1997-98 Ski Season Progress Report as of December 20, 1997

Western snowfall through mid-December tended to favor those areas expected to benefit from El Nino. This week some of the Northwest areas rebounded from the early season drought. Still the best bets for Christmas skiing: Wolf Creek, Taos (and New Mexico in general), Telluride, Mammoth, Sugar Bowl, Kirkwood, Utah's Cottonwood Canyons and northern New England. Other regional picks: Whistler/Blackcomb, Grand Targhee, and Winter Park. .

California: The Sierra received a few inches this week after about a foot last weekend. The 3-4.5 feet snowfall along the crest of the Sierra occurred two weeks ago. At Tahoe the highest snowfall areas of Sugar Bowl and Kirkwood are in the best shape, with most other areas in more than half but less than full operation. Squaw (steep terrain needs more coverage) and Heavenly (only 2 feet new in the big storm a week ago) are each about 50% open. Mammoth is in full operation on a 5-7 foot base. Much of the Southern California terrain under snowmaking is open, but the southern storm track has not yet been generous to Arizona. Despite the hype, the California season can only be considered average so far. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.

Pacific Northwest: Washington state areas got 2-4 feet of snow this week, with Mt. Baker's base depth now up to 6 feet. Whistler/Blackcomb alpine base is also 6 feet after 2 feet new this week, but skiers are still downloading the lower quarter of both mountains. Oregon snowfall was about 2 feet. Mt. Bachelor finally opened Summit and Outback (but not NW Express) on a 4 foot base, which is still well below average for this time of year. Check Cascade Ski Report Current Conditions or Northwest Ski Report First-Hand Reports for up to date information when more terrain opens.

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: These regions got some relief this week also but advance commitments for this season should still be avoided, pending further improvement. The Banff areas are about half open and the Okanagan areas a little less. In the Kootenay group, regional leader Fernie finally got its first decent dump and has reasonable coverage on the upper half of the mountain. The snowcat and heliski areas are generally in higher and snowier locations than the lift serviced areas, so I would recommend direct inquiries to determine current conditions.

U. S. Northern Rockies: Regional leader Grand Targhee is fully open on a 50-60 inch base, maintaining its remarkable record of consistency. No one else in the region has more than about a three foot base or half its terrain open, so early season commitments should be avoided here also. Like the Canadian Rockies, conditions are well below average so far.

Utah: Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude are all 90% open on 5 foot bases. Snow Basin and Powder Mt. are 80%+ now while Park City is about 50%.

Northern and Central Colorado: This region is looking basically average so far. Most areas are 60-80% open, but the high snow areas (Vail, Winter Park and Steamboat) and snowmaking leader Keystone should have the best coverage.

Southern and Western Colorado: This is the other region besides California expected to be helped by El Nino. The southern areas (Telluride, Purgatory, Taos and others in New Mexico) have 4+ foot bases, and are close to full operation along with regional leader Wolf Creek, which has more like a 6 foot base. Aspen/Snowmass and Crested Butte are still about half open on snowfall similar to Northern and Central Colorado. It is normal in this region for the really steep terrain not to be open until mid-January, but the southern areas are substantially ahead of schedule so far.

Northeast: November and December snowfall have been above average and snowmaking weather very favorable, with minimal rain since the first week of November, so at least 75% of the trails at Killington, Okemo and Sunday River are open. Southern New England thawed some in early December, but the northern areas received several snows and are in excellent shape. The current 90% operation of natural snow only Mad River Glen is a clear indicator of a very strong opening to the New England ski season. The 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. 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.

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