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An Atmospheric River is Headed to the Sierra

You can see heavy snow moving from the PNW through the Sierra and a good portion of the Rockies this week. Tropical Tidbits photo. 

This post originally appeared on Powderchasers.com

My endorphins are flowing this morning as significant amounts of POW are going to be falling in a wide area of the west over the next 5 days! “The powder maps are lit up from the Pacific Northwest through the entire Sierra range followed by decent leftovers in the Tetons, central/southern Idaho and eventually Colorado this week.” Currently my best chase odds for the deepest snow will be in the Pacific Northwest (2-4 feet this week), Sierra (15-28 inches at the summits), central Idaho (Sun Valley may end up winning with 9-15 inches), Tetons (9-15 inches favoring Jackson Hole and Teton Pass), and most of central Colorado (9-15 inches). 

Detailed forecasts are below.

PACIFIC NORTHWEST:

Heavy snow will be falling late today through Wednesday as temperatures drop to the base areas and below mountain passes bringing a foot of base building followed by an additional 10-25 inches of medium to light density snow Wednesday through Thursday. Peak snowfall will occur Tuesday night into Wednesday, lowering snow levels hoisting our first EPIC ALERT of the season. Highest totals will be found in the North Cascades (Baker) and the south Cascades (Crystal) where 3-4 feet will fall through Friday. Areas along the central Cascades like Stevens Pass, Alpental, Snowqualmie will see slightly less with perhaps 2-3 foot totals through Friday (No complaints). 

The Oregon Cascades should land 1-3 feet through Friday with peak snowfall Wednesday morning through Thursday (Snow showers continuing through Friday). “Bachelor is reporting 27 inches in the past 7 days and 93 inches YTD near the summit!” and it’s not even Thanksgiving.” People have bee hiking deep pow there since early October. Crystal in Washington is opening limited terrain on Wednesday with additional lifts possible Friday.

The Good: Deep snow in the PNW guaranteed this week coming in wet for base building and finishing cold. 

The Bad: Winds are likely to be moderate to strong with some inconsistent snow densities. Warming will occur this weekend.

The Sierra

Total moisture for northern CA through Friday morning (4 inches of water is noted in spots.

Much needed snow is going to fall along the Sierra Crest in the next three days initially warm and finishing cold. Light or moderate snow will begin falling in the northern Sierra Wednesday late morning above 8500 feet (Rain at the bases- light snow mid-mountain- moderate at the summits). Snow will increase during Wednesday afternoon and peak Wednesday night and Thursday. The cold air does not arrive until Thursday morning so while you may not see much snow at lake level, significant snow (Right side up) will have fallen from mid-mountain to the summits. 

Northern Crest locations like Squaw, Kirkwood, Sugar Bowl, Alpine may see 2-3 feet at the summits with much less at the bases. Resorts south and east such as Diamond Peak, Homewood, Northstar will see slightly lower amounts (15-25 inches- summits). Mount Rose may benefit from the higher elevation. Mammoth should score deep snowfall Thursday morning/Friday with perhaps 3 feet or more at the summit benefiting from higher elevation and less mixed precipitation even at the base. 

The Good: Great base building snow and deep at upper elevations a guarantee. 

The Bad: Warm temperatures may keep snowfall to a minimum at lower elevations in the northern Sierra.

Rockies: ID-WY-MT

Heavy snow noted in the Tetons through Friday night.

It’s a tricky forecast if you're looking to chase the deepest snow. Light snow today in the Tetons and central Idaho is going to tease before a more significant storm rolls in for late Wednesday/Thursday. My confidence is high for a solid dump at Sun Valley with southerly flow Wednesday night/Thursday, where perhaps 12-15 inches will fall at higher elevations. Forecasting for Sun Valley is always a gamble but I'm willing to do it. The mountains north of Ketchum, Galena Summit, the northern Sawtooth range may see higher amounts! Boise mountains perhaps even Bogus Basin will earn respectable amounts. Other noteworthy amounts may fall near Schweitzer and the Panhandle of Idaho Wednesday night into Thursday (5-10 inches) with light snow on Friday. 

The action moves east towards the Tetons after midnight Wednesday and will continue into Friday (Opening day at Targhee). Warm air initially with southerly or SW flow will favor Teton Pass, Jackson Hole (Upper elevations) and a gradual trend towards colder temps Friday morning (Targhee gets more action late in the storm period and may benefit with higher elevation base area) as winds shift more west-northwest Friday). Winds shift westerly behind a cold front bringing snow to the base areas on Friday (Light or moderate). Heavy snow will have fallen over the peaks of the Teton range by this time and a cold frosting of light or medium density will be falling at all base areas (Total snowfall through Friday 9-15 inches in the Tetons above 8,000 feet with 3-6 lower elevations especially Friday morning).

Montana is on the northern end of things with light to moderate snow a good beet from Big Sky to Bridger. Higher amounts possible at Red Lodge Mountain (Wildcard)... 

The Good: Decent dump for higher elevations of many spots in Idaho and Wyoming 

The Bad: The cold air does not arrive until late in the storm cycle for low elevation snow. Confidence for deep snow is tricky especially Sun Valley but we are optimistic. The sucker hole is possible in central Idaho as more snow may fall south and north?

Rockies: UT/CO

Solid foot or more in isolated areas of the central Mountains with 6-11 along I-70 and north.

Snow will be falling over the Wasatch Thursday night into Friday. SW flow initially might favor the northern Wasatch (Snowbasin) and Big Cottonwood (Brighton, Solitude) late Thursday before westerly NW flow and colder temps move in early Friday morning. Valley snow will be falling Friday adding frosting to the dense snow that fell Thursday night. Resorts from Beaver Mountain (May see higher amounts) Park City and areas south through the Cottonwoods will see decent amounts (5-10). Initially Beaver Mountain, and spots north (Snowbasin, Powder) may see the highest totals late Thursday night under SW flow (5-10) where the Cottonwoods catch up Friday morning (7-14) with West Northwest winds. It’s a fast moving system with a good cold front. Orographic lift can produce magic south of the Great Salt Lake). I will put Park City in the 4-9 inch range and the Cottonwoods (Big and Little) with higher amounts (7-14 with isolated deeper spots).

Colorado nabs decent amounts beginning after midnight Thursday. SW/West wind direction initially will favor the central mountains with highlights on models focussed near Crested Butte, Irwin Lodge and perhaps Silverton who likes SW flow). “Its possible these areas nab 8-13 inches”. Winds shift to the West Northwest late morning Friday where resorts from Steamboat along I-70 including Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek, Breck, Keystone, Loveland, will all see snowfall. My early guess on amounts is a wide area of 6-11 inches for many locations on the I-70 corridor Friday. Most action winds down Friday night. You will be riding powder late Thursday and perhaps again early Friday. The southern Mountains including Wolf Creek should see light to moderate snowfall. 

The Good: Snow is likely for most mountains of Colorado with isolated pockets of a foot or more. 

The Bad: Confidence is tricky on exactly who picks up the highest amounts especially with several wind shifts SW, W, NW.

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