Montana Daily Snow
By Bob Ambrose, Forecaster Posted 2 months ago November 30, 2023
High-pressure departs Friday as the first of a trifecta of weekend storm systems enters MT’s western border. Lookout Pass, straddling this border with Idaho will reap the most snowfall through the weekend with at least 14” likely. Other areas across the state will see light to moderate weekend snow totals in the 3 – 7” range through Monday AM. Dirty high-pressure builds late Mon into early Weds.
Short Term Forecast
Some shots of the inversion over the vast Flathead Valley of NW Montana from the summit of Big Mountain (Whitefish). That’s a perfect example of a ‘stratus’ cloud deck blanketing the cold and gray valley below.
Yet another blue-sky day at Big Sky Resort. Look for more clouds than sun on Thursday as high-pressure begins to wane.
Thursday, November 30 – Sunday, December 3
Generally, a cool cloudy day (above valley inversions west of the Divide) on Thursday under a NW flow aloft and a weakening ridge. Mountain temps will be just below seasonal levels.
A deep low-pressure circulation over the Hudson Bay way up in north-central Canada will assist the jet stream in drawing moisture from a series of disturbances circulating in the Gulf of Alaska (over 2000 miles away) into the PNW and the Northern Rockies.
The first system, the weakest of three will bring light snow showers by Friday morning along the western passes where Lookout and Lolo could see a few inches into Friday evening. Elsewhere in Montana, increasing clouds Friday with a few isolated flurries with some trace amounts to an inch possible by the evening hours.
A second, and more robust wave of moisture will follow on its heels late Friday night and continue through the day on Saturday into Saturday night. The mountains of central and northern Idaho will be grabbing most of the snowfall from this storm leaving remnants of this stream for the mountains of western Montana, along with the SW and Central mountains east of the Divide.
Lookout Pass, best positioned, and shared with Idaho, looks to gain an additional 5 – 9” through Sunday morning. Farther into the mountains west of the Divide, current projections by Sunday morning fall in the 2 – 5” range at Whitefish, Turner, Lost Trail, and Snowbowl, with 1 – 3 “at Disco and Blacktail. East of the Divide, Big Sky, and possibly Maverick could see light accumulations of 2 – 5” by Sunday morning, with 1 – 3” at Bridger and Showdown. Saturday will also be quite windy east of the Divide with ridge top gusts to 30 mph at Big Sky.
The third disturbance will arrive on Sunday morning and spreads into roughly the same parts of Montana as the previous storm through Sunday night. This third system will tap into some warmer air as snow levels will likely be around 4000’ on Sunday and rise to around 5000’ – 5500’ on Sunday night.
Western Montana ski areas and resorts should add another 2 – 4” by Monday morning, with 1– 3” possible at Big Sky and Maverick across far SW MT, and a trace to 2” at Bridger Bowl and Showdown. Lookout Pass, hoping to open ASAP as they have no snowmaking options, will likely add another 3 – 6” by Monday morning. Good news for a pending opening date.
Looking ahead to Monday 12/4 and into the early part of next week, the extended models agree that a ridge of high-pressure will build over the region. That said, a sub-tropical Pacific feed of moisture is modeled to ride over the top and down the backside of the ridge keeping skies unsettled with warmer than seasonal average temps.
This scenario is referred to as a ‘dirty ridge’ of high-pressure. Snow levels will be fairly high Monday through Wednesday, generally around 6000 – 7000’ west of the Divide, and around 7500’ east of the Divide.
A colder Pacific system is now progged to move into the Northern Rockies around Thursday 12/7 bringing possibilities of widespread light to moderate accumulations through Friday night 12/8. The Canadian model below illustrates this.
The next update will be posted on Saturday, December 2.
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 - "Disco" opening December 2 (weekends only)
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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