looks like we’ll have a storm for around Wednesday of next week.  Perhaps another storm Friday or Christmas eve.  These storms look colder, but not nearly as moist.  Perhaps just some fluffy 6-12″ type of storms….  Which would be a nice change of pace heading into Xmas holiday.


P.S.  We’ve had no shortage of powder so far this year, but you never know when the storm train will take a break.  If you’ve got a trip planned and want to ensure you get an unforgettable powder day, I’d consider booking a day with Whisper Ridge.  I was talking yesterday with Dan, their owner/operator, and the statistics he was telling me were astounding.  They’ve got 60,000 acres of terrain.  Unreal!  They’ve got 8 cats, 2 helicopters, a bunch of yurts you can stay in right up there on the mountain, with a world class chef to cook you meals.  A very special thing to do on your trip to Utah.

Even if you’re a local, they offer a one day passport that let’s you book a day on demand.  You can purchase this passport for yourself or as a gift for a loved one.  You have two years to use your cat skiing day.  Which means you can wait for the perfect snow conditions, then book a day short notice and guarantee the best powder day ever!  From what I understand, these passports are a limited time offer and they have a limited supply, so I’d recommend contacting Whisper Ridge soon!

My wife always struggles to know what to get me for Christmas — now I know what she can get me!  So, honey, if you’re reading this, please go to whisperridgeutah.com and give them a call at 801-876-4664 and get me one of these passports.


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6 thoughts on “Elevation Is Everything

  1. Dafty Punk

    Unless Whisper Ridge has a tram and chairlift I’m guessing a lot of that footage in the video isn’t actually from Whisper Ridge….

    /edit Don’t get me wrong, cat skiing is super fun and WR is a great operation along with all the others in the state! Just calling out some “enhanced” shots.

    1. Wasatch Snow Forecast

      yeah, it’s definitely not all from Whisper Ridge. I think since this is really their first full season of operation, they don’t have a lot of footage so had to borrow some from DPS and some of their partners. But, I was there last year and the terrain is awesome, so take it more as a mood setter.

      Anyway, I hosted the video locally and it was killing my server, so I had to take it down.

  2. Dirty Mike n da boyz

    Planning on taking the wife and her nephews skiing tonight at Brighton. Think it would be good up there? Or will I be getting rained on?

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