Saturday, February 25, 2017

Snowpack Extraordinaire: North Ogden Valley

As many of you are aware, the microclimate of the North Ogden Valley holds a special place in my heart (see Pound for Pound the Snowiest Place in Utah).

Source: Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth
Every time I go there in the winter or spring, I'm blown away by the snowpack.  Today I needed to get some work done, and battling the weekend crowds in the Cottonwoods wasn't very inviting, so my son and I shot up to the Ogden Valley for some skinny skiing at the North Fork Park trail system maintained by Ogden Nordic.

It's hard to believe that North Fork Park is at an elevation of about 5800 feet.  I check the map every time I visit there.  The snowpack is remarkably robust, blowing away anything at a comparable elevation on the back of the central Wasatch.  The scene today was a winter wonderland.

I didn't measure snow depth anywhere, but the Ben Lomond Trail SNOTEL site is nearby and at an elevation 5820 ft.  For 24 February, the median snowpack water equivalent is a robust 17.8 inches and we are running well above that this year with 27.9 inches (this is not a record for the date).

To put those numbers into perspective, they are not that different from the Mill-D North SNOTEL at 8967 feet in Big Cottonwood Canyon, which has a median on 24 February of 19.1 inches and currently sits at 25.6 inches.

If free and clear from traffic, the drive to North Fork Park from downtown Salt Lake City is an hour and five minutes, not that long at all.  I usually take the slightly longer Trappers Loop route up the backside of Snowbasin to enjoy the views.

Of course, despite opting to go up to North Fork Park in part to avoid the Cottonwood congestion, we still got snarled thanks to a bad accident along I-15.  I can't win!

On the plus side, it did give us some time to check out some beautiful cloud formations over Snowbasin. Note in particular the transition from orographic convection at low levels, indicative of unstable air, to wave clouds aloft, indicative of more stable flow.  Note also how those wave clouds were only produced over the higher terrain and are not evident over Ogden Canyon.

How those differing clouds interact to produce the snow that fell today over Snowbasin and the Ogden Valley is a question I'll ponder tonight.


  1. And the snow quality at PowMow was awesome. Still some freshies in secret stashes.