2020-21 Ski Season Analysis as of May 20, 2021

2020-21 was a substantially below average snowfall season in North America's ski areas aside from the Pacific Northwest and some of western Canada. In the western US there were widespread dry spells in the early parts of December, January, March and April. Heavy snowfall was concentrated mostly from late January through the end of February. Ski area vistation under COVID-19 protocols was stronger than usual at drive-up ski areas but down at more remote locations.

Prior Progress Reports
October 31, 2020
November 10, 2020
November 15, 2020
November 23, 2020
November 30, 2020
December 10, 2020
December 18, 2020
December 26, 2020
January 1, 2021
January 8, 2021
January 16, 2021
January 31, 2021
February 15, 2021
March 1, 2021
March 15, 2021
March 31, 2021
April 10, 2021

October 2020 snowfall was mostly in Canada. In late October a storm dipped down the Continental Divide into Colorado and New Mexico. Snowfall totals are since November 1 aside from Wolf Creek and the Banff areas which opened significant terrain based upon October snow. Openings at some areas were delayed until enough lifts/terrain can be opened for COVID-19 social distancing despite an above average first half of November for snow. The first widespread storms hit the West first weekend of November, with South Tahoe, Utah and Wolf Creek being the big winners. During the second week of November the Northwest and US Northern Rockies got 3-4 feet, with lesser amounts in adjacent regions. Third week of November snowfall hit mainly the Northwest and western Canada. Areas over half open for Thanksgiving were Wolf Creek 98%, Lake Louise 67%, Sunshine 62%, Sun Peaks 77%, Mt. Baker 82%, Crystal 56%, Lookout Pass 58% and Grand Targhee 60%. Note that aside from Wolf Creek's microclimate, all of these areas are among those most favored by the ongoing La Nina.

A massive ridge of high pressure built in western North America in late November, lasting nearly two weeks. Normal weather and average snowfall returned to most of the West in mid-December though a few snowy microclimates got much more. However, many areas remained 2-3 weeks behind schedule on snow so open terrain was still limited during the holidays. COVID-19 restrictions based upon open lifts/terrain meant that many destination resorts should be avoided until more lifts and terrain are open. At New Year's, areas half or less open with bases under 3 feet included Summit County Colorado, Utah outside the Cottonwood Canyons and Bridger/Big Sky in Montana. During the first week of January the Pacific Northwest was pounded with snow, with lesser amounts in adjacent regions. Regions farther south got less than a foot. The second week of January was worse, with a warmer storm bringing much rain along with snow to the Northwest while regions farther south stayed dry. Many areas remained with low tide conditions on bases less than 3 feet and only in partial operation over MLK weekend.

There was scattered snow during the third week of January. At the end of the week it snowed 2+ feet in Utah and parts of the Southwest. During the last week of January an atmospheric river hit California with 5-8 feet of snow while lesser amounts spilled over into adjacent regions. During the first half of February the most intense storms tracked from the Northwest to the Tetons, Utah and Colorado. The pattern continued for the rest of February. The third week storms dumped most heavily in Oregon and Utah, while the fourth week storms focused on Washington and the Northern Rockies.

Scattered and disorganized storms during the first half of March tracked mainly through California and Utah. The last of these intensified moving through the Southwest and much of Colorado. Regions farther north were mostly dry, so spring conditions were widespread at lower elevations or sunny exposures. Scattered storms over the second half of March averaged 2 feet over most of the West, with just a few areas exceeding 3 feet, most of those in Colorado. Winter conditions prevailed through the end of March at the highest altitude areas in most regions. In early April no one aside from Washington and Western Canada got more than a foot of snow so nearly all areas developed spring conditions. A few areas closed earlier than normal due to low snowpack or COVID limits, Whistler being the most high profile example of the latter. Northern Utah and Colorado had consistent moderate snowfalls every week from mid-April into May but other regions were much drier.

Comprehensive snow statistics are shown in the 2020-21 Ski Season Summary.

California: There was no snow in October. The early November storm was 8-10 inches in North Tahoe and peaked SW of the lake with 20 inches at Sierra-Tahoe. Mammoth opened 5% Nov. 13 with 14 inches new plus cold temperatures for snowmaking. After a few more inches before Thanksgiving, the next two weeks were dry. There was 1-2 feet in mid-December and about a foot later in the month, so overall about half of terrain was open at Christmas. California lodging was limited to residents in December due to COVID-19. The lodging restrictions were eased for Tahoe second week of January and Mammoth two weeks later. With base depths averaging 3 feet, advanced terrain was limited and coverage thin through MLK weekend. There was a foot of snow the following weekend in the Sierra, 2 feet in Southern California and 4 feet in Arizona. Then the atmospheric river dumped 5-6 feet at Tahoe and 8 feet at Mammoth during the final week of January, while SoCal and Arizona got another 2 feet. Three moderate storms totaled about 2 feet of snow during the first half of February. Most areas got less than a foot during the second half of February and there were a couple of storms with high snow lines, so most areas developed spring conditions. First half of March storms averaged 3+ feet along the Sierra Crest but about half as much farther east. Arizona got nearly 4 feet thanks to the southwest storm. Snowfall during the second half of March averaged under 2 feet in the Sierra but over 3 feet in Arizona. All spring conditions emerged after a warm first week of April and less than a foot over the rest of the month. Mammoth is open to May 31 while Alpine Meadows closed May 9 and Squaw May 16. 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

40

45

99

51

62

9

322

76%

Heavenly 10,000

35

29

57.5

27.5

29

8

186

48%

Kirkwood

35

36

80

35

67

13

266

58%

Mammoth

21

34.5

106.5

22

52

5.5

241.5

68%

Southern Cal

12

20

63

2

28

0

125

99%

Pacific Northwest: Crystal, Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor reported minimal snow through the first week of November. But it dumped heavily the rest of November. The first week of December was dry but it snowed 5-7 feet over the rest of December, yielding base depths of 10 feet at Mt. Baker and 5-7 feet elsewhere. During the first week of January it dumped 3 feet in Oregon and 5+ feet in Washington and at Whistler. There was considerable rain during the second week of January though Whistler and some of Washington also got another 2 feet of snow. Ungroomed surfaces were difficult for awhile until it snowed 1.5-2.5 feet during the final week of January. During the first half of February it snowed 3 feet at Whistler and 5 feet in Washington and Oregon, with the later snow being very light with cold temperatures. During the second half of February it snowed 2 feet at Whistler, 5 feet at Mt. Bachelor and 8-10 feet in Washington and Mt. Hood. During the first half of March it snowed 3+ feet at Whistler but no more than a foot in Washington and Oregon. During the second half of March it snowed 2-3 feet at most areas but 4 feet at Stevens Pass and probably Mt. Baker. The B.C. government closed Whistler on March 30 due to a COVID outbreak. Whistler and Washington got 1-2 feet in April but only less than a foot fell in Oregon. Mt. Bachelor is open to May 30.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Whistler

81.1

75.6

133.9

51.6

76.8

20.5

439.5

105%

Snoqualmie Pass

71

88

98

154

34

18

463

120%

Mt. Hood Meadows

74

86.5

71

183

44.5

10

469

104%

Crater Lake

62.6

54.9

55.3

89.1

32.4

4.2

298.5

70%

Canadian Rockies and Interior B.C.: October snowfall was significant only in this region, with gradual additions in early November but more through the rest of the month. There was 4-6 feet of consistent snowfall in December. Sun Peaks and Silver Star have been 90+% open since mid-December. Western Canada had the best holiday conditions on an average base of 5 feet. The early January Northwest storm dropped about 2 feet at most areas but only a foot around Banff. Second week of January snow averaged a 1+ foot but most areas escaped the rain farther south. Second half of January snowfall averaged 1.5 feet in interior B.C. but less than a foot at the Banff areas. This region averaged two feet of snow in early February but during the second week was invaded by Arctic high pressure that closed a few areas where temperatures hit -30C. 2-3 feet fell during the second half of February. During the first half of March most areas got about a foot, but only a few inches fell near the U.S border. Second half of March snowfall was 2-3 feet. Revelstoke closed for COVID March 31 and all the Okanagan areas closed by April 4. April snowfall averaged 2 feet and the Banff areas were open into May.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Big White

47.9

51.4

43.5

56.1

31.9

6.3

237.1

83%

Fernie

51.6

57.1

65.8

42.1

37.8

18.1

272.5

73%

Kicking Horse

53.2

50.4

50

46.5

32.3

20.1

252.5

101%

Lake Louise

39.4

38.9

26

42.5

25.2

34.7

206.7

119%

U. S. Northern Rockies: Montana had October snow but mostly east of the Continental Divide, 45 inches at Red Lodge. Great Divide opened a couple of runs with snowmaking assistance Oct. 31 but lost them to warm weather the next week. Second week of November it snowed 3-4 feet in Montana and Wyoming and 2 feet in Idaho. It snowed 1-2 feet during the second half of November. December snowfall was 5 feet in the Tetons and 3-4 feet elsewhere. Holiday base depths were 4+ feet in the Tetons, but averaged 3 feet elsewhere. Bridger opened late and Big Sky was only 55% open at New Year's. Sun Valley was 74% open at MLK. The early January Northwest storm snowed about 2 feet in Idaho and the Tetons and one foot in Montana. During the second week of January the interior Northwest areas got mix of rain and a foot of snow while it snowed just a few inches farther south. During the second half of January it snowed only 1+ foot in Montana and the interior Northwest, but dumped 2.5 feet in central Idaho, 4 feet in the Tetons and 5 feet at Sun Valley. First half of February snowfall was about 2 feet near the Canadian border, 3 feet farther south in Idaho, 5 feet at Bridger and 6 feet in the Tetons. Montana east of the Continental Divide suffered the same deep freeze as farther north in Canada. Second half of February snowfall was 2 feet near the Canadian border, 4+ feet in central Idaho and SW Montana and 7 feet in the Tetons. The first half of March developed widespread spring conditions with only a few inches of new snow. Second half of March snowfall was 1-2 feet. April snowfall was less than a foot except in Montana east of the Continental Divide.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Schweitzer

36

38

70

40

16

4

204

72%

Brundage

35

40

58

88

14

9

244

82%

Big Sky

31

34

41

79

45

30

260

90%

Jackson Hole (mid)

59

58

79

149

18

9

372

101%

Utah: Utah was extremely dry in October but got 2+ feet over the first weekend of November and a similar amount through the second week. There was less than a foot during the second half of November and first week of December but it snowed 4-5 feet in the Cottonwoods but less than 2 feet elsewhere during the rest of December. Holiday base depths were close to 4 feet in the Cottonwoods but barely 2 feet at other Utah areas where open terrain was severely limited through MLK weekend after no more than a foot during the first half of January. Two storms during the second half of January totaled 4+ feet in the Cottonwoods and 3+ feet elsewhere. Storms over the first two weekends in February totaled 5 feet in the Cottonwoods and 2-3 feet elsewhere. Utah had 4-6 feet during the third week of February including a 60 hour Interlodge in Little Cottonwood Canyon, and 1+ foot during the last week of February. First half of March snowfall totaled 2+ feet in the Cottonwoods and southern Utah but no more than a foot elsewhere. Second half of March snowfall averaged 3 feet in the Cottonwoods and southern Utah and 2 feet elsewhere. Early April snowfall was almost a foot in the Cottonwoods but no more than a few inches elsewhere. Two storms later in April dropped over a foot each. Snowbird was open to May 16.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Alta

66.5

64

70

162.5

69

54.5

486.5

94%

Solitude (upper)

62

39

56

111

60

31

359

76%

Park City (mid)

34

28

57

88

51

29

287

99%

Snowbasin

43

22

52

99

30

28

274

86%

Northern and Central Colorado: This was possibly the first October in over 25 years with no ski area open despite a late October storm averaging 10 inches. The dry summer may have limited water for snowmaking at A-Basin and Loveland. Keystone opened Nov. 6, A-Basin Nov. 9, Breckenridge and Loveland Nov. 13. November snowfall was below average so with social distancing requirements Copper opened Nov. 30, Steamboat Dec. 1 and Winter Park Dec. 3. December snowfall was 2-4 feet but overall only about half of terrain was open for Christmas. Advanced terrain remained very limited past mid-January with base depths at many areas still under 3 feet at MLK after just a few inches during the first half of January. It snowed about a foot per week during the second half of January. This region had its first concentrated dump of 2-3 feet during the first week of February plus another foot during the second week. A-Basin reached 87% open then. Second half of February snowfall was 1.5 feet except for 3 feet at Steamboat which is favored by NW storms. The southwest storm late in the second week of March dumped 3 feet at Winter Park, 2 feet at Loveland/A-Basin and about 1.5 feet elsewhere. Second half of March snowfall averaged 3 feet, keeping most of these areas in winter mode to the end of the month. Widespread spring conditions emerged during a warm first weekend of April, but it snowed over a foot every week from mid-April to early May. A-Basin expects to run to first weekend of June.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Vail

31

46

33

61

43

28

242

68%

Breckenridge

38

43

28

59

60

36

264

75%

Loveland

43

31

40

55

65

42

276

80%

Winter Park

53

59

35

63

79

41

330

95%

Southern and Western Colorado: A late October storm dropped 13 inches at the Gothic Snow Lab and 22 inches at Monarch and Taos. Wolf Creek got 39 inches in October and with localized southwest storms reached 98% open by November 15. The rest of the region had a below average November and all had a dry early December. It snowed an average 4 feet during the rest of December but little during the first half of January. At MLK Wolf Creek had a 5 foot base while most other areas averaged 3 feet. In late January it snowed 6 feet at Wolf Creek, 4 feet at Purgatory but only 2 feet farther north. During the first half of February it snowed 3.5 feet at Aspen, Crested Butte and Wolf Creek and 2.5 feet elsewhere. Crested Butte opened about 1/3 of the North Face first week of February and another third the next week. Taos was 95% open on a 60-inch base after 3 feet of snow in late January and 2+ feet in February. Kachina Peak opened Feb. 20. During the second half of February Aspen and Telluride got 2 feet on the NW flow while other areas got less than a foot. The southwest storm during the second week of March dumped nearly 4 feet at Telluride and Wolf Creek and about 2 feet at most other areas including in New Mexico. Second half of March snowfall averaged 3 feet, maintaining mostly winter condtions. No new snow fell during early April and most of these areas closed due to remote location. 1-2 feet fell later in April.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Snowmass

40

40

30

67

68

20

265

89%

Monarch

49

41

27

48

66

19

250

88%

Telluride

41

42.1

32.8

58.7

73.8

26

274.4

99%

Wolf Creek

60

65

74

47

77

10

333

86%

Northeast: Northern Vermont got 1+ foot at the start of November but most of the month was warm. Thus openings were delayed to Nov. 13 at Killington and Nov. 21 at Sunday River and Sugarloaf, with social distancing also being a factor. Early December progress was slow with mixed snow and rain resulting in low trail counts. The mid-December Nor'easter hit southern New England hard but did not snow much farther north. Trail counts were reduced by heavy rain over Christmas. 2016 was the only year in over 20 years with less Northeast terrain open at New Year's. There was gradual expansion during the first half of January though with only about 1.5 feet of new snow. Up to 3 feet of snow during the third week of January finally opened most terrain. Conditions were excellent with cold weather for the rest of January. The first half of February remained cold with 1.5-2.5 feet of snow. Conditions remained good until the end of February with another 2+ feet of snow. March started with rain so some trail counts declined. First half of March snowfall was 1.5 feet in northern Vermont and Whiteface but just a few inches elsewhere. Late March rain further reduced trail counts to far below average for early spring, and by second weekend of April no one was more than half open. With the ongoing warm spring Killington closed May 16.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Whiteface

10

22

36

48

23

19

158

93%

Stowe

33

32

51

62

24

16

218

72%

Killington

26

49

52

54

8

20

209

87%

Sugarloaf

19

13

44

14

7

12

109

62%

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