1998-99 Ski Season Progress Report as of December 21, 1998

Very cold weather grips most of the West with a few scattered snow showers but no big dumps. Surface conditions are variable on the West Coast on adequate (California) or deep (Northwest) snow bases. Base depths are low with ski areas in partial operation only through most of the Rockies. The positive exceptions are in western Canada and the far southwest.

California: The Sierra got a few inches this weekend, and year-to-date snowfall has been average in the south and above average north of Tahoe. Most Tahoe areas are in 90+% operation on 4-7 foot bases. Some of the really extreme runs might still need another dump, although it is a positive sign than Heavenly's Mott Canyon is open. Surface conditions may be improved by snowmaking in the very cold weather. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.

Pacific Northwest: There has been a little new snow with the current cold snap, but off-trail surfaces are still variable. Mt. Baker has a 10-12 foot base, Mt. Bachelor and Mt. Hood 6-10 feet and other NW areas 5-8 feet. Whistler has received less snow than Washington and Oregon, but still has at least 80% of its 7,000 acres open on a 6 foot base in the alpine. Snowmaking should repair some of the lower mountain damage from last week's rain. Check Northwest Ski Reports to read about the often changing surface conditions.

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: There has been about a foot of new snow over the past week. Okanagan and Banff area base depths are well above normal (3 to 5.5 feet) with mostly packed powder surfaces. The Kootenay areas have the deepest bases but received some low elevation rain like the Pacific Northwest a week ago.

U. S. Northern Rockies: Idaho areas like Schweitzer are in good shape with bases of 4-7 feet. Sun Valley is in full operation on 2-4 feet, but the bowls are still sketchy. Traditional leader Grand Targhee has a below average base depth of 27-49 inches. Jackson (YTD snow 71% of normal) has a similar base, but is only 30% open with its steeper terrain. Montana is similarly below average. Aside from Idaho, wait until January for coverage in this region to improve.

Utah: Cottonwood Canyon base depths are about 4 feet with a few inches of snow over the past week. All four areas are more than half open, but historically Alta (heavy snow in October, but only 65% of normal since Nov. 1) and Brighton will have fewer obstacles than Snowbird and Solitude at these base depths. Outside the Cottonwood Canyons, natural snow cover is much more limited and areas are less than half open. Skiers with flexibility should wait until January for Utah this season.

Northern and Central Colorado: This region is headed for its worst holiday season since 1980-81 despite getting up to a foot of new snow in the past week. Steamboat (YTD snow 69% of normal) has had the most snow and is more than half open. Winter Park, historically one of North America's most consistently reliable areas, is 15% open on 49% of normal snowfall. Vail is 30% open with no back bowls. Base depths throughout the region are still under 3 feet. Even with normal weather returning to the region, it may take until February for advanced terrain to get adequately covered.

Southern and Western Colorado: These areas got a foot of snow, with a little more in the southwest. Regional leader Wolf Creek is in full operation on a 6 foot base. Purgatory, Telluride and Taos (YTD snow 122% of normal) are close to full operation on 4 foot bases. Some rocks may come out on the expert runs once the holiday crowds arrive, but intermediate skiing should be excellent. Aspen and Crested Butte are less than half open similar to northern and central Colorado and full operation is unlikely before February.

Northeast: Snowmaking has gradually opened more trails over the past week. The greatest variety of holiday skiing (currently 20-30% open) is likely to be at northern areas with the most snowmaking, such as Killington, Okemo, Sugarbush and Sunday River. 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. 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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