2016-17 Ski Season Progress Report as of March 16, 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, Montana east of the Continental Divide 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 second week 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.

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. Since then it's been warm with spring conditions nearly everywhere except the upper third of Mammoth. Melt/freezing has been severe enough to close some terrain temporarily. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Squaw 8,000

620

173%

76%

Alpine Meadows

530

182%

85%

Mt. Rose

652

245%

100%

Northstar (mid-estimate)

492

203%

88%

Heavenly

600

190%

100%

Kirkwood

601

157%

100%

Mammoth

516

183%

100%

Southern Cal

142.5

139%

30-100%


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.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Whistler

385

111%

100%

Crystal Mt.

362

110%

100%

Stevens Pass

389

100%

100%

Mt. Hood

465

127%

100%

Mt. Bachelor

442

143%

100%

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 are 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.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Big White

263

115%

100%

Lake Louise

172

128%

94%

Sunshine

255

130%

99%

Revelstoke

337

116%

100%

Kicking Horse

246

120%

100%

Whitewater

389

122%

100%

Red Mt.

213

96%

100%

Fernie

350

115%

100%

Castle Mt.

329

152%

100%

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.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Grand Targhee

365

94%

100%

Jackson Hole (mid)

379

121%

87%

Whitefish

376

143%

100%

Bridger

202

85%

100%

Schweitzer

292

129%

100%

Brundage

273

111%

98%

Sun Valley

302

186%

100%

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 but it has been extremely warm since then with spring conditions.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Alta

453

110%

100%

Snowbird

447

118%

100%

Brighton/Solitude

451

117%

100%

Park City (mid estimate)

309

131%

92%

Snowbasin

390

161%

100%

Brian Head

249

101%

100%

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. During the first half of March only Winter Park received more than a foot of snow, and spring conditions are more prevalent than usual for mid-March in the wam weather.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Beaver Creek

236

92%

100%

Breckenridge

240

85%

100%

Copper Mt.

218

100%

100%

Keystone

227

127%

100%

Loveland

271

108%

100%

Steamboat

275

95%

100%

Vail

190

68%

100%

Winter Park

260

95%

100%

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 are more prevalent than usual for mid-March in the wam weather.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Aspen

255

131%

98%

Gothic Snow Lab

319

113%

N/A

Crested Butte

309

157%

94%

Telluride

264

126%

95%

Purgatory

240

118%

98%

Wolf Creek

389

132%

100%

Taos

168

83%

91%

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. Percents open: Okemo 97%, Stratton 97%, Hunter 85%, Sunday River 98%, Sugarloaf 89%, Tremblant 92%, Mont Ste. Anne 99%.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Jay Peak (mid estimate)

398

145%

100%

Stowe

313

124%

94%

Sugarbush

318

143%

100%

Killington

203

101%

89%

Whiteface

239

161%

84%

Cannon Mt.

210

157%

98%

Le Massif

198

100%

100%

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