2016-17 Ski Season Analysis as of May 19, 2017

2016-17 was a top 5 snowfall season in North America's ski areas, far behind only 2010-11. Qualitatively it probably ranks 5th, also trailing 1981-82, 1996-97 and 2007-08 due to extreme concentration of snowfall midwinter with most regions seeing some prolonged dry spells during other months. December was a strong enough month that most areas enjoyed a good holiday season. The southwest flow during the big atmospheric river storms resulted in some unusual relationships wihin regions.

Prior Progress Reports
October 31, 2016
November 13, 2016
November 25, 2016
December 1, 2016
December 8, 2016
December 16, 2016
December 23, 2016
December 31, 2016
January 8, 2017
January 16, 2017
January 31, 2017
February 14, 2017
February 28, 2017
March 16, 2017
March 31, 2017
April 9, 2017

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, were huge red flags, as was the cancellation of the Beaver Creek World Cup first weekend of December. Thankgiving skiing was limited to a handful of snowmaking runs. There was a widespread storm just after Thanksgiving, with Utah getting the most snow. The standout area for the early season was Whistler, which had a 76-inch base and 5,200 acres open Dec. 1. During the first half of December the storm track shifted into the western US, with many areas making up the November deficit and more. Widespread snowfall during the third week of December brought most resorts above average in season snowfall. The regions still lagging normal holiday operation were Tahoe low elevation, southern Montana and the far Southwest, all of which improved with significant snow during the holiday week.

The big story in the first half of January was the series of atmospheric rivers hammering California. Adjacent regions received abundant snow too. A similar AR storm hit Jan. 19-24, hitting California, Utah and the Southwest the hardest. The warm Pacific storms continued in early February, hitting the West Coast again but this time tracking farther north. Rain to 8,000 feet extended inland to Utah and Idaho but most areas got ample snow after the rain. Mid-February temperatures were warm, and some Northwest storms had high snow levels. Late February and early March snowfall continued strong in most western regions with good powder and winter conditions. During the middle two weeks of March it was dry and very warm in most of the western U.S., with widespread spring conditions emerging on all but the highest and steepest north facing terrain. Only the Northwest and western Canada had some storms, but some of it was rain at low elevations. Moderate snows were more widespread in the West in late March but were still strongest in the Northwest and western Canada. An early April storm track was strongest in California, Utah and Colorado. The second half of April was snowy across most of the West, but most areas were already closed by then.

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, and at mid-mountain locations where possible. "Mid-estimates" are for areas that only post upper info online, and apply a long term mid-to-upper ratio to those posted figures.

California:

The Sierra had a major storm mid-October with snow levels in the 9,000 foot range which left an ongoing snowpack in the Sierra only on the upper third of Mammoth, not reflected in Mammoth's Main Lodge snow totals. Second half of November snow was 2-4 feet, with the most north and west of Lake Tahoe. Two major storms during the first half of December were mostly rain below 8,000 feet but dumped 4-6 feet of snow at Mt. Rose and Mammoth and 3 feet at Kirkwood, leaving base depths of at least 5 feet. Other areas had lots of rain and were in limited operation going into the holidays with base depths under 3 feet. It snowed 1.5 feet just before Christmas, which improved surfaces but some terrain remained closed at lower elevations. During the first week of January it snowed 4-7 feet. Over the weekend of January 7-8 the rain/snow line rose to 10,000 feet but it snowed an additional 6-10 feet over the next 4 days. The Jan. 19-24 storm dumped an additional 7-9 feet, resulting in a record snowfall month for most Sierra areas. The week of storms ending February 10 included a day of rain to 9,000 feet but also snowed 5-8 feet. Second half of February snowfall was another 6-8 feet, so base depths reached 10-20 feet at most Tahoe areas and 16-29 feet at Mammoth. During the first week of March it snowed a foot at Mammoth and averaged 3 feet at Tahoe areas. The next two weeks were warm with spring conditions nearly everywhere except the upper third of Mammoth. Melt/freezing was severe enough to close some terrain temporarily. Some small storms totalled about two feet of snow in late March. A stronger storm April 6-8 dropped 2+ feet at Tahoe and 3+ feet at Mammoth and another 2+ feet fell in mid-April. Mammoth will run daily to at least July 4. Mt. Rose will run 4 days/week to Memorial Day and Squaw will run daily to June 4 and weekends for at least another month. 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

62

36

278

196

82

57

712

156%

Squaw 6,200

35

21

193

100

50

18

417

154%

Kirkwood

36

41.5

271

165

49

62

624.5

136%

Mammoth

21.5

68.5

245

170

38.5

68

611.5

174%

Southern Cal

5

22

92

22

2

0

143

117%


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. After a big November Whistler opened 5,200 acres by December 1. Mt. Baker had 6+ feet of snow in late November to be 87% open Dec. 1. During the first half of December storms focused more on Washington and Oregon, dumping an average 6 feet of snow. With cool temperatures and another 4 feet of snow during the second half of December, base depths averaged 6-8 feet during an excellent holiday season. The first half of January was cool to preserve the snow well as the heaviest storms tracked south. Snowfall ranged from one foot at Whistler to 2 feet in Washington and 4-6 feet in Oregon. During the third week of January it rained fairly high in Washington and Oregon but snowed 1+ foot later. Whistler got 3+ feet on its upper half. Most of the region got 4-5 feet of snow during the first half of February. A mid-February storm rained to 7,000 feet but later February snow ranged from 2 feet at Whistler to 6 feet in Oregon. First half of March snowfall averaged nearly 6 feet, though there was some rain below 5,000 feet during the second week of March. There were 3-4 feet of of snow in the second half of March. April snowfall averaged 4 feet. Later spring skiing should be excellent on the above average snowpack, with Bachelor in full operation to April 30 and partial operation to Memorial Day with a reopening July 1-2. Whistler had its scheduled Victoria Day closing, with its usual 5 weeks of ski camps on the Horstman Glacier still to come.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Whistler

125

72

55

64

126

68

510

123%

Snoqualmie Pass

21

131

50

100

90

10

402

104%

Crystal Mt.

53

98

46

117

79

46

439

107%

Mt. Hood Meadows

58

146

75

115.5

111.5

49.5

555.5

123%

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.:

This was the only region with widespread November snowfall, though it was above average only at the higher altitude areas. After 2-3 feet during the first half of December and another 3-5 feet during the second half, holiday base depths were 4-6 feet. Silver Star and Sun Peaks were 100% open since Christmas. The first half of January was cold with only about a foot of new snow. About 1.5 feet fell in the second half of January as the storm track continued to the south. Conditions improved during the first half of February with 2-4 feet of snow. After mid-February rain to over 5,000 feet, later February snowfall was 3-4 feet west of the Selkirks and 1-2 feet farther east. This was the best region in the first half of March, with 3-6 feet of new snow, and majority winter conditions prevailing at most areas. Snowfall ranged from 2-4 feet during the second half of March. April had 4-6 feet of snow, though only the Banff areas were open much of the month.

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Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Big White

68.9

36.2

37

57

100.6

50

342.6

123%

Whitewater

68.9

113.4

99.2

78

98

27.6

485.1

124%

Fernie

46.9

102.8

28

92.9

124.4

45

440

118%

Lake Louise

26.4

40.2

16.9

29.1

56.7

59.1

228.4

135%

U.S. Northern Rockies:

Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole delayed opening due to the dry first half of November but opened by Dec. 1 due to a late storm after Thanksgiving. The Tetons made up completely for the slow start with 10 feet of snow in December and had a good holiday season with base depths of 6+ feet. The interior Northwest areas in Idaho and western Montana had 6-7 feet of December snow to attain 4+ foot bases. Big Sky was farther behind but improved during Christmas week to 83% open. Sun Valley and the Tetons got 4 feet of snow in the first half of January and other areas about 2 feet. Most areas got about 2 feet in the second half of January. First half of February storms hit Sun Valley and the Tetons with 5-6 feet and other areas with 2-4 feet. Jackson Hole was closed for a week due to downed power lines. 4-5 feet fell during the second half of February throughout the region. 1-3 feet fell in the first half of March, with the higher amounts near the Canadian border. The Tetons got 3 feet too, but also had warm weather with some rain at Jackson's base resulting in variable conditions. Second half of March snowfall was 1-2 feet with mostly spring conditions prevailing. April had 4-6 feet of snow, most of it after areas had closed. The southwest flow caused a big year at Sun Valley and resulted in Jackson and Targhee having similar snowfall where Targhee usually gets about 25% more.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Whitefish

43

101

34

115

102

45

450

139%

Big Sky

56

69

42

41

30

85

323

114%

Jackson Hole (mid)

29

124

78

122

37

57

447

122%

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, Park City and Snowbird opened just after Thanksgiving on snowmaking but Alta delayed to Dec. 2. The late November storm dumped 3+ feet in the Cottonwood areas and about half of that elsewhere. It dumped 7 feet of snow in most of the Wasatch in December. Cottonwood Canyon holiday base depths were 5-6 feet and Park City base depths were 3+ feet. Brian Head in the far south lagged until nearly Christmas but got 5 feet of snow in late December. The California storms tracked into the Wasatch, dumping 6 feet during the first half of January and 4-7 feet during the second half. Early February snow averaged 2 feet. The big dumps resumed during the second half of February, ranging from 5 feet in Park City to 7+ feet in the Cottonwood areas. Utah got 1.5 feet of snow during the first week of March followed by two extremely warm weeks with spring conditions. Brian Head and the Cottonwood areas got 3+ feet of snow in late March and 2 feet in early April, with about half as much elsewhere. The Cottonwoods got an additional 3 feet of snow later in April. Snowbird was close to full operation to April 23, with upper lifts running daily to May 14 and weekends expected into June. The southwest flow resulted in Brighton/Solitude getting as much or more snow as Alta/Snowbird.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Alta

73.5

76.5

160.5

124.5

56

102.5

593.5

114%

Solitude (upper)

72

77

170

121

51

69

560

115%

Snowbasin

33

88

142

102

40

48

453

144%

Brian Head

36

76

88

36

52

36

324

104%

Northern and Central Colorado:

A-Basin opened a run on snowmaking October 21, was less than 10% open for the next 6 weeks but was 87% open by Christmas due to heavy December snowfalls with above average density. Loveland did not open until Nov. 9 and no one else opened until Nov. 18. No one was over 5% open at Thanksgiving and base depths were still in the snowmaking dependent 18-inch range a week into December. But 5-7 feet of December snow overcame the early deficit by Christmas. Base depths were 3-4 feet so open terrain was at least average for the holidays at most areas. The California storms continued into Colorado, averaging 5 feet in this region during the first half of January. About two feet fell in the second half of January and three feet scattered through February. Snowfall for all of March averaged only 2 feet, and spring conditions were more prevalent than usual for March in the warm weather. April snowfall averaged 4 feet, ensuring a normal spring season to A-Basin's close in early June. The southwest flow resulted in below average seasons for the traditional snowfall leaders Steamboat, Vail and Winter Park.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Steamboat

39.2

89.3

94.3

44

11.2

68

346

93%

Vail

37

69

97

37

17

44

296

82%

Copper Mt.

26

73

82

29

24

42

276

99%

Loveland

34

74

115

44

29

57

353

102%

Winter Park

41

81.5

79.5

37

37

54

330

92%

Southern and Western Colorado:

This region was bone dry the first half of November but got more snow than the northern areas during the second half. Early December storms were on a more northern track but there were 4-7 feet of snow during the rest of December. Holiday base depths were 3+ feet except for 6 feet at Wolf Creek and thus some expert terrain was not yet open. New Mexico and Arizona missed most of the storms through mid-December but received 4 feet during the second half. The California storms during the first half of January brought 8 feet of snow to Wolf Creek and Crested Butte (thus opening the North Face), 6+ feet to Aspen and 5 feet elsewhere. Second half of January snowfall ranged from 1 foot at Aspen to 4 feet at the most southern areas. Kachina Peak at Taos opened late in January. First half of February snowfall ranged from 2+ feet at Aspen and Crested Butte to 1 foot at the southern areas. Second half of February snowfall was 3 feet at Wolf Creek and about 2 feet elsewhere. During the first half of March only Aspen/Snowmass received more than a foot of snow, and spring conditions were more prevalent than usual for mid-March in the warm weather. In late March Taos and Telluride got 3 feet of snow and other areas about half as much. April snowfall of 2-3 feet was mostly after areas had closed.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Aspen Highlands

37

61

86

58

39

39

320

127%

Gothic Snow Lab

37

67.3

147.6

65.4

14.6

31.5

363.4

101%

Wolf Creek

56

94

165

67

28

30

440

113%

Taos

24.3

49.7

54.4

19.2

41.6

27.2

216.4

84%

Northeast:

Killington opened October 25 with a mix of manmade and natural snow. The natural snow melted out in early November but there was enough natural and manmade snow later for Killington to host a World Cup race even though the races in the West were cancelled. The week after Thanksgiving had some rain but the first half of December was cold with 5-6 feet of snow in northern Vermont and 3 feet elsewhere. There were alternating rain and snow events during the second half of December, with rain at Christmas but a 2-3 foot storm in northern New England setting up an excellent New Year's weekend. Early January saw both rain and snow but had a rain/freeze event reducing trail counts just before MLK weekend. Conditions turned around during the second half of January with 3-4 feet in northern New England and 2 feet elsewhere. The first half of February was excellent with 2+ feet in Quebec and 4 feet in most of the US Northeast ski areas. After 1-2 feet of mid-month snow, there was a major warm spell starting President's weekend. Conditions deteriorated fast, highlighted by a severe rain/freeze in early March. Then Winter Storm Stella dumped 3-6 feet in New England March 12-16, resulting in the best conditions of the season. Late March/early April skiing remained mostly good with new snow every week totalling 3+ feet. Spring terrain open was well above average during the best Northeast season since 2007-08. Killington might be open to the end of May.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Jay (mid)

18

127.5

70.5

93

96

22

427

133%

Sugarbush

24

116

39

68

58

35

340

126%

Killington

20

51.5

36.5

58

45.5

19

230.5

96%

Whiteface

41

59

46

57

60

18

281

154%

Cannon Mt.

10

67

27

79

40

22

245

152%

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