Special Snowfall Edition

By Tom Kelly Dec 23, 2022
Open Snow forecaster Evan Thayer and atmospheric scientist Jim Steenburgh dive into the science behind this seasons continuous powder storms.
Special Snowfall Edition

In October it started snowing in Utah. And it really hasn’t stopped, with over 225 inches in Little Cottonwood Canyon by mid-December. So, what’s going on? Last Chair invited Open Snow forecaster Evan Thayer and atmospheric scientist Jim Steenburgh for a Special Snowfall Edition podcast to dive into the continuous powder forecast and share a few stories of their own.

Ski Utah athlete Sean Phillips samples some deep powder at Park City Mountain

Deep powder is nothing new in Utah. But the 2022–23 season kicked off with a bang, starting in late October and continuing incessantly up to the Christmas holiday. A mid-December storm that was forecast to drop 25-30 inches tapped out closer to 70+ inches!


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Was it La Niña? Was it lake effect from the Great Salt Lake? Or was it the Ninth & Ninth Whale?


Listen in to learn more. Here’s a sample of Last Chair’s episode 7 with Evan Thayer and Jim Steenburgh.

“It was so fluffy. But you had that denser bottom. So even if you did sink in neck deep, you're going to feel the body way underneath that keeps you from hitting crust or any bumps. It takes already-deep snow and makes it feel completely bottomless. So it was the ideal setup for powder skiing.” - Open Snow Forecaster Evan Thayer

Jim, what do you point to as you look back on the season so far?

Jim Steenburgh: There were two critical periods that gave us the incredible situation we have right now. One was in early November. We got an incredibly high-density wet storm that just coated everything and gave a great base in the mid to upper elevations. And then now, you know, from about December 11 to 15, we had this really prolonged, very low-density snowfall event. Alta Ski Area got over seven inches of snow with a water content of 4%, which is like all time for skiing. I just think it's been a great start to the season.

Jim Steenburgh - Last Chair1jpeg
Jim Steenburgh on Last Chair. Learn more about Jim Steenburgh and his book, Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth on this episode of the Last Chair Podcast.

Evan, as a forecaster, where do you get your intel?

Evan Thayer: It is people like Jim. It's the people in academia and doing the research who are building these tools, and they allow people like me to access the tools. And then I contextualize it into a forecast that's useful for skiers and snowboarders or, you know, any type of recreation analyst.

Evan Thayer - Last Chairpng

Evan Thayer on Last Chair. Learn more about what Evan does on this episode of Last Chair.


Jim, what did you most like about how the early season snow set up for the season?

Jim Steenburgh: That period from December 11 to 15 was really good. Early in the season, I don't care about quality. The only thing I want is quantity. The best start to the ski season is to have early snow that starts maybe in early November. You know, this year it came a little earlier in October. But I want really high-density snow to build base to start the season. And we got that in early November.

Evan, how important was that?

Evan Thayer: Last week was the perfect setup because it came in a little bit on the warm side, so a little bit higher density snow late Sunday night. So on Monday, you were skiing snow that was more typical of Utah. That was like 8% water content. But then for Tuesday, Wednesday and into Thursday, it was so fluffy. But you had that denser bottom there. So even if you did sink neck deep in, as Jim said, you're going to feel the body way underneath that keeps you from hitting crust or any bumps like that. So it takes already deep snow and makes it feel just like completely bottomless. So it was the ideal setup for powder skiing.

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So are you curious to learn more? Listen in to this Special Snowfall Edition of Last Chair. 


Wasatch Weather Weenies

Do you geek out on weather? Then follow Jim Steenburgh’s blog which provides you insights into Wasatch weather including some cool charts and graphs.

Open Snow - Utah

What’s the best way to track Utah weather and snow forecasts? Follow Open Snow forecaster Evan Thayer.



Tom Kelly: |00:00:04| Welcome back to Last Chair. And we have a special edition coming to you now as we head into the holiday season. It has been a spectacular first six or seven weeks of the ski season here in Utah. We've got two of the resident experts here to give us a little bit of insight and hopefully share some of their own powder skiing stories. Evan Thayer, forecaster for Open Snow, the longtime Utahn, who has been the God of forecasting here in our state for quite a while now, and Jim Steenburgh, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Utah. And Evan, I'm going to go to you first, as a forecaster, you have probably been really busy now these past six weeks.

Evan Thayer: |00:00:43| Yeah, it's been a great start to the season. It seems like when we have had dry spells, they've been relatively short-lived and we've gone right back to storm cycles. And the storm cycles we've gotten have been fantastic. They've really produced quite a bit of snow and therefore quite a bit of good powder skiing.

Tom Kelly: |00:01:01| Jim, you literally wrote the book on the Greatest Snow on Earth. We've had both of you on the podcast before. From your perspective, you don't have to get into the scientific details now, but is there a scientific reason why this is happening?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:01:16| No.

Tom Kelly: |00:01:18| That's fine.

Jim Steenburgh: |00:01:19| I think it's one of those things where Mother Nature has a lot of randomness and she's just given us a great start to the ski season. I don't really have a good reason why. I mean, I can talk about certain patterns that existed, but I think it was just our good luck this year that has really come through. We've been hit by a couple of big storms. Really, they've been very different storms. I mean, there are two critical periods that gave us the incredible situation we have right now. And one was in early November. We got an incredibly high-density wet storm that just coated everything and gave a great base in the mid to upper elevations. And then now, you know, from about December 11th to the 15th, we had this really prolonged, very low-density snowfall event. Alta got over seven inches of snow with a water content of 4%, which is like all time for skiing. So those are a couple of things that really stand out in my head. I just think it's been a great start to the season.

Tom Kelly: |00:02:21| Let's go back over to you, Evan. And actually, Evan, give us a little more on your role with Open Snow and your past history here in Utah.

Evan Thayer: |00:02:30| Yeah, I've been in Utah coming up on 15 years, and I've been with Open Snow for about the past eight years. But it all started when I did Wasatch Snow Forecast, which really just started as a distribution list email for friends where they knew that I was a weather nerd and was following storms and looking for the greatest powder day. And I started that email list, sending it just to friends, and I kept getting requests to add more and more people to the list. And eventually I said, I'm just going to throw this on a blog. And for lack of a better term, it snowballed from there. And then Joel and Brian built Open Snow and they invited me to join the mission. And we are where we are today, growing every year.

Tom Kelly: |00:03:18| Jim, how about you give us a little background on what your role is as an atmospheric scientist and a little bit about the book you wrote a few years ago?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:03:25| Yeah. So I'm a professor at the University of Utah, so I both teach classes and I do a lot of research, and most of my research is on winter storms, especially in mountainous regions. I like to joke that there's like an important reason for working on winter storms because they have a huge impact on society. But the really, really the reason I do it is I want to know when the next deep powder day is coming. It is true. I wrote this book, Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth that was published in 2014. I'm working on the second edition now. It should be out next winter, so I'm looking forward to that. And I also do a blog, Wasatch Weather Weenies, and I got into that kind of a similar way to Evan. I was sending emails to friends all the time, and then I just decided to start doing the blog. So unlike Evan, I don't forecast every day. I refine all kinds of things on the blog. So that's one of the advantages I have as an academic.

Tom Kelly: |00:04:13| Evan, as a forecaster, where do you get your intel?

Evan Thayer: |00:04:17| From, Jim? No, I mean, but it is people like Jim. It's the people in academia and doing the research who are building these tools, and they allow people like me to access the tools. And then I contextualize it into a forecast that's useful for skiers and snowboarders or, you know, any type of recreation analyst.

Tom Kelly: |00:04:39| Let's go back in time a little bit. Not too far back, but let's go back two months. You're getting ready for the upcoming season. I know you're getting all of your sources for data lined out. You're probably writing a little bit to talk about what we anticipate ahead. But if you go back to mid-October, early October, did you have any sense with early flows that you were seeing that we were going to have this kind of impact over the following two months?

Evan Thayer: |00:05:06| No, no. You know, I'm pretty open that you really don't know anything about what's going to happen in the upcoming season. We talk about the big large scale factors like ENSO, which is El Nino and La Nina, and we talk about that. And there are places where that's a little bit more. There's more correlation to good or bad seasons. Utah at a mid latitude, not so much. So really the best you can get is maybe slightly moving the needle in one direction. But even then, as Jim alluded to earlier, it's all random after that. And so you might have loaded the dice a tiny bit in your favor, but I have no clue. I've always been open about that. We hope for the best and when it arrives, we ski it.

Tom Kelly: |00:05:51| When you started to see these storms come in. And I you know, one of the stats that I tell people each year, I kind of measure when do I get snow in my yard up here in Park City that does not go away till spring. Usually that's kind of the third week of November. This year it was the middle of October. It was over a month earlier than usual. Evan, was there anything in the early forecasts that you saw when we first started to get this snow coming in October, that that triggered anything else or was it, again, just okay, that's another storm. But we don't know really what's going to come after that.

Evan Thayer: |00:06:24| Yeah, I hate to disappoint you, but it's just this luck of the draw that you don't really know. You got that. But we could have easily dried out and had a long dry spell. But we've been lucky that the overall large-scale pattern has been favoring, you know, an active storm track in the West. And we've benefited from that.

Tom Kelly: |00:06:45| Jim, let's talk about the Greatest Snow on Earth. One of the things that have come with this great onslaught of snow is that it has been very, very late. We talked about some stats earlier, but give us a sense of the quality of snow for skiers that we've seen now over these last two months.

Jim Steenburgh: |00:07:01| Yeah, I think that the period from December 11th to 15th was really good. You know, early in the season, I don't care about quality. The only thing I want is quantity. You know, the best start to the ski season is to have early snow that starts maybe in early November. You know, this year it came a little earlier in October, but I want really high density snow to build base to start the season. And we got that in early November. Then we actually did have a little bit of a break for a couple of weeks. And for the backcountry skiers, they'll know that we did get a persistent weak layer that formed during that period that's been a problem for backcountry travel. But after that, then I start to get greedy and I want quality. And we got a lot of really good low density snow in December. So the skiing has been good. I'm actually a fan of storms that start out warm and produce some high density to start and then they get low density with time. I think that's the best for powder skiing. I don't like storms that are all 4%. If I were to, I had to laugh because on Wednesday I was skiing and it was basically up to your neck. Incredible dry snow. But then a couple of days later, I went ski touring and it wasn't as deep, but I actually thought the powder was better -- it skiied better because it had settled out a little bit and there was better bounce in the skiing. But, you know, that's just kind of my preference for powder skiing.

Tom Kelly: |00:08:18| Evan, what's your thought on that?

Evan Thayer: |00:08:20| Absolutely. Last week was the perfect setup because it came in a little bit on the warm side, so a little bit higher density snow, you know, late Sunday, Sunday night. So on Monday, you were skiing, you know, snow that was more typical of Utah. That was kind of like 8% water content. But then for Tuesday, Wednesday and into Thursday, it was so fluffy. But you had that denser bottom there. So even if you did sink neck deep in, as Jim said, you're going to feel the body way underneath that keeps you from hitting crust or any bumps like that. So it takes already deep snow and makes it feel just like completely bottomless. So it was the ideal setup for powder skiing.

Tom Kelly: |00:09:01| Evan, I know that your responsibility with open snow is really centric to Utah, but I'm sure you've been also looking at how this system has affected other states. Lots of snow across the West, but it seems that Utah has been a little bit on the plus side compared to others. Any particular reason for that?

Evan Thayer: |00:09:21| You know, some of it's just down to luck and the way these storms come through. And it just seems like, you know, Jim has said recently I thought was great, there's no such thing as an overproducing storm. It's just under forecasting. And I will admit I am under forecasting every storm this season and I'm using the models we have and I am coming up with a forecast and I think they're good forecasts. I'm forecasting the most likely scenario yet. These storms just keep dumping more snow than expected and that's luck of the draw. We're having a good one. But, you know, when it comes to Utah, I think places like Little Cottonwood Canyon, I guess the metaphor I could use is during times of economic prosperity, everybody's getting richer and doing well, but the ultra rich are getting even richer at a higher rate. And that's how I feel like for Little Cottonwood Canyon and parts of the Wasatch is they do so good on so many different flows and different types of storms that when we have an active pattern, they just keep getting richer and richer and deeper and deeper.

Tom Kelly: |00:10:20| I was just listening to a podcast with Joel Gratz from Open Snow, and he was talking about the nuances of the canyons and the different resorts and why some get a little bit more snow than others. But can you talk a little bit, Evan, and I'm going to go to you on this, Jim, too, about why the Cottonwood Canyons get so much snow. I mean, there are some reasons for that.

Evan Thayer: |00:10:39| Yeah. I mean, there are reasons, elevation being one, but also they're just located topographically in the perfect spot to create lift. And we'll talk about orographic lift. But actually, I really want Jim to talk about that because he's the one who's studying that right now. And I could give you, you know, the overall definition, but Jim's going to get into the nitty gritty on the lift that little cottonwood gives because he's I know he's doing some research on that right now.

Tom Kelly: |00:11:07| So what do you think, Jim?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:11:08| Orographic lift? Well, certainly that's a big part of it. I always feel like what makes the Cottonwoods so special is that they have the largest diversity of storms in the Wasatch Range. You know that if you go up to Snowbasin in the northern Wasatch, the mountains are very much a north south, what we would call linear mountain range. They're very narrow. But what happens is you get down in the central Wasatch, all of a sudden it gets to the barrier gets wider and there are these east west running ridges, you know, those two ridges that flank little cottonwood that are just very, very high. And so places like Alta, they get snow from almost any flow direction. They get pounded in northwesterly flow, but they can get good southwesterly flow storms, southerly flow storms, even southwesterly flow. So Alta has the advantage that no matter what they get something, other parts of the range are more flow dependent. And I think that's really a big part of the problem or not the problem of of the beauty of the snow in the Little Cottonwood Canyon. And then the other little piece is the lake is kind of set up in a way that in northwesterly flow which favored as well. You put all these things together and you got yourself over 500 inches of snow a year. And as I like to say, to kind of twist what Evans said earlier, you know, a bad year in Utah is better than a good year in Colorado. You know, and when we have a good year here, it's an embarrassment of riches. We get you know, you take 500 inches of snow and you get 800 inches. I don't know if that's where we're going to end up this year. Right now, though, we're running almost 200% of median. So we've had almost double our typical snowfall. So it's been really good, really good year.

Tom Kelly: |00:12:43| Jim, do you have any metrics on how much snow the different resorts have had so far this year?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:12:47| That I don't have? I know Alta is is advertising, I think 235 inches for the year so far. Yeah. And, you know, usually. Go ahead, Evan.

Evan Thayer: |00:12:57| I was just going to say I just happened to do this yesterday for my own podcast, but Alta's 225, Brighton's 204 and our excuse me, Snowbird is 204 and Brighton is 201 inches this season and those are the top three total snowfall so far this season in North America. So the top three are all in Utah. And then of course, Solitude, which neighbors Brighton, is just maybe I think, 30 inches behind. And I think there are number six or seven in the top ten. So our numbers this year in Utah, especially in the Cottonwood Canyons, are fantastic.

Tom Kelly: |00:13:32| You know, to that point, I want to talk about that storm cycle that came through about a week ago. We're recording this just a few days before Christmas. But about a week ago, this massive storm cycle came through. Brandon Ott from Alta was telling me today that it looks like it was maybe the fourth largest storm cycle in the last two decades or so. Either of you have any thoughts on that? I mean, I actually I'll go to you, Jim, because you skied it. So that was a pretty amazing cycle that came through.

Jim Steenburgh: |00:13:57| Yeah, you know, it was a pretty big storm by snowfall amount, but for a water equivalent, it actually wasn't all that impressive of a storm. It's kind of a funny storm in that regard. You know, we measure snow in a couple of different ways, and one is to measure how much water is produced by the storm. So imagine that you could take a core of the snow and then melt it down. And how deep would the water be? That's the most important metric for runoff, for example, for seasonal runoff. And that storm is kind of interesting. It was not exceptional from a water equivalent perspective, but it did produce lots of very low-density snow. And so the snowfall totals were quite high. I think they exceeded 70 inches for the storm total at Alta, which is a pretty impressive run.

Tom Kelly: |00:14:40| Evan. Have any thoughts on that?

Evan Thayer: |00:14:41| Yeah. Exactly what Jim said. Actually, it's not even our largest storm of the season by a snow water equivalent metric. I think earlier this season I actually messaged him because we got over three inches of liquid at Alta Collins in 24 hours, and that was an exceptionally rare event in terms of liquid. And that was that dense base that he alluded to earlier that helped us out and got us going this year. So it's kind of really interesting because we're going to the inches of snow gets all the headlines and it's what you ski as it should. But in terms of a hydrological output and everything and the flows, really, you want that water content. And weirdly, this last storm, as big as it was, wasn't actually our biggest storm of the year from that perspective.

Tom Kelly: |00:15:28| So if we take our ski helmets off for a minute, we just act as residents of the Wasatch. This water equivalency is pretty important in a drought. Jim, what are your thoughts on that? I mean, let's set skiing aside for a minute. Are we starting to put a little bit more water into the system with what we've seen this year?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:15:44| Not yet. What we have right now is a snow reservoir. Right? Our first reservoir in Utah is the mountain snowpack. That's where most of our water resources comes from. And we're off to a really great start. I mean, just looking at the numbers here and at Snowbird, 187% of median snowpack in terms of water equivalents, that's way above what you would have maybe in a typical year. But it's still you know, it's still only about a half or even less than a half of what we want at the end of the season for an average runoff. So we really need it to keep coming. And we're way behind to all of our reservoirs are down a lot. So we need to get out of this drought. We need a big year this year, and then we probably need a couple more years after that. And, you know, you hope that we see things turn around, but we are fighting now the specter of climate change. And in a warmer climate, it's hard to get as good of a runoff from the same snowpack. So I'm hoping this year we stay cool and it stays snowy because we could really use a good runoff in the spring.

Tom Kelly: |00:16:43| Jim, I want to ask you a little bit about the Great Salt Lake. And you touched on lake effect earlier, but two questions. The first being how much of an impact is lake effect? And the second part of that is with the Great Salt Lake receding as it has been, is this at all a negative impact?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:17:00| Yeah, lake effect produces about 5% of the water equivalent snowfall that falls, say, in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It's not as big of a number as most people think, but it's still important. You know, we want snow, all the snow we can we can get a shrinking great Salt lake. It's kind of strange, but the amount of lake effect we get in any given year has more to do with meteorology than the size of the lake. You've got to get these cold surges coming in to Utah with the right characteristics to produce lake effect. But over time, over many, many years, say a decade or 15 years, the smaller lake means we're going to get lake effect, less lake effect snow. So it's a drag on the skiing. The other feedback piece of that is dust is also bad for snow. So when we have dust that gets deposited on the snow pack and you might see it in the spring where the snowpack starts to look a little brown, it starts to get a little gritty. You know, that's from dust that gets transported from a number of sources, including sources in southern and western Utah. But the shrinking Great Salt Lake, the remnants around it, the playa, as that gets disturbed, that can produce dust as well. So we don't like that for skiing either.

Tom Kelly: |00:18:08| In addition to being forecasters and scientists, you guys are both big time skiers. And I know I'm going to go to you first, Evan. I know that you've been. You're spending more time with the family right now, so maybe you haven't been able to get out as much as you would like. But I know you've had a couple of opportunities to get out. What was it like out there?

Evan Thayer: |00:18:26| I was great. You know, the coverage is exceptional when you're skiing in the Cottonwoods or even Park City Snowbasin and Powder Mountain. The coverage feels like mid-winter and it felt like mid-winter when I was skiing there at the end of November. So it's just we're set up to have a great season. As Jim said earlier, we just hope it keeps snowing because right now we're already set. We've got enough snow to open pretty much all the terrain throughout the state. So we have the base and we're ready to rock.

Tom Kelly: |00:18:59| Evan, with your job at Open Snow, you're reporting on all of the resorts. You're taking input from the resorts. Do you have much day to day contact with the different resorts around the state, or is everything just kind of automated?

Evan Thayer: |00:19:11| Yeah, I do. A lot of what I have contact I have is through snow reporting because snow reporting and getting accurate totals from resorts is one of the most difficult things in the ski industry. It's very difficult because there's no set standard for how to measure snow at ski resorts or when to measure snow. And so we get even on a technical side, we get multiple reports in a day and some of them will overwrite the previous one. So I'm in contact with them every single storm with multiple resorts. But it's mostly about getting quality data and making sure the integrity of that data is there. So when we update our side of things, we have the correct total and people aren't being misled with the incorrect snowfall totals. It's important when they log into our site that they see the right amount of snow fell.

Tom Kelly: |00:20:03| I would imagine that people are pretty upbeat at the resorts. And you're talking to a lot of happy people these days.

Evan Thayer: |00:20:09| Oh, yeah, for sure. Everybody is stoked. I mean, this is probably the best vibe I've seen in the Salt Lake ski community in a long time because we have had, you know, I think we've had our share of bad seasons in the last ten years. And again, that's a bad relative to a typical Utah season. Still great by Colorado standards. But, you know, I think we feel like we deserve this, like we deserve this great season and so far so good. And knock on wood, it continues.

Tom Kelly: |00:20:39| Question to either one of you, but how much of this can we attribute to the Ninth and Ninth Whale?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:20:44| That's a question for Evan, not for me.

Evan Thayer: |00:20:49| 100%. No, I don't know. But I will say that that thing showed up around April 1st of last year. And I jokingly just said, like within a week, I was like, hey, it started snowing as soon as they put this in because we went through a long, dry stretch last year from the beginning of January through March, and suddenly it finally started snowing again in April. And it was right after this whale showed up and everybody had an opinion on it. And, you know, I am not above any superstition. And as long as it keeps snowing and the whale is there, I'm going to continue to say that it's responsible for at least part of this good snow.

Tom Kelly: |00:21:25| Jim. There must be some science there, right?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:21:28| Oh, yeah, absolutely. I'm sure it's deep. I could care less about the science on something like that. I won't go so far to say the well's responsible, but if it seems to be working, I don't think we should change anything. It's like wearing the same socks to a football game. You know, game after game after game. You know, when your team keeps winning or whatever it is, you know, you just don't change those things.

Tom Kelly: |00:21:47| No, you really don't. Folks, if you're a listener to the Last Chair and you don't know about the Ninth and Ninth Whale, go check it out. When you come to town. It's at 11th East and Ninth South. Pretty interesting, fascinating sculpture. But as Evan said, when it went up, it started to snow. Before we take a quick break, Jim, you have made some great turns. I've been following you on Twitter and you have any good stories to share from the past six weeks?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:22:09| Oh, I could tell stories, but I'd have to kill you later because I can't tell you where I was skiing. I guess the one thing I was thinking it was when we were skiing this past Wednesday. It was an amazing day, but it kind of hit us. We've already had a two month ski season. I've been out ski touring now for four … for two months almost. And I was thinking, you know, it's great to be in mid December and basically be in midseason form and I still do some resort skiing. And yesterday at Deer Valley, I racked up over 20,000 vertical feet in just over 2 hours. And it was like, wow, that's amazing. For mid-December at my age, normally they'd have to cart me off the hill after 2 hours like that if it was my first day. So. So I think it's really great. I'm pretty excited about the season that's coming up.

Tom Kelly: |00:23:00| Lady Morgan opened at Deer Valley. Was that open when you were there?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:23:03| I don't think it was open yet.

Tom Kelly: |00:23:04| I think it just opened the day after that. But it's just great to see all the all the terrain open in the state. We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back to finish things up with Evan Thayer and Jim Steenburgh. We'll be right back on Last Chair.

Tom Kelly: |00:23:23| We're back to Last Chair with Evan Thayer from Open Snow and Jim Steenburgh, we're talking Special Snow Edition here. We have had a lot of snow here in Utah in the opening six weeks of the season. I want to look ahead and I know that it is a roll of the dice. And just because this has come in the last 6 to 8 weeks doesn't mean it's necessarily going to continue. Evan, from a forecasting perspective, anything that you can offer as we head into the holiday and look into early January, anything that you see on the horizon?

Evan Thayer: |00:23:54| Yeah, You know, the good news is, as we record this, there's a storm that's pushing into Utah, you know, middle of this week that's going to bring at least 6 to 12 inches, maybe a little bit more if we get lucky. And we're in a pattern right now that's not super conducive for snow for Utah. So anytime we're getting a little bit of snow in a pattern that doesn't favor us specifically, I'm always happy. The good news is it looks like the entire West Coast is going to get very, very wet. Middle of next week for the last four days of the the 2022 and into maybe the first week of January. Right now, we're seeing a strong signal for wetter than average conditions. Then, of course, it's still close to ten days away. So there's a lot of uncertainty. So you have to continue to monitor the forecast. But right now, I'm optimistic. The one caveat to that is some of the models are pulling in a lot of warm air, getting kind of that pineapple connection. So I worry a little bit that maybe it won't be typical Utah quality snow, that it might be a little bit on the denser side. But you know what? We're a ways away. I'm not going to worry about that too much right now.

Tom Kelly: |00:25:08| Jim, how do things look in the atmosphere to you?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:25:10| Yeah, I would agree with what Evan said. And I guess at this point, I'm not going to talk about my forecast, but I'll talk about my dream. And my dream is that we get 1 to 2 storms a week that are modest in size, what I call the Goldilocks storms. Not too big and not too small, but just right from now until the middle of April. That's what I'm hoping for the season. I always since I've been here for 27 years, the gold standard season for me is a 2010-11 year. And those of you who remember that, I don't think that year got off to quite as fast of a start as this one did in October. But it's actually ahead of where we are snowpack wise right now. And this has been a pretty good year, but it just kept coming. It was like a storm every five days, all winter long. And that's really what you want for fantastic snow conditions. And that's what I'm hoping for this winter.

Tom Kelly: |00:26:05| For the folks coming in over the holiday break between Christmas and New Year. Why don't you give a little plug, Evan, if you could, for what they should look for on open snow?

Evan Thayer: |00:26:14| Yeah, go to Open Snow. We have great automated forecasts. We have forecast anywhere feature which is new that allows you to click on our map and literally get a forecast for any spot in the globe, you know, down to the level of basically a square meter. So you can use that feature or you could read my blog forecast the Utah Daily Snow in which I go into depth discussing the possibilities, the upcoming forecast and all the details and all the models. Plenty of options on open snow for you to plan the perfect Utah ski trip.

Tom Kelly: |00:26:45| And Jim, for folks who want to follow you, what's the best way to to check you out, check out what you're doing and what your forecasts say?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:26:51| Yeah, you can get geek out at Wasatch Weather Weenies, which is a blog that we have. And I'm not a regular forecaster. I do forecast occasionally, my usual line is go to the weather service or open snow if you're looking for a forecast, but maybe if you come to my site, you might see that or you might see me talking about what artificial snow is or some other aspect of meteorology. So it's a good site for people interested in mountain weather and snow.

Tom Kelly: |00:27:20| Great. We're going to close it out with just a couple of fresh tracks. Question To wrap things up, first of all, your favorite powder experience so far this season, Evan.

Evan Thayer: |00:27:30| Early season. This was before the lifts started spinning. We got those late October, early November storms, and I was able to hike up, skin up at Alta. They have a great pre season uphill policy went up there, went to my favorite spot and I skied a farmer Dave's line he was a friend of mine who passed away the other year and I always skied the line that he loved to ski down warm up at Alta and that was a great experience and I've done it two years in a row now in October.

Tom Kelly: |00:27:59| That's a great one.Jim, favorite powder experience?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:28:02| Ski touring with my son this past weekend on a bluebird powder day.

Tom Kelly: |00:28:08| Awesome. How about a fun meteorological story from this season? Evan?

Evan Thayer: |00:28:12| I'll start with last week where I felt good with my forecast of 8 to 16 inches and said maybe the cottonwoods could do better with 24 inches and we ended up with 70 inches. So I barely got a third of the overall snowfall. So I had to laugh. And sometimes you just say, Hey, we did better than expected and I'll call this one a miss, but a miss. On the good side, I'll take it.

Tom Kelly: |00:28:41| Underreport and overdeliver.

Evan Thayer: |00:28:44| That's right.

Tom Kelly: |00:28:44| That's the way to go. How about you, Jim?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:28:46| Fun storyline is the key to a happy life is low expectations. So I would say the same thing as. You know, I remember that storm, too. I looked at it and I. I think I wrote something like we could get 15 inches or more, but I wasn't really confident in what was going to happen. If it all came together, we could do quite a bit better. So that's a pretty vague forecast, but in my head quite a bit better was maybe 30 inches. It wasn't 70. So that was a really great storm. It wasn't just that it was a duration event. It lasted a lot longer than I expected as well. So it was a great event and maybe we'll get another one like that.

Tom Kelly: |00:29:23| How about each of you look in your crystal ball? One thing is you look ahead this year that you think you can forecast or just guess on. Jim, how about you?

Jim Steenburgh: |00:29:31| Gridlock on powder days in the Cottonwoods.

Tom Kelly: |00:29:34| Okay. That's a safe bet, Evan.

Jim Steenburgh: |00:29:39| I mean, it's a tough one, too. You know, my crystal ball gets pretty murky after five days. I would say I always consider ski seasons that get off to a good start to be the best ski season. So I think no matter what, we're going to have a really long ski season here at this point, it's pretty much guaranteed. And I think that's pretty exciting. Everybody should have a good season.

Tom Kelly: |00:30:02| Evan, crystal ball?

Evan Thayer: |00:30:03| Crystal ball tells me that January through March of this season will be better than January through March of last season, which is a pretty low bar. But I feel confident in that prediction.

Tom Kelly: |00:30:17| We'll take it. And my proverbial final question. Do you have a favorite High West whiskey? Evan.

Evan Thayer: |00:30:22| I like the American Prairie.

Jim Steenburgh: |00:30:26| Jim I don't drink whiskey, but I drink beer and I'm drinking a lot of. What is it? Czech Your Head from Proper right now.

Tom Kelly: |00:30:36| Love it. They do a good job with that.

Jim Steenburgh: |00:30:37| Yeah.

Tom Kelly: |00:30:39| Guys, thanks so much for coming on. It's been a great snow year. Happy holidays to you and we appreciate you joining us on the Last Chair.

Evan Thayer: |00:30:45| Thanks, Tom.