How the Ski Seasons Are Rated

Each season which I analyzed is divided into six groups. Areas more than one standard deviation above or below their season or winter average are classified as High or Low. The remaining areas are classified as Above Average or Below Average. I would list an area as Record High or Record Low if it was the highest or lowest season for which I have at least 10 years of data. Within each classification, areas are listed in the order of the number of years of complete seasons of data, followed by the areas with only December to March readings, these in order of number of years of complete winters of data. 1995-96 is shown below for 70 areas. At least 67 areas reported for each season from 1983-84 through 1997-98.

1995-96 Ski Season Summary

1995-96 was a season of extremes. Three areas in central Colorado had record high snowfalls, yet Alaska and Arizona / New Mexico suffered close to record drought years.

California had record warm temperatures in the early season with zero snow in November. The one big December storm was half rain at Lake Tahoe, though higher altitude Mammoth was in good shape for Christmas. After another dry spell, the Sierra was hammered with well over 100 inches of snow in the second half of January. February was a replay: dry or rain first half, big dumps second half. After a normal March and April, the Sierra season overall had slightly above average snow but excessive rain at the lower altitudes. Southern California (more rain than snow) and Arizona (extreme drought) had dismal ski seasons.

The Pacific Northwest was plagued by rain in November, December and February. Only Mt. Bachelor (high altitude) and Mt. Baker (too much snow to get completely washed out) were adequate at Christmas. Fortunately, the Northwest did get the same big dumps as the Sierra in late January. Overall season snowfall was below average except at the very highest elevations.

The Canadian Rockies and Interior B. C. received the early season storm track which bypassed much of the American West. The Okanagan and Banff areas had excellent early snow and roughly average snowfall from January onwards. The Kootenay areas had the Pacific Northwest weather pattern, resulting in a high snow season for high altitude Whitewater, but below average snow with too much rain at the other areas.

The U. S. Northern Rockies had enough early snow to be in decent shape by Christmas. The January and February storms were heavy in Idaho and Wyoming but only average in Montana.

Utah had below average snow and warm weather in the early season, so only Alta and Brighton (highest base elevations) were adequate by Christmas. Like California, the Wasatch had massive dumps in the second half of January and February and finished the season above average overall.

Southern and Western Colorado had slightly below average early snowfall, and, as is normal, most areas reached full operation in mid-January. Aspen, Crested Butte and Telluride were clobbered by the January storms and had excellent seasons thereafter. Purgatory and Wolf Creek were, like Brian Head in Utah, far enough south to be negatively affected by the Southwestern drought. Luck finally ran out for Taos, New Mexico, which was one of the few western areas to have high snowfall in 1992 and 1994.

Northern and Central Colorado was the prime region for snow this year. The early season Canadian storm track finally curved south and brought all ski areas in this region to full operation by mid December. The January storms also hit with full force, and Steamboat's 196 inches set a single month record for the state. March, historically the highest snow month, was the only month below average in 1996.

The Northeast had its overall highest snowfall in 18 years, with December, February and April being unusually snowy, and Sugarloaf in Maine breaking its 1969 record of 347 inches. The famous January storms brought big snow to the Appalachians and the East Coast cities but only reached the southern parts of New England.

RECORD HIGH (10 Years Minimum) RECORD HIGH (10 Years Minimum)
Sugarloaf, Maine 3,695 389
Loveland, Colo. 11,200 522
Arapahoe Basin, Colo. 10,820 463
Copper Mtn, Colo. 11,000 385
Snowshoe, W. V. 4,848 240
Stowe, Vt. 3,950 312 Steamboat, Colo. 9,200 331 Dec.-Mar.
Sugarbush, Vt. 3,000 364 Telluride, Colo. 11,170 219 Dec.-Mar.
Lake Louise, Alb. 6,700 176 Heavenly Valley, Calif. 8,400 261 Dec.-Mar.
Vail, Colo. 11,250 461 Whitewater, B. C. 5,500 324 Dec.-Mar.
Breckenridge, Colo. 11,100 355 Northstar, Calif. 7,800 348 Dec.-Mar.
Killington, Vt. 4,142 307
Berthoud Pass, Colo. 11,315 426
Mary Jane at Winter Park, Colo. 10,800 440
Grand Targhee, Wyo. 8,000 523
Jay Peak, Vt. 3,000 389
Crested Butte, Colo. 10,150 329
Mt. Rainier Paradise, Wash. 5,420 636 Jackson Hole, Wyo. 8,250 311 Dec.-Mar.
Mt. Washington, N. H. 6,262 358 Whiteface (Lake Placid), N. Y. 3,660 113 Dec.-Mar.
Mammoth Mtn, Calif. 9,600 or 8,900 426 Monarch, Colo. 241 Dec.-Mar.
Alta, Utah 8,650 544 Squaw Valley, Calif. 6,200 297 Dec.-Mar.
Brighton, Utah 8,740 437 Sun Valley, Idaho 8,800 171 Dec.-Mar.
Cannon Mt., N. H. 1,800 176 Stratton, Vt. 3,875 178 Dec.-Mar.
Kirkwood (Carson Pass), Calif. 8,526 534 Smuggler's Notch, Vt. 1,600 216 Dec.-Mar.
Snowbird, Utah 10,000 503 Loon, N. H. 2,000 138 Dec.-Mar.
Gothic, Colo. 9,400 383 Mt. Snow, Vt. 3,600 158 Dec.-Mar.
Sunshine Village, Alb. 7,028 296 Schweitzer, Idaho 4,700 215 Dec.-Mar.
Mt. Norquay, Alb. 5,350 132
Alpine Meadows, Calif. 7,000 421
Snow Basin, Utah 7,700 363
Aspen Highlands, Colo. 11,100 288
Beaver Creek, Colo. 11,200 368
Waterville Valley, N. H. 3,000 204
Okemo, Vt. 3,300 197
Central Sierra Snow Lab - Boreal, Cal. 7,200 329 Bridger Bowl, Mont. 7,100 180 Dec.-Mar.
Mt. Fidelity (Selkirks), B. C. 6,150 442 Whistler Roundhouse, B. C. 6,000 276 Dec.-Mar.
Mt. Bachelor, Ore. 6,350 342 Wolf Creek, Colo. 10,642 235 Dec.-Mar.
Silver Star, B. C. 5,200 209 Snoqualmie Pass, Wash. 3,000 250 Dec.-Mar.
Big White, B. C. 6,200 244 Purgatory, Colo. 10,000 177 Dec.-Mar.
Red Mt. Pass, Colo. 11,090 257 Mt. Baker, Wash. 4,300 350 Dec.-Mar.
Park City 1, Utah 7,140 143
Tod Mt. (Sun Peaks), B. C. 6,100 198
Blackcomb, B. C. 5,002 315
Big Sky, Mont. 8,920 242
Whistler Base, B. C. 2,200 115 Arizona Snowbowl 2, Ariz. 10,800 121 Dec.-Mar.
Taos, N. Mex. 11,200 196 Arizona Snowbowl 1, Ariz. 9,500 69 Dec.-Mar.
Southern California Composite 7,000 - 8,000 77
Stevens Pass, Wash. 4,061 303
Brian Head, Utah 9,770 237
Mt. Hood Meadows, Ore. 5,400 290
RECORD LOW (10 Years Minimum) RECORD LOW (10 Years Minimum)
Alyeska, Alaska 1,400 305