1997-98 Ski Season Progress Report as of February 22, 1998

Western snowfall through mid-December favored the Southwest and was below average or worse elsewhere. January's snow was just the reverse, high in most Western regions except the Southwest. In February El Nino finally lived up to its billing, dumping on California. The Sierra is clearly the prime ski region in North America for the rest of this season. From this point forward, snow preservation rather than coverage is the key issue. Snow preservation is very predictable by the altitude and exposure characteristics of each area, as outlined in my regional detail tables. This information, combined with current snow reports to determine recent snowfall, should give an educated assessment of current conditions. Areas facing direct sun may still preserve a packed powder snow surface if temperatures remain below about 20F. In general, ski area reports are more candid regarding coverage and open terrain than surface conditions.

California: Sierra snowfall through January was about average, but 6-10 feet of snow fell in the first week of February, and up to 8 feet more since then. Base depths are 15-20 feet on the Sierra Crest and 8 feet at the lowest elevations. Mammoth's year-to-date snow total of 389 inches is 167% of normal. Southern California and Arizona (base depths up to 7 feet now) have also been hit by these storms to a lesser degree to recover nicely from a subpar January. See the California regional table for snow preservation tendencies. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.

Pacific Northwest: Base depths average 9 feet at most areas after 1-3 feet new snow in the last few days. Check Cascade Ski Report Current Conditions or Northwest Ski Report First-Hand Reports for up to date information. See the Pacific Northwest regional table for snow preservation tendencies.

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: After substantial dumps in January, the dry weather pattern of the early season has returned. Regional leaders Fernie and Whitewater have 8 foot bases with about 2-3 new snow in February. Base depths in the Okanagan areas are a below average 5-7 feet but most areas are in full operation. Conditions are subpar in the Banff region, where Sunshine has a 6 foot base and Lake Louise has only 2-4 feet. There could be coverage problems later this season at the areas with low base depths and/or sunny exposures if snowfall continues to be below average. See the Interior Canada regional table for snow preservation tendencies.

U. S. Northern Rockies: Wyoming received major storms in January, and Jackson's year-to-date snow total of 270 inches (about 60% of it in January) is 98% of normal. Idaho and Montana received about 6 feet in January, enough to bring Big Sky and Sun Valley to full operation mid-month. Sun Valley and Wyoming have been getting some residual snow from the California storms. See the Northern Rockies regional table for snow preservation tendencies.

Utah: has had up to 6 feet new snow in February as the California storms moved inland. Cottonwood Canyon base depths average 9 feet. Alta's snowfall since Nov. 1 (thus excluding 65 inches in October) is 334 inches, 98% of normal. The Park City areas have been in full operation since mid-January. See the Utah regional table for snow preservation tendencies.

Northern and Central Colorado: has had average snowfall in January and February after a below average start to the season. All areas are now at least 95% open. Vail's year-to-date snowfall of 193 inches is 81% of normal, while Steamboat's 190 inches is 86% of normal. Winter Park's new Vasquez Ridge expert expansion finally opened in early February. See the Northern and Central Colorado regional table for snow preservation tendencies.

Southern and Western Colorado: has had 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 upper surface lifts opened in mid-January, still has some expert terrain which was marginally covered for the recent Freeskiing competition. Snowmass opened its new Cirque surface lift early this month, but not all the expert runs it services. New Mexico, the only clear beneficiary of El Nino in November / December, got 3-4 feet this month after a very dry January. Taos has some extreme terrain which usually needs more than the 74 inch base currently reported. Snow preservation is usually excellent in this region once the terrain is adequately covered. See the Southern and Western Colorado regional table for details.

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. February has seen variable surface conditions although coverage remains good. There have been episodes of both rain and snow with a recent tend toward spring 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. Surface conditions are much more a function of recent weather in the East, as opposed to altitude and exposure in the West.

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