Utah’s ski picks up late in the season

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) It’s been an interesting season for Utah’s ski resorts. Snow has been hard to come by, but several big storms helped out recently. Ski Utah’s Paul Marshall joined Good Morning Utah to explain how our resorts are sitting now.

Typically our season really gets going after November 1st, and from then on, we just pile up the snow. But this year was different. Through the end of January, and even the first week of February, Utah ski resorts had received only 80-120″ of snow. This might sound like a decent amount, but typically these same resorts would have seasonal totals in the 150-250″ range at this time. We were still skiing top-to-bottom at almost all resorts, but it just wasn’t the typical powder-filled Utah winter we’ve come to expect as almost a birthright. 

Luckily, things started to change during the second week of February. The stubborn ridge of high pressure that had been keeping us dry started to weaken and shift west into the Pacific Ocean. This allowed a series of relatively weak, but cold systems to enter the region. After the middle of February, we started seeing frequent powder days with overachieving storms. President’s Day weekend featured some of the best powder of the season. This pattern of frequent, cold storms continued thru the end of February. 

As we entered March, the ridge of high pressure in the Pacific continued to retrograde (move west). This allowed the trough of low pressure to also shift west. In this pattern, the storms are able to track over the eastern Pacific Ocean before pushing inland. This over-water trajectory allows them to pick up more moisture. Sure enough, over the past few days, one such storm pushed into California, bringing heavy snowfall to the Sierra Nevada. By the time the storm reached Utah this past weekend, it had plenty of moisture remaining as well as cold air from the arctic. Heavy snow fell with the cold front Saturday night into Sunday (March 3-4), followed by a cold northwest flow that favored locations such as Alta Ski Area and Snowbird. In total, over 30″ of new snow fell in Little Cottonwood Canyon, making it our biggest single storm so far this season. 

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