For the entire month of February the storm track returned to
its December pattern, hitting the Pacific Northwest continuously
and adjoining regions occasionally. Late season skiers should
consider visiting Whistler/Blackcomb or Mt. Bachelor, which are
having their best seasons in 25 years with base depths of 14-18
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.
Only a few areas publish year-to-date snow on their websites. Other areas I receive occasionally by e-mail and are now updated to March 1.
California: The Sierra received 7-10 feet in February
following the big dumps in the second half of January. Conditions
are excellent everywhere in the Sierra now with base depths of
7-16 feet at most areas and 20+ feet at Kirkwood.
Season snow: Alpine Meadows, estimated 340 inches, 131% of normal; Heavenly, 225 inches, 121% of normal; Mammoth, 278 inches, 110% of normal.
See the California regional table for snow preservation tendencies. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.
Pacific Northwest: This region has been dumped on
almost continuously in February. Base depths are 11-18 feet
except at Mt. Baker, which has 20-25 feet. Snowfall is well ahead
of the 1996-97 pace and could challenge the records from 1971-72
and 1973-74. Whistler now has a 166 inch base in the alpine, the
highest since 1974. There has been some
rain/snow mix at low elevation during the last week.
Season snow: Mt. Baker, 723 inches (may be missing some from November!), 160% of normal; Crystal, 462 inches, 171% of normal; Mt. Bachelor, 363 inches, 137% of normal.
See the Pacific Northwest regional table for snow preservation tendencies. Check Northwest Ski Reports for current surface conditions and the numerous powder days this season.
Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: There has been continuing snow throughout February. Okanagan conditions are outstanding with record bases of 7-11 feet, about 175% of normal. The Kootenay (7-14 foot bases) and Banff (5-10 foot bases) areas are also enjoying an excellent season with mostly powder and packed powder surfaces. See the Interior Canada regional table for snow preservation tendencies.
U. S. Northern Rockies: Idaho panhandle areas like
Schweitzer are in good shape with bases of 10-14 feet. Sun Valley
reports full operation on 4.5-7 feet. Grand Targhee and Jackson
are in full operation with 7-12 foot bases. Big Sky opened Lone
Peak the second week of January. Season snowfall has been
consistently above average since Christmas. Overall, this region
has been excellent since early January.
Season snow: Schweitzer, 324 inches, 161% of normal; Sun Valley, 177 inches, 122% of normal; Jackson, 359 inches, 124% of normal.
See the Northern Rockies regional table for snow preservation tendencies.
Utah: The Cottonwood Canyon areas have base depths of 8-9 feet after 5-7 feet of new snow in the last half of January and 4-7 feet in February. Alta has had 294 inches, 81% of normal since Nov. 1. The Park City areas have base depths of about 6-7 feet. Snowbasin opened January 22 and now has a 7 foot base. See the Utah regional table for snow preservation tendencies.
Northern and Central Colorado: This region had its
worst holiday season since 1980-81 but received above normal snow
in January. Most of Vail's back bowls opened in mid-January and
almost all expert terrain in the region was open by mid-February.
Base depths of 4-5 feet at most areas are still below average for
this time of year. However, with good preservation the base
should hold up into April unless March is unusually dry.
Season snow: Steamboat, 268 inches, 103% of normal; Winter Park, 220 inches, 87% of normal; Vail, 182 inches, 72% of normal; Breckenridge, 195 inches, 97% of normal.
See the Northern and Central Colorado regional table for snow preservation tendencies.
Southern and Western Colorado: Regional leader Wolf
Creek is in full operation on a 8 foot base and Telluride on a 5
foot base. Taos has most runs open on a 4-6 foot base, but
snowfall since Christmas has been way below normal and off-piste
conditions are less than ideal. Crested Butte opened most of the
North Face February 1, and most of Snowmass' expert terrain has
opened in February.
Season snow: Snowmass, 136 inches, 84% of normal; Crested Butte, 160 inches, 98% of normal; Telluride, 183 inches, 108% of normal; Wolf Creek, big dumps in October, then 177 inches, 70% of normal since Nov. 1.
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: The first half of January brought the first
big storms to New England, with some Vermont areas getting 4 feet
or more. Most New England areas reached full operation, including
natural snow areas like Mad River Glen. A week of thaw closed
many runs, but most areas have been 80-90% open since late
January. February snowfall has been below average. Base depths
remain far below normal due to the poor early season.
Season snow: Killington, 134 inches, 72% of normal; Stowe, 113 inches, 69% of normal.
November temperatures were above freezing as often as below, and Thanksgiving weekend brought the first significant (6-12 inches) natural snow to the northern areas. Skiing was almost reduced to square one by the warm spell of early December but snowmaking was nearly continuous for the rest of the month. 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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