After a few snow showers this morning mostly sunny skies this afternoon with highs in the 30's. Over the weekend we are expecting lots of sun with highs in the 40's. A storm moving into the Pacific NW and Northern CA on Monday could bring some light rain and high elevation snow. That storm may be the beginning of a milder pattern that lasts for a week. High pressure over the West may keep the storm track to our North, including a storm on Thanksgiving. High temperatures will be mild into the 50's most of next week and the following weekend.
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Short Term Forecast
Ok, so let's recap this mild storm that we just had. It performed pretty much as we expected with high elevation snowfall until last night at the end when it snowed lightly to lake level. Elevation was everything with this storm with big increasing in snowfall totals as you go up the mountain. The biggest problem is that we don't get reports above 8,000 feet for most mountains, only the 2 on the East side of the lake.
We saw the snow levels come down to lake level last night but the moisture behind the cold front was limited. We saw a coating to an inch or two of snow below 7,000 feet. We saw a few more inches fall at the 7,000 foot level which was what were were expecting from this storm. We just weren't expecting the several inches that fell the night before at 7k.
At 8k we have most of the ski resorts reporting this morning.
The problem with forecasting and then verifying the forecast after the storm is knowing the elevation that each ski resort measures at. Over the last 12 years of doing this I have spoken to all of the ski resorts and know about what elevation they have their snow stakes, and what their methods are. It makes it extra important to know the elevations in a storm like this when the elevation made a significant difference in snowfall amounts.
Below is the keep me honest chart I like to post after each storm to be transparent about the final forecast before the storms start and the final totals reported. I added in the elevation of where each ski resort measures today, rounded to the nearest 1k. So let's break down the snowfall at 8k and above.
The North side of the had snow levels running about 1,000 feet lower than the South side for the first half of the storm. Also, more moisture made it to the East side of the lake than the forecast models were showing. That allowed Mt. Rose to pick up higher than the forecast on the Northeast corner of the lake and Heavenly to come in on forecast for the Southeast corner. Mt. Rose measures just under 9k and Heavenly just over 9k, so the comparison is to my final 9k foot forecast before the storm for the East side of the lake.
I'm giving a little more explanation today than normal due to it being the first time we have run the comparison recap after a storm this season. The rest of the ski resorts North of the lake from Boreal down to Alpine picked up the forecast amounts. Boreal's entire terrain is below 8k (7200-7700'), so I put the forecast at halfway between the 7k & 8k forecast. For the ski resorts on the West side of the lake from mid-lake down to South of the lake where we saw higher snow levels the reports are coming in 3-5 inches under the forecast.
Most of the ski resorts on the West side of the lake, which is most of them, are lower elevation than the resorts on the East side. They are measuring around 8k, with some a little higher and some a little lower. The interesting thing about Kirkwood is that the base is at 7800' and the summit at 9800', and they are measuring near the base while most ski resorts are reporting from the upper mountain. Some give a base measurement, but not enough to track and compare all the ski resorts. So I would think that as you go to the upper half of Kirkwood the snowfall amounts greatly increase. If there is close to 2 feet at the top of Heavenly there should be more than that at the top of Kirkwood.
So you can see that especially on these warm storms not only is it tricky to forecast if the snow levels fluctuate, but looking at the snowfall reports you need to know where they come from. We have a coating of snow at 6200' lake level in some spots up to 40" reported at 9k, and some 9k+ peaks on the West side along the crest probably have more. Mammoth is a great example of these crazy elevation snowfall increases on warm storms. Mammoth is reporting 21 inches at the base from this storm, and 80 inches at the summit! Their summit goes to 11,000 feet.
So overall this was a warm storm and not really any surprises. The storm performed as expected with little snow below 8,000 feet and 1-3+ feet above 8,000 feet. Great base building snow!
We have colder air today behind the cold front that will start to warm this weekend. We should be cold enough tonight and Saturday night to get some decent snowmaking. But then milder air begins to move in ahead of the next storm.
I am a little worried about the lower terrain next week with milder air moving in and the possibility of some more rain. The storm for Monday continues to look like it will try to push South into CA but will weaken by the time the moisture reaches Tahoe. So only expecting a few inches of snow West of the lake above 8,000 feet at best right now with rain for the lower elevations on Monday.
The mild pattern continues next week with the Southerly flow as we are East of the trough in the Pacific and West of the ridge over the West. Look at the temperature anomaly forecast for next week.
There is a another storm trying to push into the West Coast around Thanksgiving. But again, the ridge over the West will try to keep moist of the moisture to our North.
There European model (top) is a little further East and not as strong, with the ridge than the GFS (bottom) but both keep most of the moisture North and us in a dry and mild pattern.
Look at the total precip forecast for next week aiming most of the moisture into Western Canada and the Pacific NW.
So we may go back to last week's pattern and prior where we are on the Southern edge of the storm track, and on the mild side of the flow. Not good for snowfall or snowmaking. So let's hope what we have this weekend is ready to hold up to a week of mild and maybe a little wet.
There are some signs in the long-range that we could see the trough push into the West Coast towards the end of the month possibly bringing some colder storms and colder air.
I have to tell you, forecasting these mild storms is not my favorite, even though I get up high above the snow line to report the snow and get excited for any snow we get this time of year. But I can't wait as much as you can't, to forecast and report on some cold storms with feet of snow down to lake level. Hopefully sooner than later!
Mt. Rose, Boreal, Heavenly, and Squaw are open this weekend! Also, be sure to check out the Sierra at Tahoe Pray for Snow party in South Lake.
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