Last weekend’s storm was something special in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah where 50 inches (yes, you read that right) fell in about two days. The first two feet fell as a cold front moved through, and this was expected and predicted well. However, the second three feet fell from an intense band of lake-effect snow, where winds blow over the Great Salt Lake toward the mountains and a few factors come together to create a narrow but heavy band of snow. Meteorologists can predict that a band like this will form, but not its exact location or duration. The lake effect snow piled up at a rate of one to two inches per hour for 24 to 36 hours, and the final storm tally exceeded four feet and is leading to fantastic opening days for Alta, Snowbird and Brighton. Other areas in the Rockies from Arizona to Colorado to Wyoming and Montana saw one to two feet, but this still pales in comparison to the 50 inches in Utah.
Looking ahead, I think our best days are behind us, at least for the next 7 to 10 days. The main story will be storms that anchor themselves along the west coast and head north as they push inland, largely missing the Rockies. Colorado and Utah will be clipped with a few inches of snow, and areas further north like the Tetons of Wyoming and Montana and Idaho should see more snow with potentially 6 to 12 inches as a stronger storm pushes inland on Monday. However, snow totals won’t be nearly as deep as what they’ll see along the west coast with many feet of snow accumulating over the weekend and during the week of Thanksgiving.
The positive news is that temperatures will be cold enough for nighttime snowmaking, so resorts should open on schedule and gradually increase their terrain. I’m hoping that the weather pattern shifts a bit east toward the end of November, which would start the powder machine cranking once again. I remember many previous seasons where the powder really started to accumulate in early December, and let’s hope this is another one of those years.
Joel Gratz is a Meteorologist and the creator of OpenSnow.com.