1997-98 Ski Season Progress Report as of January 11, 1998

Western snowfall through mid-December tended to favor those areas expected to benefit from El Nino. Since then there has been no particular pattern to the snow. Year-to-date snowfall totals have been below average in most of the West, but the conditions at most regional snowfall leaders are now good. At other areas, expert and off-trail trail skiing may still be marginal. In the regional sections, I will usually mention prominent areas which are still in partial operation.

California: The Sierra has received up to 2 feet of snow over the past week. As in November, this storm hit Mammoth (now at 150 inches year to date snow, 110% of normal) hardest, and its conditions are the best in the state. At Tahoe the highest snowfall areas of Sugar Bowl and Kirkwood remain the best bets, though most areas are close to full operation. Some of Squaw's lower mountain expert terrain and Heavenly's Mott Canyon are not yet adequately covered. Most of the Southern California terrain under snowmaking is open, and Arizona is now in full operation on 40-50 inches. Despite the El Nino hype, the California season can only be considered average so far. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.

Pacific Northwest: The thin bases of the holidays have been well covered by at least 2 feet new from storms in B. C. and Washington last weekend and in Oregon this weekend. Regional leader Mt. Baker has a 9 foot base and Whistler/Blackcomb's alpine region has good coverage on a 6 foot base. Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood have 6 foot bases also, which is adequate though below average for this time of year. Check Cascade Ski Report Current Conditions or Northwest Ski Report First-Hand Reports for up to date information.

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: All three regions have recovered dramatically from the dry November and early December with 3-7 feet new snow since New Year's. Regional leaders Fernie and Whitewater are in full operation with at least 8 foot bases. Base depths in the Okanagan areas are 3-5 feet with most areas close to full operation. Sunshine now has a 6 foot base, while Lake Louise has 3-4 feet. The snowcat and heliski areas are generally in higher and snowier locations than the lift serviced areas, so the concerns of November / December no longer apply.

U. S. Northern Rockies: Wyoming has also received major storms since New Year's, and skiing should be excellent now at Jackson and regional leader Grand Targhee on 70+ inch bases. Jackson's year-to-date snow total of 139 inches is 86% or normal. Idaho and Montana have received lesser snows this month, so expert terrain such as Big Sky's Lone Peak tram still need more cover.

Utah: has at least a foot of new snow so far this weekend, and Cottonwood Canyon base depths are 5-6 feet. Alta's snowfall since Nov. 1 (thus excluding 65 inches in October) is 147 inches, 71% of normal. Park City is up to 90% open now.

Northern and Central Colorado: This region is now below average with less than a foot new in the past week. Most trails are open, but off trail skiing must still be be sketchy if the high snow areas (Vail, Winter Park, Steamboat) have only 80% of their acreage open. Vail's year-to-date snowfall of 119 inches is 80% of normal, while Steamboat's 77.5 inches is 55% of normal. The Vail figure likely includes some from October.

Southern and Western Colorado: Aspen/Snowmass and Crested Butte have most trails open but limited expert and off-trail skiing on snowfall similar to Northern and Central Colorado. Only regional leader Wolf Creek has full operation of terrain in Colorado. New Mexico was the only clear beneficiary of El Nino in November / December. All areas report full operation, though Taos has some extreme terrain which usually needs more than the 60 inch base currently reported. Ski Apache in southern New Mexico received almost as much snow by the end of December as it usually gets for the entire season.

Northeast: November and December had above average snowfall and very favorable snowmaking weather, resulting in an excellent season through the holidays. This marked contrast to the warm and dry 1982-83 season demonstrates, in my opinion, that El Nino is not particularly relevant to East Coast weather. Unfortunately, conditions took an abrupt turn for the worse last week, with extensive rain and thaw. Some areas are down to 50% open, and major dumps or extensive snowmaking will be needed to restore surface conditions. 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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