2008-09 Ski Season Progress Report as of January 28, 2009

October was mostly average, with small amounts of snow in many regions but nothing that will impact the season. At the end of the month a major storm hit the West Coast, but snow levels averaged 9,000 feet, so only Mammoth was able to open some natural terrain from it. The storm moved on to Utah, where the Cottonwood Canyon resorts received nearly 4 feet of snow, allowing Snowbird to open Nov. 7. The storm continued into Colorado, but the snowfall there averaged about a foot. There was scattered snow during the second week of November but next 2 weeks were dry and warm. Therefore at most western areas Thankgiving skiing was marginal. The widespread drought continued for over a week into December but since then most regions have had substantial snow, accompanied by abnormally cold temperatures. Some regions caught up (Oregon, the Sierra, Utah and western Colorado had major dumps over Christmas) and were above average in snowfall and terrain open for the holidays. From Christmas into early January the storm track moved north, improving many of the areas that had been limited due to lack of snow. For a minimum of 10 days in mid-January the entire West was clear under high pressure. Last weekend that drought ended with substantial snow in the Sierra, Utah and Colorado. Utah and Colorado have the best current conditions. In some other regions base depths are now well below normal and much ungroomed terrain has difficult or hardpacked surfaces.

California: Mammoth received 21 inches of snow near its base and opened a run Nov. 2. But much more fell on the upper mountain, which opened Nov. 7. The solid upper mountain base held up through a warm couple of weeks, and Mammoth was 40% open (the most acreage in North America) after 3 more lower mountain chairs opened on snowmaking by Thanksgiving. The big early November storm was nearly all rain at Tahoe, and with ensuing warm weather only Boreal and Mt. Rose opened for Thanksgiving on a very restricted basis, followed by Heavenly later in the holiday. A mid-December storm dropped 3-4 feet in the Sierra, and through Christmas another 1-3 feet. Tahoe areas were close to full operation by New Year's, with only a few expert sectors like Killebrew Canyon, Silverado and some of the Mt. Rose Chutes still closed. There was minimal snow for 3 weeks in January with record warm temperatures, so conditions deteriorated at low altitude or in sunny exposures. A substantial storm last weekend dropped 2-5 feet in the Sierra. However the first half of the storm was rain below 8,000 feet, so base depths there are only 3-4 feet, some terrain may be marginal and realistic percents skiable may be lower than reported. The mid-December storm also brought 4 feet of snow to Southern California and Arizona areas, which were in full operation before Christmas, much earlier than normal. Christmas storms brought 3 feet of snow to Arizona but mostly rain to Southern California. 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

191

88%

80%

Kirkwood

186

81%

100%

Mammoth

238

133%

100%

Northstar

160

110%

94%

Mt. Rose

118

67%

75%

Southern Cal

60

117%

30-100%

Arizona Snowbowl

135

122%

100%

Pacific Northwest: Whistler opened for Thanksgiving, but only 5% on snowmaking trails. Snowfalls through Christmas were modest as the storm track went south, so Whistler was only 26% open at Christmas. Despite several storms from Christmas into early January, most of the Whistler alpine was still not open, though mainly due to snow stability issues like Utah and Jackson had in December. Oregon areas had 10-15 feet of snow in December and were in full operation weather permitting. Washington areas had lesser amounts before Christmas, but 4 feet over the holidays. An early January warm storm closed Washington areas with rain and iced some trees at Mt. Bachelor. There has been less than a foot of snow the rest of the month throughout the region, so ungroomed terrain is variable or difficult. But Whistler's snowpack stabilized and its Peak Chair finally opened January 24.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Whistler

170

76%

70%

Crystal Mt.

227

110%

79%

Stevens Pass

201

76%

100%

Hood Meadows

252

104%

100%

Mt. Bachelor

259

130%

100%

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: Lake Louise opened a run on snowmaking Nov. 8 and was 5% open through November, followed by Sunshine opening Nov. 15 with somewhat more terrain. These areas were in majority operation after 2 feet of snow in early December. The new Revelstoke area opened about 1/4 of terrain for Thanksgiving and has now had 146 inches. Revelstoke and Kicking Horse were also in majority operation mid-December. Western Canada did not have much snow for 2 weeks before Christmas, so many areas were still very restricted for the holidays. From Christmas week into early January most areas had 2-4 feet of snow, with up to 5 feet near the U.S. border, so most terrain then opened. The Washington State rain was mixed rain/snow at Red and Fernie, but overall coverage and stability improved in January. There has been little snow in the past 2 weeks, so off-trail conditions are variable and base depths below average. Big White is 92% open and Panorama 99%. New snow over the next week is expected to improve these conditions.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Lake Louise

81

88%

91%

Sunshine

108

82%

93%

Kicking Horse

116.5

79%

99%

Fernie

151

69%

93%

Castle Mt.

130

78%

74%

Red Mt.

147

93%

100%

Whitewater

160

73%

100%

Sun Peaks

101

93%

99%

U. S. Northern Rockies: 2+ feet of snow in early December brought Targhee and Bridger Bowl to full operation. From then until Christmas snowfall ranged from 3 feet near the Canadian border to 6 feet in the Tetons, with the northern areas catching up by New Year's. Most areas were close to full operation by New Year's, and some of the still closed terrain was due to control work, particularly after the 2 December avalanche incidents at Jackson. Most areas had 2-4 feet of snow in January. The Tetons were on the northern edge of last weekend's storm and got 2-3 feet new. Farther north there has been less than a foot for over 2 weeks so some hardpack and crusty conditions have been reported.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Whitefish

181

101%

100%

Bridger Bowl

151

100%

100%

Grand Targhee

276

108%

100%

Jackson Hole

229

108%

100%

Schweitzer

175

117%

100%

Sun Valley

108

102%

100%

Utah: Snowbird opened Nov. 7 after a storm of nearly 4 feet. After more snow the next week, all 4 Cottonwood areas were open for the weekend of Nov. 15-16 (ranging from 39% at Alta to 11% at Solitude). Surface conditions were variable after 2 weeks of no new snow, but a few inches over Thanksgiving weekend resurfaced much of Alta and allowed Supreme to open. Park City delayed its opening to November 29 because it was often too warm to make snow. The Cottonwood areas have had 8-9 feet of December snow and were in good shape by Christmas. The Park City group was less than 10% open in mid-December but then had 6 feet of snow through Christmas. Calm weather through New Year's allowed nearly all terrain to be controlled and opened. 2-4 feet new in early January, then dry for about 10 days. Utah areas are in excellent shape after 3-5 feet in last weekend's storm.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Alta

304

117%

100%

Snowbird

263

118%

100%

Brighton/Solitude

248

100%

99%

Snowbasin

215

131%

100%

Park City

175

118%

100%

Brian Head

142

92%

100%

Northern and Central Colorado: Loveland and A-Basin opened their first snowmaking runs Oct. 15. Copper and Breckenridge also opened on snowmaking Nov. 8, and Vail and Winter Park opened Nov. 22. Historical snowfall leaders Steamboat, Vail and Winter Park are normally about 1/4 open by Thanksgiving, but everyone in the region was well under 10% open this year. The Thanksgiving weekend storm dropped an average of 2 feet, with 4 feet at Loveland. With 4-8 feet of December snow most of these areas enjoyed an above average holiday season. 2-5 feet new in early January, then the same 10-day dry spell as Utah, and finally 1.5 - 3 feet new since last weekend.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Beaver Creek

233

139%

100%

Breckenridge

163

115%

100%

Copper Mt.

178

137%

100%

Keystone

113

116%

100%

Loveland

175.5

111%

91%

Steamboat

231

112%

100%

Vail

250

136%

100%

Winter Park

201

109%

90%

Southern and Western Colorado: Aspen, Telluride and Taos opened a handful of snowmaking runs for Thanksgiving. The Thanksgiving weekend storm averaged about 1.5 feet, allowing Wolf Creek to open most terrain, though on a modest 20-inch base. Aspen had 4 feet in early December and was half open mid-month, but other areas were in more in limited operation. There was 3 feet of snow in most of the region mid-December, opening most runs, and another 1-3 feet through Christmas. Half of Crested Butte's North Face opened Jan. 2, and elsewhere just a few expert runs aren't open yet. 2-3 feet early in January before the mid-month dry period, then 1-3 feet since last weekend.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Aspen

181

164%

98%

Crested Butte

204

181%

90%

Gothic Snow Lab

227.5

144%

N/A

Durango

166

140%

100%

Telluride

188

161%

94%

Wolf Creek

270

159%

100%

Taos

150

116%

90%

Northeast: Natural snow in late October totalled 11 inches at Stowe and Jay Peak. Sunday River opened Oct. 31 and Killington opened Nov. 2 on snowmaking. Weather then turned warm and rainy, so Killington closed after 5 days while Sunday River maintained marginal operation on weekends. With 2 cold weeks and 1-3 feet of new snow, many eastern areas had more runs open than normal for Thanksgiving. Surfaces were variable from mixed rain/snow in early December and several areas were hit by an ice storm. It dumped 3+ feet over northern New England for an epic weekend before Christmas. During the holiday period there was rain, so surfaces were difficult and most areas had decreased trail counts. After the holidays conditions greatly improved with first wet snow burying the ice and up to 18 inches new powder on top. The rest of January has been extremely cold with average snowfall, so with snowmaking assistance surfaces are good and most terrain is open. Percents open: Sunday River 97%, Hunter 82%, Okemo 100%, Stratton 100%, Tremblant 100%, Ste. Anne 100%. I strongly recommend checking First Tracks Online Ski Magazine No-Bull Ski Reports for up to date information in this region, where both weather and surface conditions can change so rapidly.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Jay (average)

208

115%

91%

Mansfield Stake

125

102%

100%

Sugarbush

151

110%

100%

Killington

183

140%

95%

Cannon Mt.

113

143%

94%

Sugarloaf

113

119%

96%

Whiteface

124

142%

91%

Le Massif

142

129%

98%

Other season snow totals: Tremblant 130, Mt. Ste. Anne 107, Stratton 120.

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