2008-09 Ski Season Progress Report as of February 12, 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. In late January that drought ended with substantial snow in the Sierra, Utah and Colorado. A similar storm track has been in effect since late last week and is projected to continue. Thus Utah and Colorado still have the best current conditions. In some other regions base depths remain 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 in late January dropped 2-5 feet in the Sierra. However the first half of the storm was rain below 8,000 feet, so base depths there remained at only 3-4 feet. 2-3 feet last weekend has improved Tahoe, but Mammoth continues to have the best conditions, with nearly 5 feet new in each of the last 2 storms. 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. Last weekend's storms dumped 3-4 feet of snow in Southern California and Arizona areas. 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

225

85%

90%

Kirkwood

223

79%

100%

Mammoth

294

135%

100%

Northstar

191

109%

96%

Mt. Rose

135

63%

92%

Southern Cal

102

147%

100%

Arizona Snowbowl

181

132%

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 was less than a foot of snow the rest of the month throughout the region, so ungroomed terrain was variable or difficult. But Whistler's snowpack stabilized and its Peak Chair finally opened January 24. There has been about a foot of snow in the region so far in February, so base depths range from a still-low 4+ feet at Whistler to 5-7 feet in Washington and 7-9 feet in Oregon.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Whistler

185

70%

90%

Crystal Mt.

238

99%

100%

Stevens Pass

211

69%

100%

Hood Meadows

263

94%

100%

Mt. Bachelor

276

119%

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 150 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 was little snow in late January and amounts ranging from a few inches to just over a foot so far in February, so some off-trail conditions are variable and base depths are below average. Low-snow areas like Lake Louise and Panorama have mostly hardpack with less than a foot new over the past month.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Lake Louise

83

80%

90%

Sunshine

128

85%

96%

Kicking Horse

135

81%

99%

Fernie

155

62%

96%

Castle Mt.

135

70%

74%

Red Mt.

159

87%

100%

Whitewater

174

69%

100%

Sun Peaks

114

90%

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 the late January and early February storms and got 3-6 feet new over the past 2 weeks. Farther north there was less than a foot in the second half of January and about a foot since then, so some hardpack and crusty conditions have been reported.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Whitefish

200

97%

100%

Bridger Bowl

161

91%

100%

Grand Targhee

316

104%

100%

Jackson Hole

243

98%

100%

Schweitzer

184

106%

100%

Sun Valley

113

91%

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 late January and another 3-5 feet so far in February.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Alta

359

117%

100%

Snowbird

314

118%

100%

Brighton/Solitude

303

104%

100%

Snowbasin

259

133%

100%

Park City

211

119%

100%

Brian Head

163

86%

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. 1.5 - 3 feet in late January and 1-2 feet in early February have kept surfaces refreshed at most areas. Steamboat has had twice as much snow as the rest of the region over this period.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Beaver Creek

248

126%

100%

Breckenridge

179

108%

100%

Copper Mt.

194

126%

100%

Keystone

126

107%

100%

Loveland

186

100%

97%

Steamboat

272

114%

100%

Vail

273

127%

100%

Winter Park

220

102%

92%

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 weren't open yet. 2-3 feet early in January before the mid-month dry period, then 1-3 feet in late January. Last weekend's storm dumped 2+ feet over most of the Southwest and nearly 4 feet at Wolf Creek. Conditions are excellent with nearly all the extreme terrain open and more snow expected.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Aspen

191

144%

99%

Crested Butte

219.5

161%

97%

Gothic Snow Lab

246.5

129%

N/A

Durango

194

137%

100%

Telluride

210

149%

95%

Wolf Creek

314

154%

100%

Taos

177

116%

100%

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 was been extremely cold with average snowfall, so with snowmaking assistance surfaces remained good with most terrain open. February started with thaw and it's raining today all the way up to Tremblant and Quebec City. Trails counts are now only down a little, but could drop more by the weekend if it freezes with not much new snow. Percents open: Sunday River 93%, Hunter 84%, Okemo 94%, Stratton 99%, Tremblant 71%, 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)

238

113%

99%

Mansfield Stake

135

95%

92%

Sugarbush

176

110%

96%

Killington

205

132%

76%

Cannon Mt.

126

137%

76%

Sugarloaf

127

115%

88%

Whiteface

142

136%

86%

Le Massif

171

128%

96%

Other season snow totals: Tremblant 145, Mt. Ste. Anne 128, Stratton 135.

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