It’s the details of each storm that matter to powder skiers, but understanding the general storm position and track are still important to determine when the next big snowfall may arrive.
The way that meteorologists keep track of storms is through the use of a term called “vorticity.” This is really just a fancy word for an area of spin in the atmosphere. Through a bunch of complicated equations that aren’t worth talking about here, these areas of spin (or vorticity) help to lift the atmosphere, and rising motion cools the air and helps snow (or rain) to form.
We can track vorticity in red on the maps below, and this helps to show where the best areas of snow could be located. If you’ve been following the weather, you know that there have been some big snow reports this week with two to three feet of snow falling in Colorado, Utah, California and also in northern New England. Unsurprisingly, this coincides with the best vorticity.
Late this week the main storm energy (vorticity) will be over the western U.S. with another smaller piece over New England.
As we look ahead in the forecast, our computer models are showing that the main area of vorticity late this weekend into early next week will stay over the east coast. This means snow will fall for many mountains in New England while drier and sunny conditions prevail in the west.
By Monday, most of the vorticity is over the east coast, leaving the western U.S. storm-free.
Watching these areas of vorticity move through the general west-to-east flow of the atmosphere can help to find storms, but as I always say, the powder is in the details. So here they are.
Far West and Rocky Mountains
Snow will be plentiful from Tahoe east to Utah and Colorado through the remainder of the week. While this is welcome news for a very dry Tahoe region, it may serve even better skiing and riding in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah as multiple feet of dry powder will fall leading up to the weekend. I think this is the powder week they’ve been waiting for in Utah! For Colorado, an extended period of snow will develop from Thursday morning through Friday morning as powder days will close out what has already become a great week in the Centennial State.
It will be a mixed bag of precipitation for the east as two storms move through over the weekend. The first storm on Friday night into Saturday will draw enough warm air northward to bring ice and even some rain to resorts in New England. However, on the heels of this storm will be a colder storm for Sunday into Monday that should return snow to the entire region. For those of you on the east coast, you know it’s been a hard season to keep consistent snow and cold air, and this weekend is no exception. However, play your cards right and you might enjoy some fresh snow and colder air later in the weekend.
Meteorologist Joel Gratz is the creator of opensnow.com and is based in Boulder, Colo.