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This is the most optimistic I've been writing up my snow conditions report this year. Unfortunately, Southern Lower Michigan remains in a snow drought. Even during what is the coldest time of year, it's hard accumulate snow when January temperatures are running nearly nine degrees above average.
The snow deficit continues to grow as we miss out on yet another significant snow event. The slow start to the snow season is demonstrated quite well with the graph below:
The good news is if you are willing to put some fuel in the gas tank (gas is cheaper lately) and head north, you can find snow to play in. I would say there's consistently enough snow from M-55 north to snowmobile in, although the best conditions will be found on the other side of the Mighty Mac.
Right now, 59 percent of the state is covered with snow with an average snow depth of five inches. Last year at this time, the state was blanketed with 98 percent snow and an average depth of seven inches.
Here's a few statewide snow depths reports:
Northern Michigan: Here are a few more reports that the map above has not displayed:
Cadillac: 5 inches
Kalkaska: 6 inches
Charlevoix: 4 inches
Petoskey: 4 inches
East Jordan: 7 inches
Mio: 5 inches
Paradise: 16 inches
Grand Marais: 13 inches
Houghton: 20 inches
Calumet: 31 inches (most in state)
What I find amazing is that while this is my sixth report, not one of them has had a forecast for significant snow during the weekend. This one is no different. Unlike earlier in the week where Sault Ste. Marie received a record 12.3 inches of heavy, wet snow (great for snowmobile trails), this next big storm will skirt just south of Michigan. Areas in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana will receive a half foot of snow or more from St. Louis to Peoria and Indianapolis.
On the positive side, unlike that past several weekends, temperatures will remain cold enough to maintain the snowpack. Saturday and Sunday's highs will be in the teens and 20s across Northern Michigan. After morning lows in the single digits and even below zero in the interior sections of Northern Lower and the U.P., this is where high temperatures should end up Saturday:
High temperatures Sunday:
Once again, skiing conditions will be ideal with great visibility and temperatures that will not be prohibitively cold.
Bittersweet is reporting a fresh 2 inches of snow and a 20-inch base. Cannonsburg is open and will continue making snow. Crystal Mountain received 1 inch of new snow and has 97 percent of its slopes open with a 42-inch to 54-inch base. Caberfae slopes were freshened with 2 inches of new snow and they are 100 percent open with up to a 50-inch base. Shanty Creek was the lucky recipient of 4 new inches of snow and up to a 48-inch base. Boyne Mountain isn't far behind with 3 inches of new snow and 77 percent of their slopes are open. Boyne Highlands has 89 percent of there hills open. Nubs Nob has a base of 54 inches and is ready for you to carve up their slopes. And Timber Ridge Ski area in Gobles is officially open for the season, according to its Facebook page.
Snowmobilers, this will be the best weekend so far this season! I'll begin with Northern Lower trail reports.
Not really enough being reported in Baldwin, but Cadillac is reporting marginal trail conditions with a recent 4 to 5 inches of fluffy lake effect snow. Frequent icy spots are being reported.
Grayling has received five inches of snow and the trails are being rated at poor to fair with icy spots.
Reports coming out of Indian River say the trails are ridable but quite bumpy and icy.
Sledders are saying the better conditions are being found south of Indian River towards Kalkaska, Jordan Valley and Blue Bear.
The storm that rolled through earlier in the week that dumped rain here clobbered the Eastern U.P. with heavy, wet snow. The only pitfall that I'm hearing is the amount of wind that accompanied the snow. This has led to inconsistent trail bases with thin spots being reported on exposed trails.
The great news is you no longer have to trailer your snowmobile all the way to the Lake Superior shoreline trailheads. You can now jump on your sled right after you cross the bridge.
Newberry is reporting good to great trail conditions with 20 inches of snow this past week. Stay away from trail 45 from Newberry to the Falls. There's still water in spots and the occasional fallen tree.
Paradise has a trail base of 8 to 10 inches and fair to good conditions being reported. Grand Marais is reporting excellent trail conditions with an 8 to 12-foot trail base.
Although the trail base isn't quite as deep in Seney, they are also reporting excellent trails conditions.
Munising and Manistique are reporting good to very good conditions with a 5 to 6-inch base. Keep in mind that since this is the first really good weekend for snowmobiling, the trails will be very busy.
How long can we hold onto them? Although there will be a slight warming trend, after the weekend temperatures will not be the snow-eating 40s and 50s that we encountered earlier last week.
This is good because there isn't much snow in the forecast over the next ten days throughout the state. European model output below:
GFS is much the same:
The latest 8-14 day temperature outlook is looking more encouraging for winter enthusiast. It's the first time I've seen below average temperatures forecast around the Great Lakes for quite some time. It appears a significant weather pattern change to cold and snow will arrive around January 20th. The storm pattern across the U.S. appears rather active during that timeframe so that would likely be snow for West Michigan.
The medium range forecast models are consistently hinting that much colder temperatures are on the horizon that could even be brutally cold. The temperature anomaly across the Great Lakes and the eastern U.S. looks very cold for the final ten days of the month.
Of course this would ignite lake-effect snow. The potential of a large-scale storm system is in the cards during this timeframe that will help push the snow line well south of the Ohio River Valley.
If we establish a snowpack this far south, it's much easier for the cold to hit and hold. So as the saying goes, winter conditions will be delayed, not denied.
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