October 2016 was exceptionally stormy over the northwestern quarter of North America. However, most of the moisture was subtropical so snowfall was confined to the highest elevations. The first half of November was bone dry over the western US and it was also too warm to make snow at most areas. Failures of Alta and Grand Targhee, bastions of reliability, to open for Thanksgiving, are huge red flags, as is the cancellation of the Beaver Creek World Cup first weekend of December. Thankgiving skiing is limited to a handful of snowmaking runs. Early season planning should generally assume the season is at least 2 weeks behind schedule in the western US, even though normal winter weather finally got going about a week ago. The standout area for the early season is Whistler, which has a 76-inch base. Base depths exceed 4 feet elsewhere only at Mt. Baker, Revelstoke and Whitewater. All snowfall numbers are since Nov. 1 (which really means Nov. 15 for many areas), as nearly all earlier snow melted out during the first half of the month.
California: The Sierra had a major storm mid-October with snow levels in the 9,000 foot range and a smaller one at the end
of the month. Second half of November snow was 1-3 feet, with the most north and west of Lake Tahoe. Snowfalls and percents open:
Mammoth (13.5 at Main Lodge, 15% open due to October snowpack above 9,500 feet), Squaw/Alpine (39, 2%), Kirkwood (21, 2%), Mt. Rose (52, 33%),
Heavenly (18, 2%), Northstar (21 estimate, 2%). Sugar Bowl has had the most snow and is 33% open on a 27-inch base.
Pacific Northwest: The region had a record wet October but the rain/snow line was above most of the ski areas. The Whistler
alpine was the conspicuous exception. Cams showed a good snowpack at the top of the Whistler gondola at the end of October and it has snowed 100
inches in November. Whistler is only 16% open now, but should open much more soon. Mt. Baker had 4+ feet of snow this week and opened 37% today.
Other snowfalls and percents open: Crystal (28, 3%), Stevens (21, closed), Hood Meadows (27, 11%), Mt. Bachelor (19, 2%).
Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: This is the only region with widespread snowfall close to normal.
Snowfall and percent open or opening date : Big White (26 inches, closed), Red Mt. (35, Dec.10), Whitewater (78, Dec. 9), Revelstoke (76, Dec. 3),
Kicking Horse (56, Dec. 9), Sunshine (66, 51%), Lake Louise (46, 50%). Base depths at the latter areas are 2-3 feet and Lake Louise's World Cup
was cancelled due to inadequate lower mountain snow.
U. S. Northern Rockies: Grand Targhee has had 20 inches of November snowfall and Jackson Hole's mid-mountain
November snowfall has been 7 inches. Neither area has set an opening date though both are hopeful they may do so after an upcoming storm.
Other snowfalls and percents open: Brundage (7, closed),Schweitzer (23, Dec. 2), Sun Valley (3, 2%). Big Sky is 1% open. Targhee is the only area in
North America with a perfect Christmas record, which might be challenged this season. Other areas should be avoided before January.
Utah: Utah was far enough south and east to miss most of October's action. There was a bit of snow mid-month but it was long gone by mid-November.
Brighton opened a couple of runs on snowmaking today, and Park City and Snowbird are expected to follow suit soon. Snowfalls and percents open:
Alta (35, Dec. 2), Snowbird (34, Nov.26), Brighton (41, 5%), Snowbasin (19, closed), Brian Head (25, 8%). Normal snowfall would get the Cottonwood Canyons
areas in decent shape by Christmas, but other Utah areas should be avoided before January.
Northern and Central Colorado: A-Basin opened a run on snowmaking October 21 and is now 4% open. Loveland did not open until Nov. 9 and no one else
opened until Nov. 18. Snowfalls and percents open: (Breckenridge (18, 5%), Copper (11, 4%), Keystone (19, 3%), Steamboat (24, 3%), Vail (18, 1%). Based
upon data back to 1988, most areas in this region average a little over half open at Christmas when skiing is this limited at Thanksgiving. This means minimal
advanced terrain will be open and excessive slope crowding is likely during the holidays. Steamboat historically has the best odds of overcoming this snow deficit,
but in general this region should be avoided before January after a start this slow.
Southern and Western Colorado: This region was bone dry the first half of November but got 1-2 feet recently. Wolf Creek got 30 inches and is 80% open,
but that's very low tide on a 24 inch base. Purgatory got 20 inches snow and is 6% open. The Gothic Snow Lab (between Aspen and Crested Butte but snowier than either)
has had 16 inches November snowfall. The entire region should be avoided before January after a start this slow.
Northeast: Killington opened October 25 with a mix of manmade and natural snow. The natural snow melted out in early Novmeber but there has been some recent snow.
Snowfalls and percents open: Killington (19, 14%), Stowe (21, 14%), Sugarbush (25, 4%), Whiteface (23, 7%), Cannon (5, 9%). Other percents open: Okemo 9%,
Stratton 12, Sunday River 8%, Sugarloaf 2%, Tremblant 5%. These numbers are fairly typical for the Northeast at Thanksgiving.
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