Track Park City Snow Storms like a Local

Posted by Joel Rosenfield on Thursday, January 18th, 2018 at 9:57am.

A lot of our clients like to track our weather from wherever they live, and I don’t blame them – I used to do it myself before I lived here.  He’s how I follow storms and what to look for in weather.  Things can be different here in the mountains, so here some things I’ve observed living here. As with all weather, storm prediction is kind of a crapshoot; a great forecast can fizzle out and a weak forecast can strike gold. But these sites at least put some parameters around our hopes and expectations.

There are a lot of choices for information, but my go-to source is OpenSnow Utah, written by Evan Thayer. He offers a concise daily forecast that can be a bit technical, but is worth the effort. The website has a lot of information like 10-day outlook and snowfall history. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a nice site where you can select a spot on the map to get specific precipitation, snow total forecasts, and snow level forecasts, which is the altitude above which rain turns to snow. Another good source is local Salt Lake City TV news, whose reports tend to be around 5:15pm and 10:15pm on channels 2 (CBS), 4 (ABC), 5 (NBC) and 13 (Fox). They tend to aim high because they’re also warning people, but they have local knowledge and resources.

Snow level is important – the lower the rain/snow line, the fluffier and deeper the snow. An important feature of snow level is when we’re close to changing over to rain. Just a couple degrees difference in temperature could make a 1000 foot difference in snow level or turn wet snow into great snow. Since the air is so dry here, I find that precipitation often falls as snow or graupel (soft snow pellets with the consistency of Dippin’ Dots) at temperatures as high as 37-38 degrees.

Some other sites like Weather Underground and The Weather Channel (weather.com) can have good information. Weather.com has a 15-day forecast, but you can drive yourself crazy if you watch that one. A tiny change in their weather model can turn a forecast two weeks out from a blizzard to sunny skies within a few hours. For all long term forecasts, consider them more like trend forecasts – more or less likely for storms rather than an actual specific prediction. Their forecast might be presented with very specific figures, but that precision doesn’t mean that they’re any more accurate a week or two out. It seems to me that weather.com's default forecast is 20% chance of snow so if you see that forecast a number of days in a row, it may just mean that there's a lot of uncertainty.

So to review: I read OpenSnow and weather.com for long term trends, and add local news and NOAA for week-out and sooner. I’d try out a number of sites and then limit yourself to 3-4 sites. Beyond that, I find you tend to get the same information just presented in a different way. And ultimately, when the storm comes I just look out the window.

Think snow!

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