Sunday, December 31, 2023

Top 2023 Weather Story

There's no doubt that the top 2023 weather story in Utah was the record setting snowfall and snowpack.  

Technically, this is a story that began with the first mountain snowstorms in October 2022.  Below was the scene on the "Collins Glacier" at Alta on October 29th, 2022, when the snow depth at the Collins observing site was already a solid 23 inches.

Early season powder skiing was then had into early November.  By November 11, when the photo below was taken, we had already crested a 60 inch snow depth at Collins, my mark for the start of "good early season conditions." 

It's hard to believe now, but the spigot actually shut off after that and we went a couple of weeks without any major storms.  You may have forgotten about this brief lull in the action, but the dark purple line in the graphic below shows how the snowpack water equivalent at Snowbird flatlined from November 11 to November 28. 

After that, it started snowing, with only some short breaks until early April.  Collins reached the coveted 100" mark, officially beginning Steenburgh winter, on December 15.  It settled back below that for a time, but powered by for the final time just before the New Year's ball drop during the epic late December/early January storm cycle which added more than 10" of water and 60" of total snow depth to the snowpack.  

After that storm cycle, the snowpack was eating 3.2 meter probes for lunch.   

But Mother Nature wasn't finished.  Take a look at that dark purple line in the Snowbird graph above and how it starts to climb at a steep rate around February 15 and doesn't letup until early April.  The snow kept coming.  And coming.  And coming.  A sampling of the titles from my posts in March:
The snow depth at Collins peaked on April 4th at a record 248 inches.  This measurement was only possible because Alta Ski Patrol was able to find a way to extend the measurement pole for their automatic snow depth sensor, which was about to be buried. The period with no data in early April was probably when they were extending it.  

It was during this period in March and early April that it became apparent that we were well past a Goldilocks season in Little Cottonwood Canyon.  On April 5th, the Alta Town Marshall issued the ominous update below.

Indeed, if we learned anything last year, it's that there can be too much of a good thing in Little Cottonwood.  I now comment that perhaps 750 inches is the upper limit of a Goldilocks season.  Although avalanche risk in the canyon is a function of many factors besides total snowfall, and major cycles can occur in lower snow years, last season pushed us too deep into the extreme, resulting in prolonged canyon closures and extended periods of stress and risk for essential workers in the canyon.  

On April 25th, Alta eclipsed the 900" mark for the season at the Collins observing site.  Below is a photo of the measurement that put them over the top.  

Courtesy Alta Ski Patrol

When all was said and done,  Alta recorded 903" for the season at Alta Collins.  

Statewide, the average snowpack water equivalent reached 30", which was also a record.  

The winter of 2022/23 left many lasting scars in Little Cottonwood that will take a long time to heal.  The tree damage from the Coalpit #4, Lisa Falls, Maybird, and Tanners slide paths is extensive and will be reminders of just how dangerous Little Cottonwood Canyon can be for years to come.  The video below from Tony Korologos shows some of the damage. 

I conclude, by thanking all of the essential workers in Little Cottonwood for keeping us safe.  Your efforts are greatly appreciated.  


  1. Great reminiscence! Especially with this year in contrast. While definitely too much of a good thing in the end - what a spectacular journey for winter sports enthusiasts getting there and after! HNY! and thanks for your continued posts and sharing your knowledge of the weather and the local conditions.

  2. Thanks for the wonderful recap Jim! Love the blog and all you do for weather forecasting, Utah and for using the word graupel. :)