After an extremely warm and dry November, many regions of the West received normal or better snowfall during the first 3 weeks of December. The dry weather returned for the rest of December. Only in Canada was season snowfall before New Year's above average. The Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies had enough snow in December for nearly all terrain to open, and these regions plus Utah have had major dumps so far in January. California and the Southwest lag behind on about half normal snowfall, with most skiing coming from snowmaking. Much of Colorado has had average December / January snowfall, bringing about a gradual recovery from the dry November.
Only a few areas post season-to-date snowfall on their websites. At the end of the regional sections, I list selected Ski Central or RSN month-to-date snow totals for other resorts, making educated guesses as to which resorts have supplied complete data for the month.
California: The Sierra received several small storms in the first half of December, followed by 4 dry weeks. There has been 3-4 feet new snow in the past few days, bringing most areas to majority operation. Some advanced terrain, such as Squaw's more extreme runs and Heavenly's Mott Canyon, will still need more new snow. Kirkwood's year-to-date snow is now 78 inches and Mammoth's 80 (53% of normal), with both areas over half open. While the prime skiing season will be much shorter than normal in 2000, the prospect of a 1977-type complete loss has likely been avoided. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.
Ski Central December Snow: Squaw 31, Sugar Bowl 29, Northstar 23.
RSN January Snow: Squaw 33, Sugar Bowl 47, Northstar 35.
Pacific Northwest: These areas received the most snow in early December, and after a dry holiday, major new snow since New Year's. Whistler Blackcomb is 100% open on a 96-inch base. Mt. Baker's 162-212 inch base leads North America as usual. Mt. Bachelor reports a 135-140 inch base, with all terrain open.
Ski Central December Snow: Alyeska 53, Whistler 66.5, Baker 144, Stevens 105, Crystal 66, Hood Meadows 79.
Ski Central / RSN January Snow: Whistler 49, Baker 117, Stevens 84, Crystal 64, Hood Meadows 83, Mt. Bachelor 80.
Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: Lake Louise and Sunshine were the only western areas to get substantial snow before mid-November. Total snowfall at Louise is now 119 inches, 110% of normal. Louise (44-56 inch base) , Sunshine and the Okanagan areas are in full operation with new snow this week. The Kootenay areas have received more snow and have excellent powder conditions, with Fernie's base up to 96 inches now.
Ski Central December Snow: Silver Star 29.5, Red Mt. 31.5, Fernie 60 since Dec. 9.
RSN January Snow: Red Mt. 44, Fernie 74
U. S. Northern Rockies: These areas have been dumped on so far in January and are all good vacation bets for the next 2 months. Jackson Hole's YTD snow is 226 inches, 125% of normal. Grand Targhee's base is now 41-138 inches. Big Sky opened Lone Peak at Christmas. Big Mountain and Schweitzer are 100% open on 5-7 feet. Even Sun Valley got January's dump and opened the entire mountain (YTD snow 77 inches, 86% of normal).
Ski Central December Snow: Schweitzer 77, Big Mountain 64, Big Sky 75, Targhee 61.5.
RSN January Snow: Schweitzer 47, Big Mountain 68, Big Sky 58, Targhee 70.
Utah: Most areas have received 4 feet of snow in January, finally regaining most of the ground lost in November. Alta's year-to-date snow is now 211 inches (94% of normal) and all Cottonwood areas are 90+% open. The Park City areas are now about 80% open (Jupiter Bowl opened Jan. 7) after recent storms.
Ski Central December Snow: Snowbird 96, Brighton 57, Brian Head 45.5, Park City 29.5, The Canyons 36.
RSN January Snow: Snowbird 59, Brighton 48, Park City 46, The Canyons 54.
Northern and Central Colorado: This region has received substantial snow in mid-December, plus average snow in January. The northern track of storms has brought outstanding conditions to Steamboat (YTD snow 171 inches, 103% of normal). Next best is Vail (YTD 117 inches, 73% of normal), 99% open including the new Blue Sky Basin Winter Park (YTD 123.5 inches, 77% of normal), 72% open, and Breckenridge (YTD 95.5 inches ,78% of normal), 70% open are more typical of the region.
Ski Central December Snow: Copper 43, Keystone 39, Loveland 38.
RSN January Snow: Copper 16, Loveland 22.
Southern and Western Colorado: This region was severely drought impacted, with less than 1 foot natural snow in November plus about half normal snow in December. The new January snow has brought many resorts to about 50% operation. With a natural snow base of about 2 feet, expert areas like Taos and Crested Butte are only 30% open. In normal years advanced terrain is often not skiable until January. This year I would not expect full operation until mid-February at best. In 1977, 1981 and 1990 much of the expert terrain was never adequately covered, and the chances of 2000 joining that group are now 25-35%. As snow tends to accumulate gradually in this region, skiers should avoid advance commitments anytime this season, pending further improvement in snow conditions.
Ski Central December Snow: Aspen 28, Crested Butte 19, Telluride 34.
RSN January Snow: Aspen 17, Crested Butte 25, Telluride 21, Taos 16.
Northeast: New England had only about half its normal November / December snowfall, but most of the usual snowmaking leaders were over half open for the holidays. Unfortunately, a severe thaw and some rain degraded conditions after New Year's. There has been very cold weather and some new snow in the last week, allowing a majority of terrain to open. As my report is an overview, I strongly recommend checking Vermont No-Bull Ski Report or New England Ski Guide's Weekend Forecast for up to date information in this region, where both weather and surface conditions can change so rapidly.
Ski Central/RSN December Snow: Jay 64, Sugarbush 38, Killington 36, Lake Placid 16, Snowshoe, WV 31.
RSN January Snow: Jay 54, Stratton 17, Killington 10, Sugarloaf 19, Snowshoe, WV 12.