So far in February the storm track has returned to its December pattern, hitting the Pacific Northwest continuously and adjoining regions occasionally. From this point forward, snow preservation rather than coverage is the key issue, except for a handful of expert runs in Colorado. Snow preservation is very predictable by the altitude and exposure characteristics of each area, as outlined in my regional detail tables. This information, combined with current snow reports to determine recent snowfall, should give an educated assessment of current conditions. Areas facing direct sun may still preserve a packed powder snow surface if temperatures remain below about 20F. In general, ski area reports are more candid regarding coverage and open terrain than surface conditions.
California: The Sierra has received 4-8 feet so far in February following the big dumps in the second half of January. Conditions are excellent everywhere in the Sierra now with base depths of 7-16 feet at most areas and 20 feet at Kirkwood.
Season snow: Alpine Meadows, estimated 280 inches, 132% of normal; Heavenly, 192 inches, 126% of normal; Mammoth, 237 inches, 108% of normal.
See the California regional table for snow preservation tendencies. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.
Pacific Northwest: This region had another epic storm cycle with at least 8 feet in the past 2 weeks. Base depths are 11-18 feet except at Mt. Baker, which has 20-25 feet. Snowfall is well ahead of the 1996-97 pace and could challenge the records from 1971-72 and 1973-74. Whistler now has a 146 inch base in the alpine, the highest since 1974.
Season snow: Mt. Baker, 583 inches (may be missing some from November!), 148% of normal; Crystal, 364 inches, 156% of normal; Mt. Bachelor 314 inches, 139% of normal.
See the Pacific Northwest regional table for snow preservation tendencies. Check Northwest Ski Reports for current surface conditions and the numerous powder days this season.
Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: There has been continuing snow in February. Okanagan conditions are outstanding with record bases of 7-10 feet. The Kootenay (7-14 foot bases) and Banff (5-10 foot bases) areas are also enjoying an excellent season with mostly powder and packed powder surfaces. See the Interior Canada regional table for snow preservation tendencies.
U. S. Northern Rockies: Idaho panhandle areas like Schweitzer are in good shape with bases of 10-14 feet. Sun Valley reports full operation on 4-6.5 feet. Grand Targhee and Jackson are in full operation with 7-12 foot bases. Big Sky opened Lone Peak the second week of January. Season snowfall has been consistently above average since Christmas. Overall, this region has been excellent since early January.
Season snow: Schweitzer, 273 inches, 156% of normal; Sun Valley, 147 inches, 116% of normal; Jackson, 290 inches, 114% of normal.
See the Northern Rockies regional table for snow preservation tendencies.
Utah: The Cottonwood Canyon areas have base depths of 8-9 feet after 5-7 feet of new snow in the last half of January and 2-4 feet in February. Alta has had 258 inches, 82% of normal since Nov. 1. The Park City areas have base depths of about 6-7 feet. Snowbasin opened January 22 and is now 90% open. See the Utah regional table for snow preservation tendencies.
Northern and Central Colorado: This region had its worst holiday season since 1980-81 but received above normal snow in January. Some but not all of the runs in Winter Park's Vasquez Cirque opened this weekend. Base depths of 4-5 feet at most areas are still below average for this time of year. However, with good preservation the base should hold up into April unless March is unusually dry.
Season snow: Steamboat, 239 inches, 104% of normal; Winter Park, 179 inches, 80% of normal; Vail, 154 inches, 69% of normal; Breckenridge, 150 inches, 84% of normal.
See the Northern and Central Colorado regional table for snow preservation tendencies.
Southern and Western Colorado: Regional leader Wolf Creek is in full operation on a 8 foot base and Telluride on a 5 foot base. Taos has most runs open on a 4-6 foot base, but there may be a few rocks on the steeper terrain. Crested Butte opened most of the North Face February 1, and some but not all of Snowmass' expert terrain has opened in February.
Season snow: Snowmass, 114 inches, 85% of normal; Crested Butte, 130 inches, 95% of normal; Telluride, 170 inches, 120% of normal; Wolf Creek, big dumps in October, then 174 inches, 82% of normal since Nov. 1.
Snow preservation is usually excellent in this region once the terrain is adequately covered. See the Southern and Western Colorado regional table for details.
Northeast: The first half of January brought the first big storms to New England, with some Vermont areas getting 4 feet or more. Most New England areas reached full operation, including natural snow areas like Mad River Glen. A week of thaw closed many runs, but most areas have been 80-90% open since late January. Northern Vermont received 1-2 feet new in the past week. Base depths remain below normal due to the poor early season.
Season snow: Killington, 121 inches, 77% of normal; Stowe, 114 inches, 80% of normal.
November temperatures were above freezing as often as below, and Thanksgiving weekend brought the first significant (6-12 inches) natural snow to the northern areas. Skiing was almost reduced to square one by the warm spell of early December but snowmaking was nearly continuous for the rest of the month. As my report is an overview, I strongly recommend checking Scenes of Vermont Ski Page 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. Surface conditions are much more a function of recent weather in the East, as opposed to altitude and exposure in the West.
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