This was an important storm to chase especially since high pressure is a sure bet for the West for the extended forecast. Myself and my trusty back up forecaster Luke Stone spent 24 hours glued to weather models, webcams, and radars to eventually end up chasing from Wyoming to Utah grabbing 36 inches of blower powder. My previous forecast nailed the snow totals for Utah (18 inches at Alta) and highlighted 2 ski areas in Colorado that received the most snow (Steamboat and Winterpark). Other areas in Colorado received much less snow. Utah scored big time in the Wasatch especially in the Cottonwoods or areas further north towards Logan. The models clearly showed this happening as we posted late last week.
The hunt is on! Are you ready?
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Short Term Forecast
Chasing powder is frustrating but when the cards play out there are huge rewards! When the cards don't play out it's a quiet drive home. The powder skunk hits the best of us no matter how much you can be glued to weather models. It's important to follow web cams and radar but even that proves frustrating in some areas. This storm proved frustrating with models 7 days ago advertising 1-2 feet for most of the Cascades and Rockies including the 4 corners regions (Arizona, New Mexico, Southern Colorado). By Wednesday the models suddenly dried up for the Rockies (Went from 1-2 feet do nearly nothing including Utah). Suddenly on Thursday, the models lit up again, this time for the northern Rockies including Utah, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Some models showed 1-2 feet for these ares as they did originally. The southern Rockies were left out this time!
Trip Report- the life of a storm chaser: After extensive discussion with my trusted chase forecaster Luke Stone we set up in Jackson Wyoming expecting 12-15 inches late Saturday (Storm Ski) into Sunday morning over a wide area of the Tetons. Short term models were all in agreement for heavy snow. Saturday proved us wrong as the only snow that fell was over Jackson Hole Ski resort (1PM-4PM) with just 3 inches at closing (Summit). Targhee did not have any snow on Saturday! "So much for a deep last chair." Our only hope was Sunday and high pressure was on the horizon in the extended.
The reason meteorologically is Jackson's orientation in the Teton range favors SW or West wind direction (The winds were SW Saturday helping JHMR). On Saturday night the models for the Tetons decreased snow amounts on every run for the Tetons (12-15 downgraded to 5-9). Our hopes of a deep Sunday were fading. We were watching the web cams and snow telemetry (Automated snow gauges) at Big Sky quickly building (There is nothing worse sitting somewhere with no snow and watching it dump several hours away). With little sleep we decided to get up at 3AM and evaluate snow telemetry with a possible chase to Big Sky Resort from Jackson (3-4 hours with clear roads). The telemetry showed 5-8 inches and light snow on web cams (tail end of the storm). Luckily, moisture over Idaho moved further east over the Tetons with WNW winds producing a quick 6 inches over Targhee and 2-4 inches at Jackson. I'm sure Big Sky had higher amounts on the summit, perhaps 10 inches (30:1 snow ratios with cold temperatures). We could not justify the 3-4 hour drive at 3AM. Quick decision at 3AM: Back to sleep and chase to Targhee at 6AM. Whew- More sleep.
5:30 AM wake up call
Teton pass was snow covered (Light snow) and the back country warriors were already lined up parking as of 6:30 AM. It's great when your driving through snow on the way to a ski area just dreaming of powder! Grand Targhee was benefiting from NW flow as we pulled in at 7:45 AM. We ended up on first chair with a fantastic morning (8-10 of blower at the summit and perhaps 5-6 at the base). Here is a photo from the parking lot at Grand Targhee yesterday morning that I shot pulling into the parking lot.
After riding all morning at Targhee I considered a wildcard chase to Utah hoping for some hike terrain at a closed resort reaping deep snow. At noon Monday, I chased 3 1/2 hours to the family run Beaver Mountain (closed) in northern Utah. Snow telemetry just 5 miles away showed 27 inches. We suspected it would be deep. Unfortunately for Luke, he had to return to Jackson to pick up his dog "Noodle" from a sitter that picked him up at our luxury Motel 6 while we were at Targhee (No Chase for Luke). I arrived at Beaver Mountain in a deep parking lot at 4PM. With a good skin track and other skiers I hiked to the summit and was rewarded with thigh deep low density snow on a surprisingly good base below (Occasional crunch of surface or obstacles but 95% unscathed). It was one of my deepest runs of the season! Beaver Mountain benefited earlier this season with several storms that never made it into areas further south. They have received the highest snow totals this season in the State of Utah (74 inches). I scored 2 deep resorts in 1 day covering 2 States.
Here is a picture from Beaver Mountain that I snapped late yesterday afternoon before my run.
Here is a pic of the chairlift at the base area- Powderchaser Steve
Unfortunately for the west, the long range models don't offer any glimmer of hope until at least December 16th. In fact, its likely that the ridge of high pressure extend further in the period. The East originally looked deep this weekend has all but lost hope of a deep storm. Overall the pattern looks dry in the west and wet in the east. Its likely that New England land some deep storms in December but its impossible for me to nail down the timing. There is a storm showing up the models for the middle of next week that might be chase worthy!
In Alaska, heavy wet snow has been falling. Mountain ranges near Valdez are expected to nab 30-45 inches of snow this week. Aleyska Resort opens December 9th and is reporting 22 inches of snow in the past 24 hours! High elevation snow and low elevation rain are possible this week for Aleyska.
Stay tuned to the chase forecast! Hopefully some of you were out yesterday grabbing freshies! Remember, it's low tide in many areas even those that received significant snow yesterday (Wasatch especially).
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