2017-18 Ski Season Analysis as of May 21, 2018

The western season got off to a very slow start, rivalling 2011-12 as the worst since 1980-81. However the second half of the season was quite snowy, resulting in only a moderately below average season overall. Like 2011-12, 2017-18 was a weak La Nina, favoring northern regions over southern ones, but to a more extreme degree. Western Canada had one of its finest seasons while the Southwest had one of its worst. Comprehensive snow statistics are shown in the 2017-18 Ski Season Summary.

Prior Progress Reports
November 2, 2017
November 17, 2017
November 24, 2017
December 1, 2017
December 9, 2017
December 16, 2017
January 1, 2018
January 8, 2018
January 15, 2018
January 31, 2018
February 14, 2018
February 28, 2018
March 14, 2018
March 31, 2018
April 8, 2018

October 2017 snowfall was strongest in the higher elevations of western Canada and the northern Rockies with some lesser amounts in Colorado. First half of November snowfall was high in the Pacific Northwest and inland northern regions, resulting in some early openings and deep snowpacks. There was also an atmospheric river storm mid-November in California. Thanksgiving week brought widespread rain to 9,000 feet to the northern regions, degrading the snowpack at lower elevations. Thanksgiving snowpacks were still over 4 feet at Mt. Baker, Whistler and Grand Targhee. The farther south you go, the less November snow there was, and some opening dates were pushed back. The western US was under severe sustained high pressure for the first half of December. The week before Christmas brought substantial snow to the Northwest and spread inland to the Rockies as well. Northern Utah and Colorado got a couple of feet but still endured limited holday skiing similar to 2011-12 and did not reach full operation before February. The Southwest had almost no natural snow on the ground by New Year's, putting advance commitments in question for most of the season. Skiing in other regions acquired an adequate snowpack at higher elevations in November. Lower elevations had a lot of November rain, resulting in variable coverage and surfaces. But the week before Christmas snow brought most Northwest, western Canadian and northern Rockies area into midwinter form. These regions also got a foot+ of snow Christmas week.

The first half of January saw 1-3 feet of snow over most of the West, but continuing the season trend of the most snow in northern regions. Therefore terrain openings in the drier regions were gradual. Storms were more substantial during the second half of January but again the northern regions were most favored. A high pressure ridge set up off the West Coast in the first half of February, so many areas in the Southwest and California and some in Utah were still far from full operation. First half of February storms were strong in western Canada and brought average snowfall to the Northern Rockies and Colorado. The second half of February was characterized by abnormally cold temperatures throughout the West and average snowfall in most regions. Snowfall was heavier in Washington, Oregon and the Intermountain region from Northern Utah to the interior Northwest on both sides of the US/Canada border. In early March a major storm hit the Sierra, with average snowfall in adjacent regions but below average in the more continental areas in the Rockies. The Sierra was the focus of two more large storms, a cold one in mid-March and a warmer one a week later bringing rain below 8,000 feet even to some areas of the Rockies. During the last week of March the storm track moved north while much of the western US got warmer with spring conditions. From April 6-8 a rare tropical atmospheric river storm rained to the top of California and Utah ski areas but dropped about 2 feet of heavy snow in much of Colorado. Later spring snowfall was overall average but continued the season pattern, ranging higher in northern regions and lower farther south.

California: An early November storm only snowed more than a few inches north of Lake Tahoe and over 8,000 feet. The second week's storm was much bigger though also snow mostly over 8,000 feet. Mt. Rose got 4 feet and Mammoth got 2+ feet at its Main Lodge snow plot but 5+ feet up top. Thanksgiving week had a bit of rain followed by warm weather resulting in spring conditions. A foot of snow in late November restored surfaces to the areas with an adequate base over 8,000 feet. With less than a foot of December snow, Mt. Rose and Mammoth continued to have the best skiing, but ungroomed snow was bumpy with more obstacles over the holidays. Other Tahoe areas had marginal base depths around 2 feet on limited terrain, were beaten up by holiday crowds and had very poor conditions through mid-January. Two early January storms dropped 2-3 feet at Mammoth, bringing its upper snowpack into a normal 4-7 foot range for January. Kirkwood was the only Tahoe area to get more than a foot during the first half of January, and the rain below 8,500 feet worsened conditions elsewhere at Tahoe. Second half of January snowfall was about 2 feet at Tahoe and one foot at Mammoth. The first half of February was mostly warm and dry. 1.5 - 3 feet of snow fell during the cold second half of February but there was little progress in opening more terrain. 4-7 feet of snow fell from March 1-4, at last bringing all areas close to full operation. Another 4-7 feet fell from March 14-18. The warmer storm a week later had rain mixed with a foot of snow near Lake Tahoe but 3-5 feet of snow above 8,000 feet. The Sierra spring snowpack reached 4-11 feet after a "Miracle March" comparable to 1991. However the heavy rain April 6-7 degraded lower elevations. As in 1991 there is normal Sierra spring skiing at higher elevations despite the lean season through February. Southern California and Arizona missed most of the March storms and had severely dry seasons skiing almost entirely on manmade snow. See Current California Ski Conditions for more details on Southern California and Mammoth.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr/May

Total

Pct. of Normal

Squaw 8,000

50

10

44

43

227

22

396

85%

Squaw 6,200

3

6

28

26

160

13

236

86%

Heavenly 10,000

28

10

47

30

151

16

282

72%

Mammoth

35.5

4

33.5

27

142

10

252

71%

Southern Cal

0

0

11

15

13

0

39

32%

Arizona Snowbowl

0

2

27

47

20

3

99

41%

Pacific Northwest: The region had some October storms but the rain/snow line was above all but the alpine sectors of Whistler and Mt. Bachelor. First half of November snowfall was widespread and many areas opened by November 18. The Thanksgiving week rain reduced the Mt. Baker and Whistler base depths from 6 feet to 4 feet. Base depths elsewhere were reduced to the 2 foot range. Late November snow improved surfaces and restored about a foot of base lost by the rain. Much of the Whistler alpine opened Dec. 9 after extensive avalanche control, resulting in twice as much open terrain as anywhere else in North America. The Northwest had a scattered foot of snow during the first half of December but in the second half of December it dumped 3 feet at Mt. Hood, 4 feet at Whistler and 5+ feet in Washington State areas. New Year's base depths were 4-5 feet at most areas, 6 feet at Whistler and 8 feet at Mt. Baker. First half of January snowfall was about 2 feet in Washington and 1 foot elsewhere. Significant cold storms dumped 4+ feet of snow at Mt. Bachelor, 10+ feet at Whistler and 6-7 feet at other Northwest areas during the second half of January. Early February was dry in Oregon and farther north it rained to 5,000+ feet, leaving frozen surfaces for over a week. But during the cold second half of February it snowed 3 feet at Whistler, 5 feet at Bachelor and up to 8 feet in northern Oregon and southern Washington. Most areas got about a foot of snow per week in March and early April. Later April snowfall was above average in Washington State and closer to average elsewhere.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Whistler

144

52

149

45

50

37

477

114%

Snoqualmie Pass

74

74

122

87

41

44

440

114%

Crystal Mt.

57

98

98

80

100

47

480

117%

Mt. Hood Meadows

77

55

80

108

47

76

443

98%

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: Snowfall was abundant in this region from late October through mid-November. Thanksgiving week rain affected the Okanogan and Kootenay areas, though base depths declined only at Fernie, remaining near 3 feet at most other areas. With 2+ feet of snow in late November/early December, base depths reached the 3-4 foot range. Second half of December snowfall was a bit under 2 feet around Banff but 4+ feet in the Okanagan and Kootenay regions. Base depths reached 4-5 feet and this was the best overall ski region entering the new year. Silver Star and Sun Peaks were 2/3 open by mid-December and in full operation for the holidays. First half of January snowfall was about a foot in Banff and 1.5-2.5 feet in the Okanagan and Kootenay regions. The Northwest storms dumped 3-6 feet during the second half of January, bringing base depths to 6-8 feet. This was the standout region of the first half of February, with most areas getting 3-4 feet of snow, though there was some rain at lower elevation near the US border. Despite a week of temperatures near or below zero, there was 1-2 feet of snow in most of the region in the second half of February and 4 feet at the areas close to the US border. First half of March snowfall ranged from less than a foot at Lake Louise to nearly 4 feet at Big White and Fernie, with most areas getting 2-3 feet. Another 2-3 feet fell during the second half of March. Most areas close in early April due to remote location but with another 3-4 feet the Banff areas enjoyed winter conditions for most of April.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Sun Peaks

43.3

34.1

51

56

49.8

31.5

265.7

129%

Whitewater

73.6

63

117.4

84.3

66.6

92.9

497.8

126%

Fernie

82.3

65

118.9

78.7

68.5

46.1

459.5

123%

Lake Louise

53.9

21.3

38.2

54.3

47.2

35

249.9

147%

U. S. Northern Rockies: Grand Targhee had 115 inches snowfall by mid-November, and thus opened 82% on Nov. 17 and 100% by Thanksgiving. Interior Northwest areas got the rain and December 1 base depths were in the 2+ foot range. Most areas got a little under a foot of snow in early December before the high pressure set in. Second half of December snowfall of 5 feet brought excellent holiday skiing to Schweitzer, Whitefish and the interior Northwest. Southern Montana and the Tetons got 3-4 feet, bringing Big Sky to 90% open. Overall this region was close to full operation for the holidays on 3-5 foot bases, except for Sun Valley which only had 5 inches of December snow. Most areas got 2+ feet of snow during the first half of January. Second half of January snowfall was 5-6 feet near the Canadian border and 3-4 feet at most other areas, except for Sun Valley which as in December was blocked out of a Northwest storm pattern. First half of February snowfall was 2+ feet in the interior Northwest and the Tetons but minimal in most of Idaho. Most areas got around 4 feet during the cold second half of February. First half of March snowfall was 3+ feet in the Tetons, 2+ feet in the interior Northwest near Canada, and 1-2 feet in between. Second half of March snowfall was 2-3 feet. 4-5 feet of snow fell in April in Montana and Wyoming but much less in Idaho.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Whitefish

42

74

91

121

58

41

417

127%

Big Sky

79

69

55

52

52

69

376

132%

Jackson Hole (mid)

92

48

63

61

65

62

391

106%

Sun Valley

39.5

5

32

32

70

7

185.5

95%

Utah: Utah had minimal October snow and was on the edge of November storms. Some opening dates were delayed and any skiing was on limited snowmaking. An early December storm dropped up to 18 inches in the Cottonwood Canyons, a foot at Snowbasin and 6 inches in Park City, but only a little bit more terrain opened. After only a few inches here and there in mid-December, the Wasatch got 2+ feet just before Christmas, but holiday open terrain and season snowfall still fell just short of 2011-12 and were the lowest since 1980-81. First half of January snowfall was 2 feet in the Cottonwood areas and about one foot elsewhere. Second half of January snowfall was 3 feet in the Cottonwood areas and about half that elsewhere, so some terrain still needed more coverage to open. Season snowfall through January was the lowest since 1977 and fifth lowest since 1946 at the Alta Guard UDOT station. First half of February snowfall of 1-2 feet continued the season trend of about half normal, but 3-5 feet of second half of February snow brought all areas to at least 80% open. Early March snowfall was 2+ feet in the Cottonwood Canyons and 1+ foot elsewhere. Later March snowfall was 4-5 feet on the Wasatch front side and 2-3 feet in the Park City region. The first week of April ended with rain to over 10,000 feet, but there was 2-4 feet of snow later in April.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Alta

23.5

50.5

62

83

96

66

381

73%

Solitude (upper)

21

38

54

69

74

44

300

62%

Snowbasin

24

38

28

54

62

20

226

72%

Park City (mid)

8

34

42

52

44

15.5

195.5

67%

Northern and Central Colorado: A-Basin opened a run on snowmaking October 13 followed by Loveland on October 20. November snowfall was about half average and all skiing was on a manmade base of no more than 18 inches. First half of December snowfall averaged about one foot. The Northwest storm track finally hit at Christmas with 2+ feet from Steamboat through the Continental Divide with less at Vail and Beaver Creek. However, as of New Year's only Steamboat and Winter Park were more than half open, with most areas only slightly better off than in 2011-12. Vail had less open than any New Year's since 1980-81. This region had gradual snowfalls totalling 3-4 feet in January. More terrain opened each week in January, similar to December of an average season. First half of February snowfall of 2-3 feet finally brought most areas close to full operation. 1-2 feet fell in the second half of February but less than a foot during the first half of March. 2-3 feet of snow during the second half of March maintained a below average 4-5 foot snowpack. The high water content storm of early April raised the snowpack to 6 feet. Total April snowfall of 4-6 feet was the highest month for several areas. A-Basin was 36% open January 1, 63% February 1 and finally 96% March 1.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Steamboat

26

45.5

47

60.3

36.2

47

262

71%

Vail

14

26.5

38

48.5

33.8

54.7

205.5

57%

Copper Mt.

20

36

33

44

30

54

217

77%

Loveland

31

45

39

48

49

71

283

82%

Winter Park

26

54

43.5

64

52.5

60.5

300.5

86%

Southern and Western Colorado: This region was record dry into early January, so all skiing was on limited snowmaking. The Rocky Mountain Biological Lab at Gothic (between Crested Butte and Aspen) had 17 inches in October and 55 inches through January 8, the total being the lowest in 44 years of records. Even Wolf Creek had just 30 inches between November 8 and January 8 and did not exceed a 3 foot base until February. Aspen/Snowmass recovered gradually like the I-70 areas, reaching nearly full operation in late February. Southern Colorado got about 3 feet of snow in January and another 2+ feet during the first half of February to open most intermediate terrain. During the second half of February most areas got 2-3 feet and Wolf Creek 6 feet. Only a few inches fell during the first half of March and 2+ feet during the second half, so base depths never exceeded 4 feet except at Aspen/Snowmass and Wolf Creek. Thus most terrain in steep sectors like Telluride's Gold Hill and Crested Butte's North Face did not open this season though there were partial openings in late February in Telluride and early March in Crested Butte. New Mexico's drought was by far the worst in its ski history, with barely one foot of snow before January 1 and less than 2 feet from January 1 - February 14. Taos' 2 feet of snow in the second half of February raised its open terrain from 25% to 44%, but with a base still under 3 feet the Kachina chair and most of Taos' steeps never opened this season. Most skiing closed after Easter except for Aspen/Snowmass until April 15. April snow was 2-3 feet in Aspen and Crested Butte but much less farther south.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Aspen Highlands

16.1

16.5

20.9

59.1

25.3

35

172.9

69%

Telluride

14

6.7

44.5

58.1

29.5

33

185.8

66%

Wolf Creek

26

13

39

106

29

13

226

58%

Taos

10

7

16.3

33

15.2

10.5

92

36%

Northeast: Killington was the first opening on November 8 as there was too much warm weather and rain in October. There was gradual terrain expansion on snowmaking since Thanksgiving but natural snow was mainly in northern Vermont. Second week of December snowfall averaged 3 feet in Northern Vermont and 2 feet elsewhere, setting up the region for a very good holiday season. The Northeast averaged 2 feet of snow during the second half of December, but there was bitter cold during most of the holiday period. In early January the cold persisted with 1-2 feet of snow. Heavy warm rain fell Jan. 12-13, followed by a hard freeze, resulting in reduced trail counts and grim conditions for three weeks with less than a foot of snow in the second half of January. 2-3 feet of early February snow brought excellent skiing, but the rest of February had thaw, rain and less than a foot of snow, so trail counts in the US Northeast were very low for mid-season. There were 4 Nor'easters totalling 5-6 feet of snow during March, bringing the best conditions of the season. It rained during the last week of March but trail counts declined only modestly and remained above average through April with 1-2 feet new snow at most areas. Killington is open May weekends.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Jay (mid)

47

69

52.5

60.5

77.5

15.5

322

100%

Stowe

35

64

36

44

74

21

274

89%

Killington

7

53

23

49

79

18.5

229.5

95%

Whiteface

32

42

27

31

73

19

224

121%

Cannon Mt.

8

49

25

38

59

11

190

117%

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