Montana Daily Snow
By Bob Ambrose, Forecaster Posted 2 months ago November 28, 2023
Dryness under a ridge of high-pressure holds on through the work week, at least until Thursday. A weak system will move out of BC on Friday flattening the ridge and bringing a few inches to Lookout Pass along the MT/ID border. Some uncertainty still exists for Saturday into early next week as remnant sub-tropical moisture from the Pacific approaches the Northern Rockies. Measurable snow is likely.
Short Term Forecast
Kudos go out to the snowmaking team at Great Divide Ski Area near Helena as they became the third ski area in Montana to open this past weekend. “GD” will reopen the Good Luck Chair again this Friday, December 1, and continue limited operations through this weekend.
24/7 snowmaking has been going on at Whitefish since Thanksgiving. They're gearing up for an opening on Thursday, December 7.
Tuesday, November 27 – Thursday, November 30
The long wave ridge of high-pressure off the BC Coast that’s been keeping our weather benign since last Friday will shift inland on Tuesday with its axis moving over the Northern Rockies. This ridge will weaken a bit in the process but still keep enough stability over Montana to strengthen valley inversions where they have formed. With the northerly flow shifting to westerly, Tuesday will also be the warmest day of the week. Big Sky will see a high of 36 at the top of Andesite at 8800’.
A weak cold front moves well east of the region on Wednesday bringing a few clouds east of the Divide and a slight dip in alpine temperatures. Daytime highs will only be slightly below average on Wednesday. Thursday will be coolest under a NW flow aloft, with highs in the low 20’s at 8800’. Ridging also returns over the region on Thursday for another dry day of benign weather. Light W/SW winds through the forecast period.
Friday, December 1 – Saturday, December 2
A weak Pacific storm system looks to finally flatten the dominant ridge of high pressure on Friday morning bringing back light accumulating snowfall mainly for far Western Montana along the Idaho border. Lookout Pass could see a few inches into Friday night. Elsewhere across Montana, just an increase in clouds, and slightly warmer temps.
Models and ensembles all agree on a low-pressure trough engulfing NW, and West Central Montana west of the Divide, along with far SW Montana east of the Divide beginning on Saturday. This trough will likely be drawing in remnant waves of an Atmospheric River (AR) that will be pummeling the PNW coast over the weekend. It’s still a bit early but light snow will likely begin Saturday morning west of the Divide and spread into SW Montana by Saturday afternoon. Lookout Pass will likely see 2 – 4” Saturday with an inch or two possible at Whitefish, Snowbowl, LT, and even Big Sky (open).
The NBM 2.5 (National Blend of Models) below for snowfall from 1 AM Friday 12/1 through midnight next Tuesday 12/7 brings some confidence for significant snowfall across Western and NW Montana going into the extended forecast.
Looking ahead to Sunday and into the early part of next week, an extended period of unsettled skies is likely as sub-tropical Pacific moisture (AR) is directed into the PNW via a SW flow aloft. Just how much of this moisture will make it into the Northern Rockies is still unclear. OpenSnow blend models keep consistent bouts of light daily accumulations through Tuesday of next week. Snow levels are still in question but with an AR providing the airflow, they could rise above 5500’ on Monday and Tuesday west of the Divide, and around 7000’ east of the Divide. Let's revisit this in Thursday's post as snow levels are tough to accurately pinpoint this far out.
Climate Prediction Center’s 6 – 10 day Outlook looks quite 'El Nino-esque' with decent precipitation but higher than average December temps and snow levels.
The next update will be posted on Thursday, November 30. Ullr, we need a push!
Montana Ski Areas & Resorts Geographical References & Projected OPENING Dates
WEST of the Divide:
Whitefish Mountain Resort - December 7th
Blacktail Mountain - TBD
Turner Mountain - TBD
Lookout Pass – TBD
Montana Snowbowl – December 8th
Discovery Basin - TBD
EAST of the Divide:
Big Sky Resort – OPEN
Bridger Bowl - December 8th
Red Lodge Mountain – OPEN
Great Divide - OPEN (Fri – Sun)
Showdown - TBD
Teton Pass Ski Area - December 9th
Maverick Mountain - TBD
Backcountry Avalanche Reports:
West Central Montana Avalanche Center
Flathead Avalanche Center
Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center:
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