1998-99 Ski Season Progress Report as of January 3, 1999

Since just before Christmas the storm track has tracked from the Northwest through the Northern Rockies, just brushing Utah and Colorado.

California: The Sierra has seen no new snow for 2 weeks, and year-to-date snowfall is now below average with at least another dry week ahead. After the holiday crowds, surface conditions are now likely better at high altitude areas such as Kirkwood and Mammoth. Most Tahoe areas are in 90+% operation on 3-7 foot bases. Some of the steep or wind-exposed runs may be icy or need more coverage. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.

Pacific Northwest: There were continuous storms for over a week, with great powder on Christmas weekend, rain up to 5,000 feet afterwards, and just a few inches of snow for New Year's. Weather is calmer now, and high altitude areas such as Mt. Bachelor will have the best surfaces. Mt. Baker has a 12-14 foot base, Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood 8-11 feet and other NW areas 5-9 feet. Whistler has received less snow than Washington and Oregon, but still has 90+% of its 7,000 acres open on a 7.5 foot base in the alpine. Check Northwest Ski Reports for current surface conditions and the numerous December powder days.

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: There has been up to 2 feet of new snow since Christmas. Okanagan conditions are outstanding with far above average bases of 5-8 feet. Banff area base depths are well above normal (4 to 5.5 feet) with mostly packed powder surfaces. The Kootenay areas have 4-9 foot bases with good surfaces restored by this week's storms.

U. S. Northern Rockies: Idaho areas like Schweitzer are in good shape with bases of 5-9 feet and 2 feet new. Sun Valley is in full operation on 3-5 feet (YTD snow 105% of normal). Grand Targhee and Jackson (YTD snow 83% of normal) finally got a decent dump over Christmas, bringing the snow base up to 4-6 feet. Montana got the same storm, but Big Sky will need a few more like it to open Lone Peak. Overall, Idaho is in good shape, while Montana and Wyoming are below average but improving.

Utah: Cottonwood Canyon base depths are about 4.5 feet with 1.5 feet of snow over the past week. All four areas are mostly open, but historically Alta (heavy snow in October, but only 64% of normal since Nov. 1) and Brighton will have fewer obstacles than Snowbird and Solitude at these base depths. Outside the Cottonwood Canyons, natural snow cover is still limited and some areas are less than half open. Skiers with flexibility should give Utah a few more weeks to accumulate snow.

Northern and Central Colorado: This region had its worst holiday season since 1980-81 despite getting up to a foot of new snow in the past week. Steamboat (YTD snow 80% of normal) got more like 2 feet new and is 85% open. Winter Park, historically one of North America's most consistently reliable areas, is 58% open on 57% of normal snowfall. Vail is 35% open with no back bowls on 55% of normal snowfall. Base depths in Vail / Beaver Creek and Summit County are still around 3 feet. Even if normal weather returns to the region, it will probably take well into February for advanced terrain to get adequately covered.

Southern and Western Colorado: These areas also got up to a foot of snow recently. Regional leader Wolf Creek is in full operation on a 6 foot base. Purgatory, Telluride and Taos (YTD snow 114% of normal) are close to full operation on 4 foot bases. Some rocks are likely on the expert runs after the holiday crowds, but intermediate skiing should be very good. Aspen and Crested Butte are about half open (worst start since 1989-90) and full operation is unlikely before February.

Northeast: Snowmaking has steadily opened more trails over the past 3 weeks, but there has been very little natural snow with the cold weather. The weekend Midwest storm may hit New England soon, however. The greatest variety of holiday skiing (currently 40-60% open) is likely to be at northern areas with the most snowmaking, such as Killington, Okemo, Sugarbush and Sunday River. 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. 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.

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