Jackson Hole Daily Snow
By Alan Smith, Meteorologist Posted 2 months ago December 7, 2023
Jackson Hole and Targhee picked up 2-3 inches of new snow as of 5am. Periods of heavy snow will continue throughout the day with deep totals up high. The storm is starting warm and high-density, and rain has been falling in the lower valleys. Friday's snow will be colder and more orographic in nature with low-density snow favoring Targhee and the top of JHMR. Looks like a fun powder day.
Short Term Forecast
- Snow totals as of 5 a.m. Thursday range from 2-3 inches in the Tetons, and snow is starting out on the denser side.
- Rain has been falling in the town of Jackson and in Driggs, which was not expected. Snow levels are just slightly above town levels.
- A storm will impact the Tetons in multiple waves from Thursday morning through early Friday evening. Additional snow totals will range from 12-26 inches across the higher elevations at Targhee and JHMR.
- This will be a "right-side-up" storm with high-density snow initially on Thursday AM, transitioning to low-density powder by Friday as a colder airmass takes hold.
- Winds will be strong out of the WSW on Thursday (gusts to 50-60 mph up high), and lighter out of the NW on Friday.
- Heavy snowfall rates and strong winds will impact travel over Teton Pass on Thursday, and roads will become icy in all areas Thursday night/Friday as temperatures drop.
- Friday will offer the best skiing conditions with lighter winds and low-density snow quality (especially at Targhee which typically benefits the most from NW winds).
Current Conditions as of Thursday AM:
Snow arrived during the early morning hours and as of 5 am, Jackson Hole and Targhee reported 2-3 inches at mid to upper elevations. Targhee's base area snow stake also showed about 3 inches early this morning (and is now closing in on 4 inches).
Snow has continued to fall since these initial reports, with stations at the resorts indicating another 1-2 inches having accumulated between 5 and 7 am.
The only surprise so far has been in the lower valleys, where overnight temperatures were warmer than expected. As a result, rain has been falling in the town of Jackson and also in Driggs. I measured 0.19 inches of rain in my rain gauge in Jackson at 7 am. I was admittedly not expecting this.
Luckily, the rain appears to be confined to only the lowest elevations as the Jackson Hole Airport has been reporting snow and Teton Village (including the base of JHMR) is reporting 1 to 1.5 inches of new snow.
I don't know how far up the slopes at Snow King the rain has fallen. Hopefully not too high up as they are scheduled to open tomorrow, and will most likely be opening the lower mountain only where they have been making snow. The top of Snow King (safely above the rain/snow line) is reporting 2 inches of new snow on Thursday morning.
Bottom Line – The valleys and lower elevations continue to hurt for snow early this season and with a delayed start to nordic ski season. But this storm remains on track to bring deep accumulations to the mid to higher elevations (which matters most for alpine skiing) and Friday continues to look like a fun early-season powder day.
Forecast for Thursday through Thursday Night:
Heavy snow will fall through early to mid-afternoon on Thursday above 6,500-7,000 feet and temperatures will gradually drop over time behind a cold front that moves through during the morning hours. Snow quality will become less dense/wet over time (good news), but I don't think we're going to see blower quality with Thursday's daytime snow either.
Widespread snow will begin to taper off on Thursday evening with some lulls possible overnight. However, snow will develop again early Friday morning before 5 am snow reports and before lifts begin spinning as the next wave arrives. This new snow that falls overnight will be lower-density and more powdery.
Snow totals from Thursday AM through Friday AM will range from 6-16 inches in the Tetons (heaviest above 9k feet), 3-6 inches at Snow King, and 0.5 to 4 inches in the valleys.
The snowfall on Thursday will likely come in "pulses" as several shortwaves move through, so we could see alternating periods of heavy snowfall rates with brief lulls in the action.
Valley temperatures can be slower to respond behind cold fronts, but I'm just now starting to see snow mix in Jackson at least. The Driggs Airport is also now reporting snow with a temperature of 33ºF.
I suspect we will see a rain/snow mix or possibly just wet snow for the remainder of the morning in Jackson and Driggs, with all snow this afternoon as temperatures drop a few degrees. Accumulations will be tough to come by in town unless snowfall rates are heavy enough to overcome the borderline temps.
Snowfall will be heavier at the base of Jackson Hole, the western/northern valley, and at Snow King just above the base.
Winds will be very strong on Thursday. So far, gusts of 30-40 mph have been reported at the summits of Jackson Hole and Targhee, but winds will increase as the day progresses with gusts of 50-60 mph possible up high. As a result, I wouldn't rule out some lift holds at Targhee.
Here is our wind forecast for 9,800 feet on Thursday (you can view these forecasts for ski resorts and custom points by selecting the "Weather" tab).
Skiing conditions on Thursday will be true storm skiing conditions with heavy snow, strong winds, and low visibility. Thursday afternoon will be the best time to get out once the new snow has had enough time to accumulate and hopefully bury old crusts from our recent warm spell.
Forecast for Friday through Friday Night:
The second part of this storm will primarily be an orographic snow shower event favoring the western slopes and upper eastern slopes of the Tetons. Light to moderate NW winds, cold air aloft, and an unstable atmosphere will be most favorable for Targhee on Friday, and to a lesser extent the top of Jackson Hole (which is not open yet).
Most of Friday's snowfall will happen during the daytime hours before lifts close, with any lingering snow showers tapering off by early Friday evening.
Additional snow totals on Friday will range from 5-10 inches at Targhee, 4-8 inches at Jackson Hole's upper mountain (above 9k feet), 2-4 inches at JH mid-mountain (8k feet), and 0.5-2 inches in the valleys.
Snow quality on Friday will be low-density blower pow and this should make for a fun day on the slopes at Targhee with refills throughout the day on top of Thursday's snowfall. Since the upper mountain at Jackson Hole isn't open yet, I would target Friday morning for fresh turns at low to mid-mountain.
Also, Snow King is scheduled to open for the season on Friday (fingers crossed this still happens after our recent warm weather). If they do open on time, then there will be some fresh snow to enjoy.
Storm Total Snowfall:
Based on recent trends, I've upped my snow forecast a little bit for Jackson Hole and Targhee above 8,000 feet, and have lowered my forecast slightly for the valleys given the warm start to this storm.
I'm continuing to give Targhee a slight lean in total snowfall over Jackson Hole's upper mountain as Targhee tends to do well in NW flow setups with moderate (not strong) wind speeds. Note that the forecast below does not include the 2-3 inches already reported at 5 am on Thursday.
Here is my forecast breakdown for Thursday, Thursday night, and Friday, to help give an idea of timing for ski conditions.
Here is a zoomed-in snow forecast over the Greater Teton Region from a blend of weather models:
Here is a Wyoming statewide forecast from the same blend of weather models:
Teton Pass will see high-impact conditions throughout Thursday with heavy snowfall rates, strong winds, blowing snow, reduced visibility, and a combination of snow-packed and icy roads. On Friday, winds will not be as strong but snow quality will be lower density so areas of blowing snow will remain possible along with heavy snowfall rates and reduced visibility.
Valley roads should be wet for most of the day on Thursday (occasional slush possible under heavier snowfall rates) but will turn icy on Thursday night and Friday as temperatures drop.
Friday morning may be the highest impact commute on a broader scale (for the pass and valleys) due to the potential for icy roads.
Outlook for Saturday to Monday:
Saturday is looking dry with mostly sunny to partly cloudy skies and cold temperatures. The potential for fresh tracks is low inbounds since snow will be tapering off by the time lifts close on Friday. However, snow conditions will remain soft with cold air in place.
The next storm has trended slower, warmer, and somewhat weaker but more drawn out. It now looks like the main timing will be from Sunday PM through Monday PM with light to moderate amounts expected.
Initially, I was expecting this to be a cold storm with low-density powder. But recent trends have shifted the storm track further north, which would allow some warmer air to sneak in. As a result, this could end up being a wetter/denser snow event after all.
Outlook for Tuesday (Dec 12th) and Beyond:
High pressure will build in during the middle of next week, with dry conditions expected from about December 12th-16th. The next chance of a storm looks to be around the 17th-18th, though only about 50% of medium-range model simulations are projecting measurable snow for our area around this time, so confidence is low.
Thanks so much for reading! Next update on Friday (December 8).
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