Tahoe Daily Snow

Heads up, there may be fresher snow! Read the latest Tahoe Daily Snow

By Bryan Allegretto, Forecaster Posted 1 month ago February 26, 2024

The Hype Looks Real...

Summary

Light rain and snow showers on Monday. Mostly sunny and milder for Tuesday and Wednesday. A strong storm moves in Thursday with strong winds and heavy snow through Friday. Snow showers Saturday and possibly Sunday. More storms are possible in the long range.

Short Term Forecast

All attention this week will be on the very strong storm possible for Thursday-Saturday, possibly the biggest 3-day snowfall in over 3 years if the current forecasts hold. We'll get to that in a minute after we deal with the weak system moving through Monday.

Monday System:

The latest trends with this system continue to be for the cold front to drop down farther to our east and the system off the CA coast moving in farther to our south, therefore the precipitation forecasts continue to drop.

We have ridgetop winds already gusting over 80+ mph for some mountains Monday morning, and they could peak at around 90-100+ mph from the west by afternoon. Highs in the 30s. We should see showers increase through the morning into the afternoon, and possibly lingering into the evening before diminishing overnight.

forecast radar

The latest model runs have total precipitation amounts of 0.05 - 0.6 inches near the crest, as there is still disagreement on whether a band of steadier showers will form near Tahoe as the front moves through. The model average has dropped another 2-tenths from Sunday, down to 0.3 inches near the crest and lower amounts to the east side of the basin.

nam

Snow levels look to start up around 6300-7300 ft. Monday morning, and only dropping to around 6000-7000 ft. by evening. Then dropping to around 5500-6000 ft. as showers wind down Monday night. That means low snow ratios for the mountains and some rain mixing in below 7000 ft. down to lake level. Here is my final forecast ahead of the storm moving in Monday morning.

snowfall

Tuesday - Wednesday:

Clearing for Tuesday with mostly sunny skies into Wednesday. Highs into the 30s for the upper mountains and 40s for the lower elevations near lake level. The winds drop on Tuesday with lighter winds into Wednesday.

Thursday - Saturday Storm:

We saw this -PNA cold trough pattern coming for the beginning of March 2+ weeks out, a pattern that usually brings cold storms and can produce some big storms. Then several days ago a strong, cold, and slow-moving storm showed up on the models for Thursday - Saturday.

I have been talking about the high precipitation amounts and feet of snow possible, but have been hesitant to get into details as the forecasts look huge and I didn't want to get everyone overly hyped up more than 4-5 days ahead of the storm. That changes today as the start of the storm is only 3 days away and the models continue to be consistent and in agreement.

The trajectory of the large area of low pressure slowly moving down the coast will draw in plenty of Pacific moisture and will blow it up and over the Sierra with the strong winds aligned laterally from the southwest, and the storm has cold air, all of which will enhance the orographic enhancement effects from the mountains.

Previous storms most of the season have moved in from the west or dug farther south with more of a southerly flow and were milder, with many splitting. This is a different setup altogether. The snow is expected to move in Thursday with heavy snow Thursday night through Friday night and snow showers into Saturday night.

big storm

Very strong winds are expected for Thursday and Friday so don't plan to ski the upper mountains as quite a few lifts will likely be closed, and with the very heavy snow on Friday I can see some ski areas closing altogether. The winds look gusty for Saturday but slowly coming down through the day. Highs in the 30s Thursday, 20s for the upper mountains Friday, and then 20s down to lake level Saturday.

The latest model runs continue to show very high precipitation totals for the Sierra. The range this morning near the crest is 4.5 - 8+ inches by early Sunday morning. The model average is around 6.4 inches this morning, and plenty of forcing and spillover to the east side of the basin with up to 5 inches, and likely good spillover into Reno.

total precip

The GFS model is the one playing hero as usual with up to 8+ inches of liquid, the rest of the models show 4.5 - 7 inches. With the models being so consistent and the storm only 3 days out the confidence is increasing pretty fast that a big storm is on the way. The models could still shift but the chances are diminishing each day. We'll continue to watch the trends closely.

The snow levels will start near lake level Thursday morning around 6000-6500 ft. and may only lower to around 5000-5500 ft. by Friday afternoon as the storm taps into some subtropical moisture. But that should be cold enough for mainly all snow to lake level. Then much colder air moves in Friday night to Saturday with snow levels dropping below 3000 ft.

Snow ratios will start lower, around 9-11:1 between 7000-8000 ft. Thursday, and 11-13:1 Friday. The strong winds will help to increase the density of the snow as well. Then Friday night into Saturday snow ratios jump to 18-20:1 with powdery snow to finish the storm. This would be a right-side up storm. Here is my insane initial snowfall forecast for the 3-day storm using the model averages.

model averages

The last time we saw snowfall totals like this in a 3-day period was back in January of 2021 or possibly back to March of 2020 if we see the higher end, which we couldn't ski thanks to lockdowns. The GFS model shows up to 110 inches near the crest with the driest Canadian model showing as low as 60 inches. Either way, that's a range of 5-9 feet over 3 days. 2.5 - 4+ feet even down to lake level by Sunday. If this forecast holds another 3 days this will be a fun week.

These totals would be more than the average for the entire month of March, which would mean 3 above-average snowfall months after one of the worst starts on record as of the end of December. If we end up with above-average snowfall this season it will need to be dubbed The Rocky Season after a comeback like that. We'll see... 

Don't expect to ski powder Thursday and Friday with the strong winds, and Saturday will likely have delayed openings for avalanche controls and digging out. If you are not up here by Thursday morning you should wait until Sunday to travel.

Extended Forecast

A few scattered snow showers are possible for Sunday and it will stay cold behind the cold storm. Partly sunny skies with highs in the 20s. 

The break in the storms could continue through Tuesday the 5th. The next trough and storm could dig into northern CA around the 6th.

Fantasy Range:

The GFS ensemble mean model continues to show the mean trough positions over the West Coast into the 2nd week of March...

gfs ens

...while the European models have the mean trough positions farther east.

troughs east

Both patterns would keep temperatures below average, but the European model's pattern would have most storms taking a drier track down from the north and to our northeast, possibly starting with the storm on the 6th. The GFS model would allow for more of a wetter track for any storms.

There is better agreement that a storm around the 11th could dig farther West picking up more moisture before moving into northern CA. We'll continue to watch the trends on that. Until then, lots of snow to track this week!

Stay tuned...BA

Announcements

map

About Our Forecaster

Bryan Allegretto

Forecaster

Bryan Allegretto has been writing insightful posts about snow storms for over the last 15 years and is known as Tahoe's go-to snow forecaster. BA grew up in south Jersey, surfing, snowboarding, and chasing down the storms creating the epic conditions for both.

Free OpenSnow App