2015-16 Ski Season Progress Report as of March 15, 2016

October was warmer and drier than normal in most ski regions, but there were widespread small storms through most of the West each week in November, contributing to the usual early openings on snowmaking. However, only areas in western Canada saw major storms and had much more terrain than normal open. Wolf Creek was also in full operation since mid-November with much more snow than other western US areas. The Pacific Northwest had a series of major storms in early December, spreading in lesser amounts into adjacent regions. The week before Christmas brought widespread storms to all western regions, with heaviest concentrations on the West Coast and in Utah. The West Coast and western Canada had an excellent holiday season, with all other western regions average or better. Christmas Week had scattered snow in most regions. The first half of January had El Nino influenced storm tracks into California but most ski regions had some snow. The second half of January had excellent skiing over most of the West, with the vast majority of areas enjoying at least 3 feet of new snow. After the final January storm hit Colorado in early February, snowfall over most of the US West was less than half normal for the rest of the month, with more snow in northern regions and widespread spring conditions elsewhere at lower elevations and on sunny exposures. During the second week of March major storms hit the West Coast areas with much lesser amounts in inland regions.

All snowfall totals are since November 1 and at mid-mountain locations where possible. "Mid-estimates" are for areas that only post upper info online, and apply a long term mid-to-upper ratio to those posted figures.

California:

The first storm started with snow levels over 9,000 feet but eventually lowered. Later storms were colder and snowed as low as Lake Tahoe but not yet enough to build a solid natural base. Mammoth and Mt. Rose opened Nov. 5 and several other areas opened mid-November. Mammoth had much more snow up high during the first storm and thus had by far the most open terrain in California in the early season. The Northwest storms moved into the Sierra the second week of December, dropping 2-4 feet and opening over half of terrain at most areas. The week before Christmas brought another 3-4 feet. A final December storm Christmas Eve dropped 2 feet more, bringing all areas close to full operation with base depths of 4-6 feet. Most Tahoe areas had more snow by Christmas than in all of last season. In January the Sierra continued to get snow every week as it did the prior 2 months. This averaged 2 feet per week at higher elevations, though it rained to 9,000 feet on January 29 before dropping 1+ foot of snow the next 3 days. The next month was dry except for about 2 feet during the 3rd week of February so spring conditions developed on most Tahoe terrain and perhaps half of Mammoth's. 5-7 feet of snow fell during the second week of March, pushing base depths to 6-12 feet and ensuring a long spring season. 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

435

122%

100%

Alpine Meadows

363

125%

100%

Northstar (mid estimate)

330

137%

100%

Mt. Rose

358

134%

100%

Heavenly (upper)

323

103%

100%

Kirkwood

413

109%

100%

Mammoth

324

116%

100%

Southern Cal

67.5

66%

0-85%

Pacific Northwest:

The November storms had variable snow levels and were strongest to the north. Thus only Whistler had extensive terrain open. There were 3 major storms in early December, totalling 6-8 feet of snow except for lower elevations that got rain during the second storm. The week before Christmas brought another 3-6 feet with another 1-2 feet during the holidays. There was 2+ feet of snow in the first half of January with low snow levels for good powder. In late January there were two warm storms with rain to 7,500 feet, but both were followed by 2 feet of snow so skiing remained excellent. February snowfall was about 6 feet at most areas but there was also intermittent rain at lower elevations with resulting variable conditions. First half of March snow ranged from 4+ feet in Oregon to 9 feet at Whistler. Base depths average 7-15 feet, with 175-210 inches at Mt. Baker. Alyeska has had abundant snow up high, but locals report excessive rain at mid and lower elevations so some lower terrain remains closed.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Whistler

459

134%

100%

Crystal Mt.

485

148%

100%

Stevens Pass

386

99%

100%

Mt. Hood

411

113%

100%

Mt. Bachelor

421.5

137%

100%

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.:

The November storms were strongest here. Some areas near the US border had some rain/snow mix like the Northwest, but other areas were far above average in both snow and open terrain. The December Northwest storms pushed into the region, with snowfall ranging from 2 feet at the Banff areas to 5 feet in the Kootenay areas. Snowfall during the second half of December ranged from under a foot at Banff to 3+ feet in the Kootenays. First half of January snowfall was nearly 2 feet west of the Selkirks but less than a foot farther east. Late January snowfall was 3-4 feet west of the Selkirks and 1-2 feet farther east. Base depths average 6-7 feet at the former areas and 4-5 feet at the latter areas. First half of February snowfall averaged about 2 feet. Second half of February saw 2-3 feet of snow west of the Selkirks and 1-2 feet elsewhere. 2-4 feet fell during the first half of March. Sun Peaks and Silver Star have been 95+% open since mid-December.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Big White

338

149%

100%

Lake Louise

168

126%

97%

Sunshine

229

118%

94%

Revelstoke

340

117%

100%

Kicking Horse

266

130%

99%

Whitewater

379

120%

100%

Red Mt.

278

126%

100%

Fernie

298

99%

100%

Castle Mt.

224

105%

100%

U.S. Northern Rockies:

November snow was below average but Targhee as usual had some of the most terrain open in North America in early season. The first half of December Northwest storms dumped 4+ feet in Idaho but lesser amounts in Montana and Wyoming. The week before Christmas dumped 3-4 feet upon the entire region, bringing base depths up to 4-6 feet. Big Sky was 3/4 open at Christmas and 90+% open since mid-January. Christmas Week brought 1-2 feet of snow to the Tetons and near the Canadian border, with less than a foot at areas in between. First half of January snowfall ranged from 1-3+ feet. Second half of January snowfall was 5+ feet in the Tetons and 3-4 feet elsewhere. February snowfall was 2-3 feet scattered through the month. First half of March snowfall was in the 2 foot range except for Sun Valley, which got nearly 4 feet from the California storms.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Whitefish

287

110%

100%

Bridger

219

93%

100%

Grand Targhee

329

86%

100%

Jackson Hole (mid)

273

88%

89%

Schweitzer

254

113%

100%

Brundage

269

110%

100%

Sun Valley

212

131%

95%

Utah:

Most of the November storms split before reaching Utah, which thus had substantially below average snowfall plus a dry first week of December. The Northwest storms dropped 2-3 feet of snow during the second week of December, 3-5 feet fell the week before Christmas, and another foot over Christmas. 2-3+ feet fell during the first half of January. Second half January snowfall was 5+ feet in the Cottonwoods and 3 feet elsewhere. February snowfall was about 3 feet in the Cottonwoods and less than 2 feet elsewhere. First half of March snowfall was 1.5 to 2.5 feet. In the far south Brian Head has been fully open on a 50+ inch base since New Year's.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Alta

336

82%

100%

Snowbird

358

95%

100%

Brighton/Solitude

309

81%

100%

Park City (mid estimate)

212

91%

90%

Snowbasin

218

91%

100%

Northern and Central Colorado:

October was much warmer than usual so snowmaking was delayed until the last week and Loveland and A-Basin each opened a snowmaking run October 29. The consistent modest November snowfalls accumulated base depths of 2+ feet with mostly average terrain openings (Keystone the positive exception) for early season. December snowfall was consistent each week, totalling about 4-5 feet at most areas but 8 feet at Steamboat. First half of January snow was 1-2 feet and second half January snow 2.5-4+ feet, with another 2 feet at the beginning of February. There was about a foot of snow over the rest of February and 2 feet during the first half of March. Base depths average 4-6 feet. A-Basin was 3/4 open over Christmas and has been 95+% open since mid-January.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Beaver Creek

235

93%

100%

Breckenridge

233

84%

100%

Copper Mt.

185

85%

100%

Keystone

215

122%

95%

Loveland

226

91%

100%

Steamboat

304

106%

100%

Vail

248

89%

100%

Winter Park

247

91%

100%

Southern and Western Colorado:

The central Colorado mountains had a below average November, while the southern mountains and New Mexico were above average. Wolf Creek's base reached 50 inches by the end of November. The second week of December storms were also stronger in the southern (2-3 feet with 4+ at Wolf Creek) than central (1-2 feet) mountains. 2-3 feet of snow fell during the week before Christmas and an average 2 feet (4 feet at Wolf Creek) during Christmas Week. First half of January snow was 1-2 feet, but likely more in New Mexico. Second half January snow was 3 feet in the central mountains and 1-2 feet farther south. 2+ feet fell at the beginning of February but less than a foot for the rest of the month. In early March the central mountains got 1.5 feet of snow but the southern areas less than a foot. Taos had its second best holiday season in over 20 years and opened the Kachina chair Jan. 13, but has had less than a foot in the past month and is now 87% open.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Aspen/Snowmass

192

99%

100%

Gothic Snow Lab

217

78%

N/A

Crested Butte

138

71%

98%

Telluride

256

123%

94%

Purgatory

212

105%

99%

Wolf Creek

343

117%

100%

Northeast:

Mid-October cold allowed Killington and Sunday River to open first in North America on October 19. After a week of skiing the snow melted and snowmaking did not resume for nearly 3 weeks. With minimal natural snow and sustained unseasonably warm temperatures, terrain open at Christmas was the worst on record. Terrain open increased moderately in Quebec with a foot of snow during Christmas Week but only slightly in New England. Colder weather finally arrived in the first half of January, with Vermont snow ranging from 1-3 feet south to north. Second half of January snow averaged only about a foot, so the natural snow base reached only 2 feet. As is common, the big late January storm through the eastern metro areas was not a big snow producer in upper New England and Quebec. 1-2 feet fell during the second week of February but it rained during the first and third weeks. Late February snowfall ranged from 1 foot in the south to 3 feet in the far north. First half of March snow was less than a foot, so the warming weather terrain is closing trails prematurely. In terms of both snowfall and open terrain, 2015-16 is on track to be the worst eastern season on record, though eastern Canada is faring somewhat better than New England. Percents open: Okemo 52%, Stratton 53%, Hunter 67, Sugarloaf 34%, Sunday River 68%, Tremblant 68%, Mt. St. Anne 100%.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Jay Peak (mid estimate)

149

55%

42%

Stowe

120

48%

58%

Sugarbush

124

56%

54%

Killington

58

29%

31%

Whiteface

93

63%

52%

Cannon Mt.

85

64%

52%

Le Massif

166

88%

98%

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