1997-98 Ski Season Progress Report as of February 2, 1998

Western snowfall through mid-December tended to favor the Southwest, which was expected to benefit from El Nino. January's snow was just the reverse, high in most Western regions except the Southwest. Year-to-date snowfall totals are now close to average in much of the West, and conditions at most resorts are now excellent. Only a very few expert and off-piste areas are not completely open.

California: The Sierra received about 2 feet new snow per week in January, bringing year-to-date snowfall to about average. Base depths are 10 feet on the Sierra Crest and 4 feet at the lowest elevations. February is opening with a major dump of 2 feet so far with 2 more days of heavy snowfall expected. Mammoth's year to date snowfall of 216 inches is 116% of average. Southern California and Arizona have had less snow in January and conditions are below average. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.

Pacific Northwest: The thin bases of the holidays were well covered by 5-8 feet new in Washington and Oregon in January. Regional leader Mt. Baker has a 13 foot base, while Mt. Bachelor, Mt. Hood and Whistler/Blackcomb's alpine region have at least 8 foot bases. Current conditions are packed powder at higher elevations and springlike below 5,000 ft. 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 4-8 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 a below average 5-7 feet but most areas are in full operation. Sunshine now has a 6 foot base, while Lake Louise has only 2-4 feet.

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 90+ inch bases. Jackson's year-to-date snow total of 228 inches (about 3/4 of it since New Year's) is 103% of normal. Idaho and Montana received about 6 feet in January, enough to bring Big Sky and Sun Valley to full operation mid-month.

Utah: had substantial new snow in January also, bringing Cottonwood Canyon base depths to 8 feet. Alta's snowfall since Nov. 1 (thus excluding 65 inches in October) is 254 inches, 92% of normal. The Park City areas reached full operation in mid-January.

Northern and Central Colorado: has had below average snowfall this season though there has been a foot new per week in january. All areas are now at least 90% open. Vail's year-to-date snowfall of 165 inches is 84% of normal, while Steamboat's 154 inches is 83% of normal.

Southern and Western Colorado: has had January snowfall similar to Northern and Central Colorado. Base depths average 4-5 feet, except for regional leader Wolf Creek, which has 6 feet. Crested Butte, where the expert upper surface lifts just opened in mid-January, is 80% open and Snowmass is 90% open. New Mexico was the only clear beneficiary of El Nino in November / December, but January was pretty dry. Taos has some extreme terrain which usually needs more than the 54 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. Conditions took an abrupt turn for the worse in early January, with extensive thaw followed by rain and ice storms. Some areas were cut back to 50% open, but most areas were restored to close to full operation with extensive snowmaking and 2 feet of new snow in late January. A current warming trend is softening 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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