2019-20 Ski Season Analysis as of May 23, 2020

2019-20 was a moderately below average snowfall season in North America's ski areas. However, the Pacific Northwest was the only conspicuously deficient region over the holidays and it got hammered with snow in January. Ski area vistation was overall strong until the abrupt shutdown in mid-March due to COVID-19.

Prior Progress Reports
October 30, 2019
November 16, 2019
November 26, 2019
November 30, 2019
December 8, 2019
December 15, 2019
December 24, 2019
January 1, 2020
January 11, 2020
January 20, 2020
January 31, 2020
February 15, 2020
March 1, 2020
March 15, 2020
March 31, 2020

October 2019 was exceptionally cold in the Northern Rockies of both US and Canada. There were several small storms in northern regions and particularly in Colorado. The first half of November was bone dry in the western US with no area receiving more than 3 inches snow and most getting zero. Threfore most October snow melted out and is not included in the table of snow totals below. During the third week of November a moderate 1-2 foot storm came mostly through the Southwest while a few inches fell in some northern regions. During Thanksgiving week a strong storm dumped 2-4 feet in California and 4-6 feet in Utah. During the first week of December California got another 3-4 feet and much of western Canada 2 feet with other regions averaging no more than a foot. There was scattered snow over most of the West during the second week of December with the most falling (2-3 feet) in Utah and Colorado. The Pacific Northwest and western Canada were the focus of storms during the third week of December, but the Northwest and much of the US northern Rockies were still seriously deficient in snow for the holidays. California and Utah's Cottonwood Canyons had the most snow at Christmas. The Southwest and some of western Canada had strong storms over the holidays while other regions had lesser amounts.

In early January the storm track shifted north, dumping in the Northwest, Northern Rockies and western Canada. This pattern continued for the entire month, dumping heavily over the northern regions and as far south as Oregon and Utah. During the first week of February a dense atmospheric river tracked from Washington to northern Utah and Colorado. These states were overall favored throughout February, with other ski regions slighly below average except for California, which had its driest February on record. Nearly all western regions got 1-2 feet of snow during the first half of March. A major storm hit the Sierra during the mid-March COVID-19 closing weekend. Late March snowfall was 4 feet in Utah and about half as much in other western regions. California had a major storm during the second week of April and the northern half of Colorado had abundant new snow for the rest of the month. Other regions were drier than normal in April.

As of the evening of March 15, the vast majority of US ski areas closed due the COVID-19 epidemic. Several did not announce until after the close of that ski day. Only a handful of areas made it through the next week. China Peak, Mt. Baldy and Montana Snowbowl were open to March 20. Ski Apache, Discovery and 3 areas in U.P. Michigan were open to March 22. The final areas to close were 49 Degrees North on March 24 and Lookout Pass in Idaho/Montana and Powder King in far northern B.C on March 25.

With the COVID-10 closings, online snow totals were published by a small fraction of the ski areas that rouitinely do so in-season. In many cases that data was still being gathered but not published in order to discourage visitation. But there are some cases where this season's data is incomplete. In general I resist the use of SNOTEL water content to estimate snowfall. But for months marked with an * the snowfall in April and sometimes late March is based upon SNOTELs located in or very close to the ski area in question. As of May 23 I have data from 60 areas and thus enough info for a Season Analysis. Comprehensive snow statistics are shown in the 2019-20 Ski Season Summary.

California: Mt. Rose opened its beginner lift weekends starting Oct. 25 and Mammoth opened Nov. 9. The first natural Sierra snow Nov. 20 was only 2-6 inches but 2-3 feet fell over Thanksgiving with another 2-3 feet later that weekend. 3-4 feet during the first week of December brought Mammoth to full operation with the most open terrain in North America, while low elevations at Tahoe saw rain. After about 2 feet in mid-December, most terrain at Tahoe was open for Christmas with base depths of 4-6 feet. Late November snowfall was 3-4 feet in Southern California (soon degraded by rain) and 6 feet in Arizona, in full operation by early December. The post-Christmas storm dumped up to 3 feet in Southern California and Arizona but mostly missed the Sierra. Light rain degraded surfaces below 8,000 feet at New Year's but a few inches of snow fell later north of Tahoe. A few modest January storms totalled 3+ feet at some Tahoe areas but only 10 inches at Mammoth. The first half of February was dry with upslope winds degrading exposed surfaces. No one in the Sierra got more than 4 inches new snow during the record dry month. March began with about a foot of new snow. The mid-March storm ranged from 4 feet at Mammoth to 8 feet NW of Tahoe. Late March snowfall was about 2 feet. The last areas open in March were Dodge Ridge March 17-19 and China Peak and Mt. Baldy March 19-20. it snowed 3-4 feet during the second week of April. Mt. Baldy then offered the only lift served skiing in North America from April 22 - May 3. 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

47

113

54

2

153

27

396

84%

Heavenly 10,000

34

87

39

2

84

29.5

275.5

71%

Mammoth

53.5

73

10

0

84

59.5

280

78%

Southern Cal

45

51

6

8

40

40

190

152%

Arizona Snowbowl

78

50

17

18

67

13

346

102%

Pacific Northwest: In October Hood Meadows had 31 inches snow and Mt. Bachelor had 13 inches but the base melted out by mid-November. Late November snow averaged 2 feet in Oregon declining to less than a foot farther north. This was the driest November on record at Whistler and in Seattle. Despite 2 feet in the first half of December and 3 feet before Christmas, this region was still far behind schedule, with Whistler having record low ~30% open terrain over the holidays. Mt. Baker opened Dec. 14 and Stevens Pass Dec. 21. More Northwest terrain opened during the second half of December, but the holidays were low tide with base depths averaging 3 feet. In early January it snowed 5-6 feet at Whistler and in Washington and 3-4 feet in Oregon. After avalanche control Whistler reached full operation January 16. It snowed another 4-5 feet over the entire region in mid-January. Late January snowfall ranged from 3 feet in Oregon to 5 feet from Stevens north to Whistler. Surfaces were difficult with rain to 5,000+ feet at the end of January, but it dumped 5 feet in Washington in the first half of February and about half as much in the rest of the region. During the second half of February it snowed 4 feet in Washington and about half as much elsewhere. Early March snowfall was two feet with temperatures below average. Second half of March snowfall was 2-3 feet with unseasonably cold temperatures. April was much drier than normal. Timberline reopened May 15 but without its key late season Palmer lift which was damaged in February. Mt. Bachelor reopened to passholders May 16-24.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Mt. Baker

22

90

294

115

129

23

673

104%

Snoqualmie Pass

8

48

164

77

33

6

336

87%

Crater Lake

22.3

47.6

135

22.8

60.6

17.2

305.5

72%

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: October snowfall was widespread in this region but November snowfall was significant only well north of the US border. Lake Louise opened a week early on November 1, and had the most terrain open in North America in November. Most areas have received 2-3 feet in the first half of December and 3 feet the week before Christmas. Overall base depths were 4-5 feet and most terrain was open for the holidays. Silver Star and Sun Peaks reached 90+% open by Christmas. The Okanagan areas got 2+ feet of snow during the holiday week with lesser amounts farther south and east. The early January Northwest storms dumped 3-4 feet at many of these areas. Mid-January snowfall ranged from a foot at the Banff areas to 4 feet at Fernie and Whitewater. 1-2 feet fell in late January and 2-3 feet in the first half of February. Most areas got about 2 feet of snow during the second half of February with lower amounts near the US border. Early March snowfall was 2-3 feet with cold temperatures. Snowfall during the second half of March was around 2 feet with another 3 feet in April. Last day for Red Mt., Panorama and Big White was March 16. Last day for Apex, Marmot, Lake Louise, Sunshine and Castle Mt. was March 17.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Big White

13.2

87.6

105.2

66.6

39.5

11

323.1

115%

Whitewater

46.5

96.9

131.5

54.7

56.7

25.6

411.9

104%

Fernie

9.5

74

151.2

37.8

28.4

33.9

334.8

89%

Kicking Horse

17

44.1

63.1

47.6

43

12.2

227

90%

Lake Louise

39.4

56.3

39.8

42.5

46.9

23.6

248.5

144%

U. S. Northern Rockies: Grand Targhee had 40 inches October snowfall but postponed opening to November 29 due to the dry month. Late November snow was about 2 feet in Wyoming and Sun Valley but less than a foot elsewhere. First half of December snow was 3 feet in the Tetons and 2 feet farther north. About a foot fell during each of the last two weeks of December. Holiday base depths were 4 feet in the Tetons but only 3 feet farther north. The early January Northwest storms were 5 feet in the Tetons and 3 feet farther north. Mid-January snowfall averaged 2-3 feet. Late January snowfall was 3 feet in the Tetons and 2 feet farther north. The early February storm dumped 4-6 feet at Brundage, Bridger and in the Tetons, with no more than half as much elsewhere. Latter half of February snowfall ranged from 2+ feet in the Tetons to less than a foot in Idaho with Montana in between. Early March snowfall was 2 feet in the Tetons and near the Canadian border and one foot elsewhere. Big Sky was 90+% open from late January to March 15. Late March snowfall was 1-2 feet. This was the region where ski areas stayed open the longest in March. Last days: March 17 for Bogus Basin and Tamarack, March 20 for Montana Snowbowl, March 22 for Discovery, March 24 for 49 Degrees North and March 25 for Lookout Pass. April snowfall averaged 2 feet over most of the region but more in the Tetons.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Schweitzer

7

47

121

22

43

10

251

88%

Bridger Bowl

26.5

24.5

63

92.5

37.5

42

286

94%

Jackson Hole (mid)

28

46

136

89

63

47

409

111%

Utah: The October cold reached as far south as Utah, setting records near the end of the month. The Snowbird SNOTEL's 40 inches of October snowfall shrunk to a 9 inch base before a few inches fell during the third week of November. The Thanksgiving week storm dumped 4-6 feet, bringing early season base depths to 3-5 feet. More terrain opened in early December once snow was stabilized plus up to a foot of new snow. 3 feet of snow the second week of December opened most terrain in the Cottonwoods on a 5-6 foot base. About two feet fell during the second half of December in the Wasatch but nearly twice as much in the south at Brian Head. Early January storms totalled 3-4 feet in the Cottonwoods and 2 feet elsewhere. Mid-January storms totalled 5 feet in the Cottonwoods and 3-4 feet elsewhere. Late January storms averaged 3 feet in the Cottonwoods and half as much elsewhere. 4 feet from the early February storm closed Little Cottonwood for 2.5 days, while other areas got half as much snow. Second half of February storms were 2+ feet in the Cottonwoods and half as much elsewhere. First half of March snowfall was 2 feet in southern Utah, 1.5 feet in the Cottonwoods and less than a foot elsewhere. 4 feet of snow fell during the second half of March and 2-3 feet in April.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Alta

77

78

152.5

74

82

38.5

502

97%

Solitude (upper)

53

65

126

44

77*

42*

407

85%

Park City (mid)

48

50

79

44

85*

28*

334

115%

Snowbasin

57

55

78

31

63

20*

304

95%

Northern and Central Colorado: Early openings on snowmaking were A-Basin Oct. 11, Keystone Oct. 12 and Loveland Oct. 25. Most of the 3+ feet of October snow was lost during the dry first half of November so open terrain from Thanksgiving into early December was well below average on base depths averaging a bit under 2 feet after average snowfall during the second half of November and less than a foot during early December. Three feet of snow fell Dec. 12-14. Only a foot fell during the second half of December but 3 foot base depths and open terrain were average over the holidays. Early January storms were about 3 feet at Steamboat and averaged half as much elsewhere. Mid-January snowfall was 1-2 feet and late January snowfall 2+ feet. The rare atmospheric river dumped 4-5 feet of dense snow in early February. Second half of February snowfall was 2-4 feet and early March one foot. A-Basin was 90+% open since mid-January. Second half of March snowfall was close to 2 feet. Early April was fairly dry but it snowed 3-5 feet over the rest of the month. There has been minimal snow in May but A-Basin is prepared to reopen pending permission from Summit County.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Breckenridge

24

63

65

120

48*

58*

378

107%

Copper Mt.

12

40

35

94

41

38*

260

93%

Loveland

29

60

51

91

45*

54*

330

96%

Winter Park

25

60

70

89

45

70

359

103%

Southern and Western Colorado: The Rocky Mountain Biological Lab at Gothic (between Crested Butte and Aspen) had 20 inches October snowfall but lost its base during the dry first half of November. Wolf Creek had 22 inches October snowfall and Monarch 38 inches, so both opened by Nov. 1. The Southwest was the region most favored during the third week of November plus about 3 feet of snow during the ensuing two weeks. A mid-December storm averaged 2 feet at most areas but 4 feet at Monarch. Base depths were 3-4 feet at most areas and 5 feet at Wolf Creek and Monarch after up to one foot of snow the week before Christmas. The Southwest storm after Christmas dumped 4 feet at Wolf Creek and about 2 feet at other southern areas. In early January it only snowed a few inches in the Southwest but about a foot farther north. Mid-January snowfall was 3 feet at Wolf Creek and 1-2 feet elsewhere. Part of Crested Butte's North face opened January 15 and Taos' Kachina Peak lift opened January 18. Late January snowfall averaged 1 foot and first half of February 2 feet. Second half of February snowfall was two feet from Aspen to Monarch but only a foot in the Southwest. Early March snowfall was 1-2 feet and later Match snowfall was 2 feet. Ski Apache was the last Southwest area to be open to March 22. In April it snowed almost 3 feet in Aspen but no more than half as much farther south.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Aspen Mt.

42

53

44

49

36

32*

256

102%

Monarch

88

74

51

44

33

19

309

109%

Wolf Creek

79

110

44

36

52

8

329

84%

Taos

60

42

34

53

51*

5*

245

96%

Northeast: The first openings were Killington Nov. 3, Mt. St. Sauveur Nov. 8 and Sunday River Nov. 9. Early November weather was favorably cold but there was mixed precipitation late in the month. Terrain expanded some in early December with 1.5 feet of new snow. Rain on Dec. 14 depressed trail counts. There was some recovery before Christmas, but a tough holiday week with some freezing rain. Conditions in early January improved with 1-2 feet of new snow, but it rained the second weekend. Conditions improved with up to 2+ feet of snow over MLK weekend and another foot later in the month. The first half of February was excellent with cold weather and 3 feet of snow in northern areas. Northern areas got another 3 feet during the second half of February but totals were less than half as much farther south with some rain as well. Early March had considerable melt/freezing with trail counts declining during the second week. Smuggler's Notch's last day was March 17 and Waterville Valley's last day was March 18. March averaged barely a foot of new snow and April less than 2 feet except for Sugarloaf. There was a rare early May snowstorm, well after nearly all areas would been closed anyway due to the warm and rainy March and April.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Stowe

27

40

67

72

20

27

253

83%

Killington

26

43

54

34

11

20

188

78%

Sugarloaf

28

18

27

38

14

46

171

98%

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