JanuBURIED: Looking Back at one of Utah's Snowiest Months Ever
This weather discussion and snow stoke is provided by powder-hungry friends at Wasatch Snow Forecast.
At the beginning of this month, I wrote a blog that predicted Utah would be measuring snow in feet with an upcoming series of strong storms funneling deep moisture into the region from the Pacific Ocean.
"This wasn’t just a hype piece, my friends. It was the beginning of what has ultimately been a historic month for Utah snowfall."—Wasatch Snow Forecast
This month can be broken into two distinct storm cycles. The first, from January 2 to January 13, was a series of atmospheric rivers that funneled sub-tropical moisture from near Hawaii into the state. These storms were dominated by southwesterly flow that brought the most snow to resorts favored by such wind directions, including Brighton, Deer Valley and Sundance. All northern Utah resorts, however, saw significant snowfall during this stretch – with 6-10 FEET of new snow falling during this period. Welcome to #JanuBURIED friends!
And that would be just the antenna of a buried Ford F-150 at Solitude.
If you're staying at this cabin in Big Cottonwood Canyon, you're going to need to go to the second floor to see out the windows.
The second storm cycle was a bit different. It lasted from January 20 to January 26 and didn’t carry nearly as much hype as its preceding storm cycle. From a forecasting perspective it looked like we would see two weaker storms, followed by one potentially stronger storm. The first storm in the series was indeed weak, but the Wasatch Mountains worked their magic and the second storm delivered much more snow than anticipated, especially in the Cottonwood Canyons where an unstable northwest flow delivered 2+ feet of snow on Saturday, January 21. This was followed by the third storm which pulled plenty of moisture from the southwest before switching to a cold northwest flow behind the cold front. That meant that all areas saw additional significant snowfall on Monday, January 23. In total, 3-7 FEET of snow fell during this second storm cycle.
When you put the two storm cycles together, you get some impressive snowfall totals:
Northern Utah mountains picked up anywhere from 10-17 FEET of snowfall during the month of January. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this much snow around the region. Mountain cabins around Brighton and Alta are buried. Even Park City is running out of places to put all the snow! Predictably, our snowpack has benefited tremendously.
Moose antlers holding snow along historic Main street in Park City
Snowbird’s current snowpack is 189% of normal and we have already seen as much as, or more snow than, each of the entire previous 5 winters:
Ben Lomond Peak up near Snowbasin and Powder Mountain is historically one of the snowiest places in Utah. It has seen 24” of liquid this month. Assuming an average water content of 10%, that means about 20 FEET of snow! In fact, if they didn’t receive any more snow through the rest of the season, they would still finish 18% above average for the year!
So where does January 2017 rank historically? Well, reliable monthly resort data is often hard to find. We do know we’ve had very snowy months before -- ones in which Alta received over 200” of snowfall. But even in our monumental 2010-11 season, we never saw this many inches of snow in one particular month. You have to go back to the 2007-2008 season to find a month in which Alta received this much snowfall. That means this is likely the snowiest month in at least 9 years.
Snow removal after a severe winter storm dropped more than 2 feet of snow in less than 12 hours in Alta, Utah.
Frequently we can see huge totals in the Cottonwood Canyons, but snowfall on the Wasatch Back is significantly less. This month, most major resorts in Northern Utah received 140-165” of snowfall, which are remarkably consistent returns. Brighton managed to benefit from both the southwest and the northwest flows, and therefore claimed the top spot with more than 200” of snowfall.
"Perhaps the most impressive thing about this month’s snowfall is that it has been so “non-discriminatory”. By that, I mean that the wealth was spread so evenly to all resorts."
A little structure at Solitude shouldering the weight of big snow.
It would be difficult to anoint this as our snowiest month ever, but based on the consistency of huge snowfall totals, it should definitely be considered one of our snowiest months ever. The life of a skier in Utah just doesn’t get much better than this!