Thursday, April 4, 2013

First Snotel to Bottom Out?

The Ben Lomond Trail SNOTEL is the lowest in the Wasatch Mountains at an elevation of only 5829 feet.  It is, however, located in the remarkably snowy Ogden Valley, one of the snowiest lower-elevation areas in northern Utah (see marker A below).

It is also a beautiful area, and well worth a trip for either backcountry skiing or cross country skiing at North Fork Park.

Looking east from Ben Lomond Peak across the Ogden Valley toward Powder Mountain and James Peak.  The
Ben Lomond Trail SNOTEL is on the lower snow-covered slopes in the foreground on this day.
In a good snow year, you can find snow in the upper Ogden Valley well into April.  Here's how things looked around the Ben Lomond Train SNOTEL on April 26, 2005.  Keep in mind that this site is below 6000 feet in elevation.

This year, however, is another story.  The snowpack at Ben Lomond Trail never reached even half of its average peak, it ripened (meaning it warmed to a constant temperature through depth of 0ºC) in early March, and it is melting fast this week.  The snowpack SWE through this morning was about 2 inches, with a loss of about 0.7 inches per day the past three days.

The days of measurable snowpack at Ben Lomond Trail appear to be numbered and it looks to be the first SNOTEL that will bottom out in the Wasatch this spring.  Perhaps it will recover for a couple of days if we get a cold storm, but for all intensive purposes, the normally prolific snowpack of the Ogden Valley will suffer an early demise this spring.

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