Friday, November 30, 2018

State of the Snowpack

The last week has been a godsend for Wasatch snow.  Precipitation totals (water equivalent) since Thanksgiving (11/22) are now at about 3.5 inches at Alta Collins and 4.5 inches at Snowbasin Middle Bowl. 

Source: MesoWest
With 8 inches overnight, the total snow-depth sensor at Alta Collins cracked 40 inches, which officially marks the beginning of "early season skiing" based on the Steenburgh snow-depth scale. 

Source: MesoWest
If you are wondering, I consider anything before we get to 40 inches to be "pre season."  Some might grumble about that number being too high, but remember that this blog is about mountain meteorology and snow snobbery.  

Here's something we haven't seen around here in a while, SNOTEL stations with above median snowpack water equivalent.  Paraphrasing Gordon Gecko, "green is good" (blue is even better) and there's quite a bit of it on the map below.  Relative to median, here are a few specific numbers: Snowbird 95%, Brighton 128%, Thaynes Canyon 116%, Mill D North 72%, Ben Lomond Peak 135%, Ben Lomond Trail 191%.  

It's early in the season, so percentages like those can be a bit misleading.  For instance, a station with 2 inches of snowpack water equivalent on the ground and a median of 1 inch is at 200% of median.  Thus, a better metric is the actual water content of the snow on the ground.  If we consider 5 inches to be the start of early season skiing, as a friend mentioned to me the other day, the following sites mentioned above are now above that mark: Snowbird (5.3), Brighton (5.5), Thaynes Canyon (5.1), and Ben Lomond (6.5).  

A special shoutout to Ben Lomond Trail which at 5972 ft sits at 4.2 inches of water equivalent.  Looks like North Fork Park is now grooming for skinny skiing, although the nordic center is not open yet for rentals.  See

Enjoy the early season bounty and keep the snow dances going. 


  1. Skied some lower angle stuff in Grizzly Gulch today... there's still some shark fins lurking, but the coverage is getting pretty good. I don't think my rock skis are going to stay out much longer.

  2. what are the other thresholds on the Steenburgh snow-depth scale?

    1. 60" = Good Early Season Skiing
      100" = Steenburgh "Winter" (assuming it happens before Feb. 10)
      100" after Feb 10 = Rocky backcountry terrain finally open for business.

  3. Jim, Ogden Nordic just announced that they are opening 12/1! Rentals will be available.

  4. "remember that this blog is about mountain meteorology and snow snobbery." - haha...:) always great stuff.