JACKSON, Wyo. – Winter is off to a strong start in the Tetons with above-average snowpack and a weather pattern that has featured consistent snowfall. An active pattern will continue through at least mid-January with new snow arriving on a regular basis.

Consistent light to moderate snowfall so far in January

November and December were both above-average snow months, setting the stage for what has been a strong start to ski season. Since about Christmas, the jet stream has been located well to the south with strong storms bringing huge amounts of snow to California and Utah.

However, we have been seeing consistent moisture reach the Tetons on the northern fringe of the storm track with new snow falling on a regular basis.

About one-third of the way through January, the Rendezvous Bowl Plot at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s upper mountain has received 33 inches of snow (as of January 11) and the Town of Jackson has received 6.6 inches of snow. This puts us on pace for an average January in terms of snowfall.

However, the consistency of the snowfall has been the big story as opposed to single big storms producing deep 24-hour totals. A strong argument can be made that consistent light to moderate snow events result in better skiing conditions as opposed to periodic big dumps.

So far in January, at least an inch of snowfall has been recorded on Jackson Hole’s upper mountain on eight out of 11 days. Dating all the way back to Christmas, new snow has been recorded on 15 of the past 19 days.

Season-to-date snow totals now include 272 inches at the Rendezvous Bowl Plot and 54 inches in the Town of Jackson. Both of these locations have already received about 70% of a typical season’s worth of snowfall and we aren’t even halfway through January yet!

Snowpack in the Snake River Basin (based on the amount of water contained within the snowpack) which includes the Teton Range, Snake River Range and Gros Ventre Range is 117% of average as of January 11.

The Phillips Bench Snotel, which has the longest-running snowpack record in the Tetons (dating back to 1981) is also reporting a snowpack that is 123% of average.

The snowpack in the Tetons is currently off to its deepest start to a season since 2016-2017. Snowfall numbers in the Tetons as of December 31 were also the highest for this early in the season since 2016-2017.

Mild temperatures since Christmas

This past November was one of the coldest on record in Teton County, and December also started out very cold. However, a pattern change occurred around Christmas as a strong west-to-east oriented jet stream set up across the entire Pacific Ocean from Japan to California, which has supplied comparatively milder Pacific air into the United States with cold arctic air remaining bottled up well to the north.

We had about six to seven weeks of consistently below average temperatures before Christmas. But since Christmas, we have been consistently warmer than average. The only warm spell that was troublesome from a winter recreation standpoint occurred during the days after Christmas when the valley experienced a rain event with highs reaching the 40s.

Since then, we have seen highs in the upper 20s to low 30s each day, but consistent moisture and a lack of any true cold blasts has kept overnight temperatures mild.

To put it another way – the Town of Jackson experienced 20 days with subzero temperatures before Christmas, but has not fallen below zero a single time since Christmas.

A break in the pattern Thursday-Friday, then snow returns for MLK weekend

Snow has been falling on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week with several impulses moving across the area. As of Wednesday morning, 48-hour snow totals had ranged from 6-9 inches in the Tetons above 8,000 feet and 4-7 inches across the lower elevations.

Snow continued to fall on Wednesday with another 3-6 inches expected to show up above 8,000 feet on Thursday morning’s snow report.

On Thursday and Friday, a ridge of high pressure will build over the Central Rockies, resulting in a two-day dry spell. There will still be enough moisture to result in a mix of clouds and sun, with mid-level clouds on Thursday and high-level clouds on Friday.

Highs will reach the low 20s at 9,000 feet and low 30s in the valley on Thursday. A temperature inversion will also set up on Friday as warmer air aloft moves in with the freezing level reaching 9,000-10,000 feet on Friday afternoon. The inversion will likely keep valley high temperatures in the 20s on Friday.

As we head into the holiday weekend, an active pattern will resume as high pressure breaks down. The jet stream will once again be located well to our south with heavy snow expected across the Sierra Nevada Range and into the Southwest U.S. including the San Juans in Colorado.

We will still see several impulses of moisture and energy arrive from the southwest, resulting in several rounds of snow from Friday night through Monday. We could pick up a few inches of new snow in the Tetons each day during this stretch.

Source: pivotalweather.com

Stormy pattern continues for most of next week

During the week of January 16-22, we could be looking at near-daily rounds of snow as an active pattern continues. The jet stream will gradually be lifting northward during this time, and there are hints that we could see a stronger storm move into the Northern Rockies (and possibly the Tetons) from the Gulf of Alaska around next Wednesday (Jan 17) or Thursday (Jan 18).

After that, it’s possible we could see additional shots of snow through the weekend of January 21-22, but confidence is low. Also, a ridge of high pressure is expected to set up along the West Coast during the week of January 23.

This could potentially send us into a drier pattern, but it’s also possible that storms moving across the northern periphery of the ridge could slide into the Tetons from the northwest from time to time.

Alan Smith, Meteorologist

Buckrail Meteorologist Alan Smith

Alan is a professional meteorologist who holds a degree from MSU Denver and writes weather forecasts for Buckrail. He has lived in Jackson full-time since 2015. He is currently a Meteorologist and Operations Manager for OpenSnow, which is a weather forecasting service for skiing and outdoor adventures. At OpenSnow, Alan writes forecasts for the Tetons, Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, and North America as a whole.