Tahoe’s Up, Alta on Deck

The dry or boring part of the pattern it’s coming to a close and finally we’re moving into the active part again. The low pressure system spinning off the coast is headed towards Tahoe and will arrive overnight Tuesday. This should be a good kick-off to the active pattern and should bring double digits at least along the crest. Once the storm passes it heads towards Alta, right on time. Below is the energy and vorticity GFS.

As the low continues to move east, Washington and Oregon Resorts will get snow from the backside of the Low/Northwest flow. The system has occurred every cycle. With the last couple of cycles being stronger and affecting a larger path. The genesis of this system was way back in August when the new pattern was in its infancy.
Colorado is next with snow snow beginning on the 11th, right on time (predicted Jan 26th). Because of the position of the low, this could be the biggest storm that Colorado has all season. It’s been a down year because of the La Niña pattern, but I expect to finish strong in March and April to end the season at, or above average, like I predicted back in December.
The picture below is the next storm is spinning off the BC coast. That is the next system that’s going to affect Banff Lake Louise, Big Sky and Jackson Hole. This prediction was made on Feb 3rd.

4th Repeating Storm

We are entering the active phase of the pattern with Saturday nights Storm beginning at the Lake Tahoe region. Every cycle there are a different lineup of forces (AO, NAO, MJO, ENSO, etc.). Those differences relate to the outcome shown on the 500mb charts. Let’s look at those charts of this years La Niña dominant pattern.
45-46 day pattern

Projected 500mb Z Vort

You can see that these charts have a similar look to them. The differences, again, are the strength of the different teleconnections. All of these snapshots have a second round of energy following the first round come with the exception of the October snapshot. The pattern was still developing in October. Tomorrow will get into the next trough that sets up 13 days after this one.

Impossible Possible

Beaver Creek Colorado

I have known for a handful of years now that the weather repeats. I learned the theory from local Kansas City meteorologist Gary Lezak and expanded my understanding later with meteorologist Doug Heady about the cycling pattern. Then a natural progression occurred with first finding patterns in snowfall and later learning to read weather charts to make accurate forecasts. Last year I made a leap and started to get organized thanks to the prodding of Joel Gratz Founder and forecaster of OpenSnow, I put together a list of snow predictions and filled my photo stream with GFS snapshots, snow reports etc. I would shoot Joel emails pestering him with a snowstorm that I predicted and then when the storm would hit I would email him back “do you believe yet”. The answer was usually “not really” or something like “I kind of see what your looking at” but still skeptical. Larry Schick, OpenSnow Northwest and British Columbia forecaster had a great line “weather has no memory”. This guy worked for 20 years in Seattle TV as a meteorologist and now works for the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Below is the greatest long-range forecast ever predicted. Ok, I know it belabors the point to continually brag about forecasts, but it is not intended to be pompous, rather it is about this incredible force that is in the beginning stages of being understood.

Decoding the Chart

So about the chart: this was what I put together, Cycle 3 chart of predictions for January 25th through March 21. Last year was an 58 and a half day cycle. I ran out of room so I put day 58 at the top left. Yellow meant that I thought there would be a storm from the pattern based on previous cycles, Pink meant probable storms–official predictions. To me, the short hand was obvious, Squaw, Park, Heav, Banff–obvious mountains. Cry=Crystal, MH=Mt. Hood, JH=Jackson Hole, WB=Whistler, LL=Lake Louise, Kicking Horse (Canada–great place no crowds), BS=Big Sky, Alta and Vail. During the cycle I would record snowfall with the corresponding predictions. Below is the completed chart. The Date in in the box and the right upper corner the day of the cycle.

So looking at the chart on Day 3 was January 27th and in the yellow the predicted areas were Park City, Heavenly, then on day 4 Crystal, Mt. Hood, Jackson Hole, Whistler and Heavenly. So what I thought at the time was the system coming in would begin in the PNW, divide into a northern and southern track. the Southern track hitting California’s Heavenly sliding across hitting Park City with the northern track hitting Big Sky and Jackson hole. It was almost perfect, except that, as it turns out, Heavenly and the Tahoe region were not “in” the path of the pattern last year. I would later figure that out and take them off the grid–later though the cycle grew in strength (cycle path footprint expanded) and Tahoe would get a months worth of snow in a week right when the lockdown hit.

These area a few tools in my toolbox now. My photo folders are littered with screen shots of weather charts. It takes hours to pour through the charts figuring out the pattern, but it has its rewards of catching deep powder on occasion and always catching fresh snow on any ski/snowboard trip. I just got back from a trip to the PNW and also a Colorado trip. For Colorado, I booked this trip to take my son before his High School baseball begins–after which he will be busy until fall. We rode fresh snow at Beaver Creek and were lucky to get a mid-week rope drop off Birds of Prey lift, and our luck continued at Breckenridge getting to ride the Imperial Express lift, just opened for the first time of the season, after 3 failed attempts off the T-Bar–don’t worry buddy, it is really hard for snowboarders, you’ll get it next time! Then it was on to Crystal for the real powder chase.

Birds of Prey Express Lift
Steep and Deep at Crystal Mountain Washington

As always feel free to email me or ask a question in the comments box. I’m happy to answer! Finally, below is a chart of upcoming Pattern Storms predicted out until May. Probably won’t go out any farther than that, but Powder Days late in the season can happen. I rode a storm at Arapahoe Basin in late April a few years back that was on my top ten list of all-time trip lists–18″ of cold blower pow. I got white-out vertigo sitting on the Cornice Jump run. White-out vertigo is a really cool experience if it has never happened to you, the only thing you can see is white. You can’t get any perspective at all and you get dizzy. Luckily for me someone came and jumped off the cornice so I quickly followed close enough until I got down to tree line.

Prediction Grid Currently 85% Accurate

March and April Predictions

March and April Predictions

It has been an amazing year so far, FutureSnow has accurately predicted 23 out of 27 events, that’s 85%. That is really an amazing statistic because all of the predictions have been made at least 25 days in advance before any models are in range. The longest was 56 days for Colorado where Vail had 13 inches. There is an even longer prediction coming up, 67 days, for March 9-11th. I would love to end the ski season with 90%. This is not meant as a brag, I just simply interpret the data, it more of how cool it is to know when these systems will come through.

Cycle 4

The 4th cycle is under way. At the beginning of each cycle the storms favor the Pacific Northwest and Canada. This has occurred in each of the previous three cycles and GFS verifies same for the beginning of this cycle. The cycle is 45 1/2 to 45.8 days in length. I have adjusted the upcoming predictions by a couple of days to correct this offset.

When talking about the cycle, every year is different. Last year had a longer cycle, La Nina favors shorter cycles. Presently this La Niña is weakening, the Arctic Oscillation is neutral, the north Atlantic Oscillation is neutral, and the Madden Julian Oscillation is in phase 7 in the western pacific. All of these tele-connections influence the strength and path of storms. However, the framework, or structure of the storm path, remains the same throughout the spring and it weakens in the summer until it is wiped out in late summer.


February 27th Colorado Prediction

This forecasted storm was made on January 26th as I dove back into the history of the previous cycles. I missed this “pattern storm” and discovered it through a little forensic analysis.

History of the storm

Day 6 of last cycle, a small wave hit Colorado, followed by a large wave impacting the PNW. In cycle 2, again a small wave hit Colorado followed by a small wave hitting the PNW. In cycle 1 on day 7 a small wave hit CO followed by a large wave in the PNW. So when I decided to add this to the prediction grid I decided to add it on day 7, probably not a smart choice because it hit on day 6 twice but my thinking was it hit late on 6 both times and the day 7 storm it was during the day.
The GFS has this storm arriving at about 6 am on Thursday the 25th. This is actually right on time—if I would have been “on it” and adjusted the cycle length to reflect the uneven cycle (45 1/2-45.8 days).

FutureSnow CO Prediction

I have adjusted all future predictions by 2 days to correct the cycle to match the storm cycles. I am not going to update the existing storm forecast for February but the March schedule has been adjusted. Below us the updated predictions spreadsheet.

This Weeks Picture Challenge

Post your response in the comments section.

This Weeks Predictions

This Weeks Predictions

January 3rd, or 46 days ago, we predicted the week of storms that will be hitting the PNW (Crystal MT) this week. We specifically used Crystal because it centered on the storms that have occurred in each cycle. Sometimes the Oregon mountains were hit, and other times the British Columbia mountains were hit, but Crystal was hit each time. GFS looks solid for this week. Next up is Colorado, Feb 27th, this has been a small storm that has teetered on day 6 and 7 of the last 3 cycles. Its quite possible this could be a technical bust for my prediction because I only have a day as a variance, but I wanted to get this storm into the forecast because I missed it in the first two cycles.

I published the spring break forecast a few weeks ago so you can check it out here.

To summarize that forecast:

March 4th Crystal

March 9-10th Alta, Park City

March 10-11th Crystal

March 11-13 Colorado

March 15-19th Banff, Kicking Horse, Revelstoke

March 15-19th Big Sky Jackson Hole

March 19-20th Squaw

March 24-26th Squaw

March 29-31st Colorado

Big Hit!

Well we got a big hit! We were thinking that the cycle will strengthen due to a weakening La Niña and it has come through strong. We had 2 predictions. Utah’s Alta, and all CO mountains. Alta 15” today with more on the way, second, we forecasted for all Colorado mountains.

Steamboat 20”

Vail 13”

Breck 8”

Beaver Creek 7”

Vail snowstake

The last time through on December 23, we had a huge ridge off the West Coast that did produce both in Utah and Colorado. This time through we have a more linear pattern with no rigging. This allowed more energy from the stronger jet that propagated down through the PNW. This pattern should continue in the next cycle. These next couple of pictures show the difference between where are the ridges in place, and the flow.

Last Cycle


Current Cycle

OK so let’s take a look at the next predictions.

February 18-22nd. Active week in the PNW Crystal Mountain

February 24-25 Alyeska Alaska

February 25th PNW Crystal Mountain

February 27th Colorado Mountains

Thanks for all your email questions and if you have any others send them to mike@futuresnow.cc. I usually get to them within a day.

Tracking the Storms (update)

2 for 2

We just correctly predicted 2 storms one 18 days and the other 31 days in advance. How did we do it? The weather is cycling. It repeats. Not every storm—some are wildcards, but there are the main parts of energy get entangled in the pattern and return regularly until summer. We have 3 predictions presently. Christmas Eve, New Year’s, and Tahoe with more to come.

Steamboat Storm Total

Our predictions have been spot on. On November 14th, we said our first 2 storms would be on December 4th and December 17th with a variance of 2 days. We have adjusted the timeline and have reduced the +/- of 1 day for future storms. The Dec 4 system was about a day and a half early and so was the incoming Dec 17 Storm.

Our next prediction is the Christmas Eve storm. This one is right on schedule as I believe we have locked in on the cycle length. This storm is still days out but I believe the GFS has the right solution. Click the “Welcome to Future Snow“ button from the menu to learn about cycle length and the recurring pattern.

Energy for the Christmas Eve Storm

Finally, our most recent predictions are the New Years Eve Storm for British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon and the Tahoe Powder Day January 3rd. I will keep you updated on these systems.
The picture of the Christmas Eve storm is a snapshot of the 500 mbar pattern with vorticity and wind. This level in the atmosphere makes it easier to spot the recurring systems. In the picture below, this is what it looked like the last time it came through.

Now remember the Dec 24 pic is still over a week out from what it will actually look like, but this is how we use computer models to verify what we know will happen. In the frame above there is that secondary wave that follows the large wave. The last time through that secondary wave sent powder alerts to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and just skirted Northern Colorado. This time through the secondary wave is being gobbled up by the ridge that is establishing.
We are in the second cycle of this year‘s pattern. Remember, it begins in October and it sets up in August and September. Once we have logged the first two cycles, we can make solid predictions for the rest of the winter. Because what happens in two cycles is almost guaranteed to repeat in every cycle afterwards. So we will lock in on the big storms, and will keep an eye on the ones that hit once, or seemed to have some variability. The first cycle was definitely stronger than the second cycle (it ain’t over yet). Typically every other cycle mirrors each other, but every years weather pattern is unique so there is now guarantee. This years cycle “winners” are Western Canada and Pacific Northwest. So if you like to chase, that’s the place to go this year. I expect Colorado to have average to above average precipitation this year, but I admit I don’t like the trend that we are in.

We are back to the active part of the pattern, after the refresh of snow the southern mountains of Colorado, like Wolf mountain are at or above average and northern mountains like summit county are below average. The central mountains are in the 90’s.

Christmas Storm Showing up on GFS

Christmas Storm Showing up on GFS

Santa Skiing Christmas Storm
Santa prepping for Christmas Eve

The Christmas storm is showing up on the models, right on schedule. It begins with Tahoe on the 22nd.

Lake Tahoe, Heavenly, Northstar
Lake Tahoe storm December 22nd

The pacific northwest will be blasted with this storm, it will then move across Utah and finally into Colorado and New Mexico. Hopefully it’s as big as I am expecting it to be and it gives us two solid Powder days of double digit numbers.