2015-16 Ski Season Progress Report as of April 10, 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. Second half of March snowfall was heaviest in Utah and northern and central Colorado and below average elsewhere. Late March temperatures were above average, so spring conditions developed within a few days after storms except on steep terrain with ideal altitudes/exposures. Early April snowfall has been less than a foot throughout the West with continued warm temperatures, so spring conditions are widespread among all 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. Second weekend of April is my final in-season progress report due to it being closing date for a large number of areas. Some areas listed in prior reports closed a week ago and are thus not included in this one. Official snow totals will be collected and a season recap posted by June 2016.

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. There were small refreshers of up to a foot during the last two weeks of March. Recent storms have brought several inches of snow above 8,000 feet but mostly rain below that. 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

465

112%

85%

Alpine Meadows

385.5

114%

90%

Northstar (mid estimate)

363

129%

82%

Mt. Rose

383

123%

100%

Heavenly (upper)

346

96%

81%

Kirkwood

449

103%

54%

Mammoth

343

107%

100%

Southern Cal

72

63%

0-25%

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. Second half of March snowfall was about 2 feet but early April has seen record warm weather. There are now spring conditions on deep bases of 5-12 feet, with 146-177 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 has been closed most of the season.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Whistler

478

121%

100%

Crystal Mt.

517

137%

99%

Stevens Pass

421

94%

90%

Mt. Hood

463

110%

92%

Mt. Bachelor

436

124%

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 and 1-2 feet during the second half of March. Early April has been very warm with minimal new snow. Sun Peaks and Silver Star were 95+% open mid-December to early April.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Big White

369

144%

100%

Lake Louise

176

114%

74%

Sunshine

249

111%

94%

Revelstoke

376

115%

27%

Kicking Horse

274

116%

78%

Fernie

316

91%

85%

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. Second half of March snowfall was 3+ feet in the Tetons and averaged 2 feet in Idaho and Montana. Early April has been warm and mostly dry. ""

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Whitefish

311

103%

89%

Grand Targhee

378

86%

100%

Jackson Hole (mid)

310

88%

Closed

Schweitzer

277

101%

100%

Brundage

294

105%

100%

Sun Valley

217.5

119%

55%

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. March had consistently good skiing with 1-2 feet of snow every week. Early April has been warm and dry. 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

384

79%

100%

Snowbird

406

91%

97%

Brighton/Solitude

352

78%

97%

Park City (mid estimate)

243

89%

69%

Snowbasin

249

88%

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. 4-5 feet fell in the second half of March, pushing base depths up to 6-7 feet and promising a strong spring season. There have been just a few inches so far in April, and while mostly spring conditions prevail now, this remains the most promsing region for packed powder conditions in April. 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

301

100%

56%

Breckenridge

314

96%

95%

Copper Mt.

237

93%

70%

Keystone

277

133%

Closed

Loveland

290

95%

94%

Steamboat

370

109%

100%

Vail

308

94%

91%

Winter Park

322

101%

93%

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. Second half of March snowfall was 2-3 feet in most western Colorado areas. It was warm with just afew inches snow in eaerly April. Taos had its second best holiday season in over 20 years and opened the Kachina chair Jan. 13, but had less than a foot from mid-February to the end of March and closed as scheduled April 3.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Aspen/Snowmass

234

102%

99%

Gothic Snow Lab

242

73%

N/A

Purgatory

224

92%

73%

Wolf Creek

402

115%

Closed

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. March snowfall was 1-2 feet scattered through the month, not enough to prevent trails closing prematurely as the weather warmed. Early April brought over a foot of snow to northern New England, temporarily holding off the end of the season. In terms of both snowfall and open terrain, 2015-16 is the worst eastern season on record, though more terrain is open in spring than after the March meltdown of 2012. Also, eastern Canada north of the St. Lawrence River has had fairly normal snowfall since February with less rain, so those areas have fared better than those farther south. Percents open: Okemo closed, Stratton 6%, Hunter closed, Sugarloaf 21%, Sunday River 53%, Tremblant 81%, Mt. St. Anne 94%.

Area

Season Snow

Pct. of Normal

Pct. of Area Open

Jay Peak (mid estimate)

184

59%

71%

Stowe

150

52%

41%

Sugarbush

152

60%

17%

Killington

75

33%

20%

Whiteface

109

64%

32%

Cannon Mt.

97

64%

23%

Le Massif

195

90%

88%

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