2010-11 Ski Season Analysis as of June 8, 2011

The season began with La Nina at a near record level and it remained strong enough to be the 4th highest overall La Nina ski season since 1951. 5 regions had very high snowfall and none were below average. Overall 2010-11 was the highest snowfall ski season in the past 36 years where I have sufficient data. Skier visits tied the record high of the also excellent La Nina 2007-08 season thoiugh there were more weather restrictions upon roads and lift operations. Comprehensive snow statistics are shown in the 2010-11 Ski Season Summary.

Season Progress Reports

  • November 1, 2010
  • November 13, 2010
  • November 26, 2010
  • December 1, 2010
  • December 15, 2010
  • December 23, 2010
  • December 31, 2010
  • January 16, 2011
  • January 30, 2011
  • February 13, 2011
  • February 27, 2011
  • March 15, 2011
  • March 31, 2011
  • April 10, 2011

    October snowfall was above average, with a widespread storm through the Northwest and much of the Rockies during its last week. Snow from this storm is included in season totals for many areas as it contributed to the strong early season conditions and to some areas advancing their opening dates. Mid-November snow was abundant in Utah's Cottonwood Canyons and Front Range Colorado and followed up by a major storm in the Sierra that also pushed into the Rockies. Since I began keeping detailed records 14 years ago only 1996-97 had as many areas with Thanksgiving conditions this good. Snowfall from Thanksgiving into mid-December was primarily in the Pacific Northwest and U.S. Northern Rockies but also in northern Utah and Colorado. During the 3rd week of December an exceptionally powerful storm pounded California for the whole week and moved on to Utah and much of Colorado. Christmas week snowfall was highest in the Pacific Northwest but all regions had some new snow. Overall this was the best holiday ski season since 1996-97 with just a very few areas in limited operation. During the first half of January the storm track was primarily in the Northwest and western Canada, with average snow in the northern US Rockies but much drier than usual farther south. The second half of January had heavy snow in northern and central Colorado, which was the standout consistent region of this season. Other regions were drier than average but in most cases base depths stayed above average from the strong early season. The first half of February continued the drier than normal pattern from January over most of the West. This pattern ended in mid-February with substantial storms along the West Coast and in Utah. There was a similar round of storms at the end of the month. The first half of March reflected the strong La Nina, pounding the Pacific Northwest and western Canada, with moderate snows in adjacent regions. Snowfall in the second half of March was heavy over most of the West. Snowfall was average through the first week of April and after a brief respite huge for the rest of the month in the Northwest and Northern and Central Rockies. The "season without a spring" continued into May, with both temperatures and snowfall in most of the West typical of an average April.

    California: October's snow was just a few inches, not material to the season. After about a foot in early November the Sierra had a 4 day storm in mid-November of 5-10 feet and another foot over Thanksgiving weekend. Base depths were in the 3-6 foot range because that storm had drier than normal snow, and more snow was needed for some expert terrain. There were some early December storms but with occasional rain as high as 9,000 feet. The 3rd week of December storm dropped 5-7 feet of snow at Tahoe areas and over 10 feet at Mammoth. Sierra areas were fully open for the holidays with base depths of 5-12+ feet and had 2 more storms totalling 2-3 feet during Christmas week. Farther south it rained for 4 days in Southern California with 1-3 feet of snow at the end of the big storm. Arizona Snowbowl opened Christmas Day and had 8 feet of snow in the second half of December. There was less than a foot of snow in the Sierra from January 3-29, so widespread melt/freeze conditions developed. Up to a foot of snow fell at the end of January but the first half of February was dry again. Then 5-7 feet fell before and during President's weekend and another 3-4 feet at the end of the month. In the first half of March it snowed up to 5 feet at Tahoe and half as much at Mammoth. However there was some rain mix below 8,000 feet. During the second half of March the Sierra was hammered with 10-15 feet of snow. April was average with 2-3 feet, but May was unseasonably cool with another 3+ feet. Mammoth is open daily to July 4, and a few Tahoe areas will reopen for some of that holiday even though regular weekend operation ceased at Memorial Day. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.

    Area

    Nov

    Dec

    Jan

    Feb

    Mar

    Apr/May

    Total

    Pct. of Normal

    Squaw 8,000

    118

    162

    15

    149

    241

    98

    783

    173%

    Kirkwood

    157

    144

    35

    156

    267

    43

    802

    170%

    Mammoth

    88.5

    197.5

    27

    98

    174

    67.5

    652.5

    183%

    Southern Cal

    6

    36

    9

    54

    42

    9

    156

    121%

    Arizona Snowbowl

    28

    88

    2

    73

    41

    33

    232

    93%

    High and in some cases record Sierra snowfall during this big La Nina year has reversed the mild negative correlation for past La Nina seasons. The overall negative relationship remains for Southern California and Arizona, though even those areas had close to average snowfall in 2010-11.

    Pacific Northwest: Before Thanksgiving Oregon got off to a strong start while Washington State and Whistler were slightly above average. From Thanksgiving to mid-December there was 5-7 feet of snow throughout the region with fluctuating temps but ending with all snow. Mt. Baker and Hood Meadows have been 90% open since Dec. 1. The Whistler alpine opened Dec. 4. Northwest areas were in full operation for the holidays on 5-8 foot bases. There was 3+ feet of snow during the holiday week and 5 feet at Whistler and Mt. Bachelor. During the first half of January there was 5 feet at Whistler, 3 feet in Washington and up to 2 feet in Oregon. A mid-January storm rained through at least mid elevations and lower elevations had no more than a foot the rest of the month. Early February snowfall ranged from 3+ feet at Whistler to 1 foot in Oregon. At least 5 feet of snow fell during the second half of February throughout the region, with 7 feet at Mt. Bachelor. First half of March snowfall was 6 feet in Oregon and 8 feet in Washington and Whistler. During the second half of March Whistler got 3 feet, Washington areas 5 feet and Oregon areas 7 feet. La Nina finished the season strong in the region with 5-10 feet of April snow. By contrast Alaska had a low snow season.

    Area

    Nov

    Dec

    Jan

    Feb

    Mar

    Apr

    Total

    Pct. of Normal

    Alyeska

    86

    49

    57.6

    68

    43

    51

    354.6

    68%

    Whistler Alpine

    105

    143

    77

    102

    124

    56

    607

    148%

    Crystal Mt.

    82

    110

    48

    106

    134

    101

    581

    147%

    Mt. Hood

    85

    141

    32.5

    85

    149

    127.5

    620

    140%

    Mt. Bachelor

    95

    142

    23

    105

    153

    112

    630

    168%

    Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: November snowfall was high along the U.S. border but only about average farther north. This trend continued into early December, with Fernie being the standout area of the early season. Most western Canadian ski areas had 3-4 feet of snow in December and holiday base depths in the 4 foot range. Silver Star and Sun Peaks reached full operation just before Christmas and Big White shortly after New Years. The Banff areas had less than 3 feet of December snow with base depths of 3 feet, so some advanced terrain did not open until they got 3-4 feet the second week of January. Mid-January was snowy throughout the region, though the warm Northwest storm brought some low elevation rain. Most areas had 2 feet of late January snow to improve conditions. February snowfall was 2-3 feet at most areas, but only about 1 foot at the areas close to the U.S. border. During the second half of February the border areas got 2-3 feet with lesser amounts farther north. The first half of March was excellent, with at least 3-4 feet in the region, and 6 feet at Fernie and Whitewater. During the second half of March there was 4 feet of snow at Red and Whitewater and average 2 feet elsewhere in the region. Early April brought another 2+ feet with over 3 feet at Fernie and Whitewater. Though most areas closed snow continued above average through the rest of April.

    Area

    Nov

    Dec

    Jan

    Feb

    Mar

    Apr

    Total

    Pct. of Normal

    Big White

    55.1

    48.4

    56

    45.3

    78

    25.7

    308.5

    113%

    Mt. Fidelity

    69.7

    72.1

    151.2

    88.2

    87

    55.1

    523

    109%

    Fernie

    62.4

    58.7

    79.9

    56.3

    100

    63

    420.3

    115%

    Sunshine

    31.1

    36.2

    66

    44.5

    81.9

    64.6

    294.3

    119%

    Mt. Fidelity is near Rogers' Pass in a climate zone similar to many of the snowcat and heliski operations.

    U. S. Northern Rockies: The Tetons had 39 inches in October and were also hit by the mid- November storms, so Jackson opened early on November 27. With 3 feet of snow since Thanksgiving Jackson and Targhee had the most snow on record for early December. Then there was some rain up to 8,000 feet but there was 4-5 feet of snow by Christmas throughout the region, continuing the strong start. Big Sky was 100% open by Christmas. Holiday base depths were 6+ feet in the Tetons and 4-5 feet elsewhere. There was 1+ foot of snow Christmas week, topped by 3 feet at Brundage. Early January snowfall ranged from 2 to 4 feet with some low elevation rain during the mid-January Northwest storm. Over the next month snowfall averaged a slightly below average 4 feet in Montana and 5 feet in the Tetons. Idaho was been much drier, with snow from mid-January to mid-February ranging from 30 inches at Schweitzer to just 2 inches at Sun Valley. Most areas got about 3 feet during the second half of February, topped by 6 feet at Targhee. In early March there was 4-6 feet at the areas nearest Canada, 3-4 feet in the Tetons and 2-3 feet elsewhere. During the second half of March most areas got 5 feet of snow with 3 feet near the Canadian border. Most of these areas close early due to remote location but April snow averaged 5-7 feet with 10+ at Targhee.

    Area

    Nov

    Dec

    Jan

    Feb

    Mar

    Apr

    Total

    Pct. of Normal

    Whitefish

    75

    59

    92

    60

    77

    62

    425

    133%

    Bridger Bowl

    40.1

    46.1

    55.5

    54.6

    81.6

    79

    356.9

    120%

    Jackson Hole

    112

    94

    73

    54

    117

    89

    539

    146%

    Sun Valley

    43.5

    59.5

    5.5

    32

    81.5

    27.5

    249.5

    131%

    Utah: There was new snow 5 of the 6 weeks since late October in the Cottonwood Canyons, leading to majority of terrain open by Thanksgiving. The storm from California the 3rd week of December raised the snow level as high as 8,000 feet but still dumped 6 feet in the Cottonwood Canyons and 4-5 feet elsewhere. Holiday base depths were 9+ feet in the Cottonwood Canyons and 6-8 feet elsewhere after another 2-3 feet Christmas week. There was no more than a foot of snow during the first half of January and it rained to 10,000 feet January 16. However it snowed 2+ feet the next week to restore surfaces. Early February snowfall was 3+ feet in the Cottonwood Canyons but less than half that elsewhere. The two big storms in the second half of February totalled 7 feet in the Cottonwood Canyons and 5 feet elsewhere. 3-4+ feet during the first half of March and 4-6 feet during the second half of March. April snow was 10-12 feet in the Cottonwood Canyons and 5-6 feet elsewhere. The past 3 Aprils are the 3 highest in Alta's 45 years of records, and there has been at least 5 feet more since the area closed May 1.

    Area

    Nov

    Dec

    Jan

    Feb

    Mar

    Apr

    Total

    Pct. of Normal

    Snowbasin

    69

    89

    25

    55

    89

    72

    399

    129%

    Alta

    132.5

    131.5

    57.5

    115

    129

    158

    723.5

    137%

    Brighton/Solitude

    121

    152

    48

    116

    122

    130

    689

    138%

    Park City Summit House

    63

    118

    25

    69

    75

    61

    411

    134%

    Brian Head

    80

    96

    12

    66

    61

    58

    373

    112%

    Northern and Central Colorado: This region got off to a great start with snow every week since late October. Loveland and A-Basin opened their first snowmaking runs about a week later than usual but were helped by the late October storm. Most areas were over half open at Thanksgiving, the highest percents open in the 22 years of data I have for Breckenridge and Copper and 2nd highest for Vail. The other areas were all at least in the top quarter of early seasons. Vail opened Blue Sky Basin Dec. 4 and most areas were 80+% open by mid-December. The 3rd week of December storm added an average of 3 feet throughout the region and holiday base depths were 4-5 feet. Average one foot new snow Christmas week and 2+ during the first half of January. 4-5 feet fell at most areas during the 3rd week of January, continuing the outstanding season in this region. February snowfall was consistent and close to average, ranging from 4 feet at Copper to 7 feet at Loveland. Early March was also close to average, with 2-3+ feet at most areas. Late March was snowier, with 4-5 feet. Many areas were in full operation to the late Easter with the deep base plus winter conditions with 4-7 feet of April snow. A-Basin was close to full operation to Memorial Day and will be open June weekends and possibly to July 4 for the first time since 1997.

    Area

    Nov

    Dec

    Jan

    Feb

    Mar

    Apr

    Total

    Pct. of Normal

    Steamboat

    111

    73

    68

    84

    79

    93

    508

    135%

    Vail

    106

    81

    91

    82

    92

    72

    524

    145%

    Breckenridge

    109

    94

    94

    64

    97

    61

    519

    180%

    Loveland

    97.8

    82.8

    61.5

    80.8

    98.5

    118.2

    539.9

    153%


    Southern and Western Colorado: Early season snowfall was close to average along the western part of I-70 but somewhat below average in southern Colorado. Wolf Creek was fully open early but its mid-December base of 2 feet was less than half normal for that time. But the 3rd week of December storm was huge at many of these areas: 94 inches at Gothic, 93 at Wolf Creek, 69 at Purgatory and 56 at Crested Butte. 60% of Crested Butte's extreme terrain opened gradually during Christmas week and over 80% of it was open by early January. Aspen and Telluride got about 4 feet during the second half of December. Taos missed most of the big storm, then had 3 feet Christmas week but was only 34% open at New Years. Taos reported 80% open since mid-January, but steeps were sketchy on a 40-inch base which later rose to no more than 56 inches. New Mexico was only part of the West conspicuously low on snow this season. Early January snowfall averaged 1.5 feet throughout the region. Second half of January snowfall was 2 feet in the north but almost none in the south. 2+ feet in early February at most areas. The second half of February storms dropped nearly 5 feet at Gothic and Wolf Creek but 2-3 feet elsewhere. March snowfall was 4-5 feet at most areas, scattered fairly evenly through the month. Most areas closed in early April due to remote location though there was 4-6 feet of snowfall in April.

    Area

    Nov

    Dec

    Jan

    Feb

    Mar

    Apr

    Total

    Pct. of Normal

    Aspen Highlands

    48

    67

    34

    61

    58

    53

    321

    127%

    Gothic Snow Lab

    45.5

    147

    37.5

    87

    82

    99

    498

    136%

    Wolf Creek

    75

    130

    27

    95

    45

    71

    443

    114%

    Taos

    21

    50

    8

    47

    18

    28

    172

    65%

    The Gothic Snow lab is between Aspen and Crested Butte and gets much more snow than either.

    Northeast: There was natural snow in mid-October, 25 inches at Stowe and 16 at Killington. November was warmer than normal in the Northeast with very little new snow, so snowmaking leaders Sunday River and Killington were 13% open at Thanksgiving but other Northeast areas open were under 10%. Conditions slowly improved with 2-3 feet new snow in early December. After rain on Dec. 13 it remained mostly cold with 2+ feet more snow so more terrain opened by Christmas with good surfaces. As usual the big Christmas storm along the East Coast only brought modest snows to upper New England. Up to 3+ feet snow during the second week of January finally brought most New England areas close to full operation. Conditions were mostly good during the second half of January with 1-2 feet of snow and mostly cold temperatures, and improved further in early February with up to 4 feet. There was a thaw before President's weekend, but 1-2 feet of snow restored surfaces by the end of February. While there was some rain, early March was the snowiest stretch of the season, 2-3 feet at most areas with up to 5 feet in northern Vermont. Average 1-2 feet in late March, and another 1+ foot in early April. April temperatures stayed cool, keeping trail counts up farther into April than usual and allowing a few areas to stay open into May.

    Area

    Nov

    Dec

    Jan

    Feb

    Mar

    Apr

    Total

    Pct. of Normal

    Jay

    13.5

    69.5

    68.5

    86.5

    91.5

    14.5

    344

    103%

    Killington

    10

    56

    60

    68

    41

    12

    247

    99%

    Cannon Mt.

    3

    82

    65

    52

    29

    17

    248

    158%

    Sugarloaf

    2

    54

    32

    45

    31

    20

    184

    105%

    Le Massif

    22.8

    52.8

    27.2

    31.1

    55.1

    35.8

    224.8

    92%

    New Hampshire/Maine had a relatively strong start, while Vermont had its usual snowfall dominance mid and late season. Eastern Canada had a much worse season than New England, finally reaching close to full operation by the end of January, but snowfall continued to lag New England's.

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