How High Will They Go?!?

Friday, January 6, 2017 at 8:07 am


We are now in a 48-hour break between storms with frigid temperatures.  Southern Utah received the most snowfall yesterday.  A very large atmospheric river will push rain and high mountain snow into the region starting on Sunday and last thru Tuesday.  Another storm for middle of next week.


Finally got to sleep in a little bit as I decided to take a day off from skiing.  I’m up to 23 days this year on the mountain, 16 of which have been powder days with at least 6″ of fresh snow.  Good numbers and a great powder day ratio!  Good day to stay inside too… Temps outside a frigid.  -2F at my place on the SLV bench.  Much colder elsewhere:

Notice the -23 just outside of PC.  -14 in town.  -5 at the SLC airport.  And -40 in Randolph and SW Wyoming (fun fact, that’s just about the temperature in which Celsius and Fahrenheit meet, so their C temp would also be about -40).  The notoriously cold Peter Sinks basin got down to -53F.  Brrrr…..   As cold as this all is, it’s not as frigid as models were projected last week.  That would have been a much deeper, more prolonged cold snap.  Thank Jebus that didn’t happen!

In one of Mother Nature’s small, more effed-up ironies, our next storm will be dying for cold air.  It pushes in starting Saturday night with an Atmospheric River taking aim at Utah.  Temps will warm so much that by Sunday evening, snow levels could top 8,000 feet.  Even a chance that could reach 9,000 feet for awhile.  The QPF for this storm remains incredible.  The Sierra Nevada will likely see the brunt with 6-12″ of liquid and snow levels up to 10k feet there.  Flooding is likely in California.   For Utah, we’ll still see good moisture transport into the region and we are looking at rain to develop on Sunday with snow levels rising up to 8k feet or higher.  Then, the heaviest portion of the storm moves in on Monday with snow levels falling a bit, perhaps down to 7k feet.  That’s good news.  The bad news is that winds will remain quite high throughout.  Storm wraps up on Tuesday.

Because of the high snow levels, the snow that does fall above 8-9k feet will be extremely dense, the 12km NAM demonstrates that well:

Univ of Utah

You can see that thru noon on Monday (only about halfway thru the storm), it already shows an astonishing 2.5″ of liquid.  However, for the Upper Cottonwoods, that only translates to 18″ of snow.  That’s a ratio of only about 7:1 — 7 inches of snow for every 1 inch of liquid.  In other words, extremely dense snow.  Good for filling in nooks and crannies! Not good for avy danger or skiing.

NAEFS ensemble mean shows that 3-4″ QPF from this storm is likely for the Upper Cottonwoods by Tuesday:

Perhaps even more than that…  So snowfall totals….  Obviously elevation is everything, the high snowfall totals will be confined to the highest elevations.

  • Above 9,000 feet, 25-45″ of dense snow by Tuesday is possible
  • Between 7,500 – 9,000 feet,  1-2 feet of snow with most of it toward the tail end of the storm.
  • 6,500 – 7,000 feet,  6-12″ at the end of the storm Monday evening and Monday night.

Of course, the above is my best guess at this point and subject to change.  As I said yesterday, due to the warmth and rain and wind.  This is not a good storm to ski.  Not saying it can’t be good, but it will certainly be atypical.  Bring your GoreTex!

On Tuesday, we have only a very short-lived break before the next system pushes in by Tuesday night.  This is another, albeit more modest, AR event.  Snow levels will be relatively high, but likely not as high as the first event. Probably in the 6,500-7,000 foot range before lowering.  Could see some additional fairly significant snowfall Tuesday night thru Thursday of next week for the mountains.

Long Range:

Some disagreement in the models.  The Euro is quick to bring another system into the area, perhaps with a more southerly track later next week (around the 14th).  The GFS holds off and brings a system in for the 15th-16th of the month.  Will have to watch this over the coming days…


January Reported Totals:

January Totals 2-Jan 3-Jan 4-Jan 5-Jan 6-Jan Totals
Solitude 10 28 4 15 0 57
Brighton 7 21 6 18 2 54
Sundance 1 20 3 22 3 49
Deer Valley 5 19 4 16 1 45
Snowbird 5 19 2 13 2 41
Park City 6 17 3 13 0 39
Alta 4 19 3 10 2 38
Beaver Mountain 7 2 10 17 0 36
Powder Mountain 8 2 3 18 0 31
Snowbasin 8 2 7 11 0 28
Brian Head 1 0 0 2 12 15
Eagle Point 0 0 1 3 7 11

And by popular demand… A chart form…

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15 thoughts on “How High Will They Go?!?

  1. LauraNorCal

    Love the chart! Left PC yesterday and spent the night in Winnemucca. Woke up to -5 this morning which sounds like it was an upgrade from PC temps this AM. Looking forward to seeing what Donner Summit looks like after all this weather in the past few weeks. Thanks for all the good advice and info to help us adjust our travel plans. Had the best powder days of my life at Deer Valley this week while waiting for i80 westbound to clear. You rock WSF!! 👍😃

      1. LauraNorCal

        I’ll let you know for sure. We will be battening down the hatches for sure. I live amongst redwood trees so hoping we make it through without a limb on a car (has happened more than once) and our power in tact.

  2. Tiny

    Will Tuesdays-Thursday event be worth chasing from the east coast? Or would waiting for colder temps be better?

    1. Chad Niel

      Just my opinion, it will be pretty damn risky. The best snow will be at higher elevations, which means snowbird is going to be the best bet and skiing the upper side of it, but when warm and heavy snow comes they can often go an entire day without getting the upper mountain open. It’s one thing to roll the dice on whether the powder will actually fall, but compounding rolling the dice on whether the mountain will even be open while you are here can lead to a lot of frustration.

    2. Andrew Donahue

      Also planning on making a trek out from east coast next week, interested in any input on potential impact from this second AR event and effect on conditions late week. Obviously still some model disagreement, but with slightly lower snow levels is there more favorable conditions late week/weekend in certain areas?

    3. Tom Bennett

      I agree with Chad. This is an upside-down snow event, combined with high winds and extended duration. Avy danger will be very high, wind holds the norm. Also with these conditions, you can be creaming through powder that turns into wet cement at the snow line, bad on the knees.

  3. SJG

    looks like a great storm to fill in all the cracks, and stick to the rocks a bit! Get some blower on top in a week or so…..

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