January 5, 2021
From time to time we like to pause and take a look at what parts of North America have received snow and who is getting skunked. We are fans of road trips to be able to quickly go where there is snow. The Covid world may have changed that a bit, but a 10 hour drive in the truck with your Covid pod is probably pretty safe. And if you dare, flights booked on short notice right now are cheap.
Early season predictions were for a La Nina winter which would generally favor snow and cold temps for the northwest. While we will leave the accuracy of such reports for another day, thus far these forecasts are dead on. The overall view of life in the snow world for North America as we enter this first week of January 2021 is pretty simple – neither coast has fared well with the Rockies doing much better, particularly north and west.
First the coasts. But for snowmaking, east coast skiers would still be in their basements sharpening their skis and boards. There was one tantalizing brief period where parts of the east experienced real powder in December. A pre Christmas storm dropped a whopping 40 inches on southern New York, Vermont and New Hampshire resorts. However, in typical east coast form, a soaking nor’easter storm three days later with 4+ inches of rain wiped the slate clean. Check out one report on a rare eastern avalanche that was the result of that storm – Belleayre Avalanche. The holiday week was firm with limited terrain on frozen granular surfaces. Things are starting to look better with cold weather predicted through mid January with modest snowfall off and on. Hey – Gore Mountain in the southern Adirondacks stated two days ago it was good to get back on powder skies. (They had 4 new inches – no further comment.)
The left coast has not done appreciably better. While California resorts received some early snow and are getting a medium sized storm as we write this, they have yet to have a significant storm. Squaw is typical – reporting 87 inches to date with a 40″ base. Further south at Mammoth the news is worse – 60″ to date with a 35 inch base. Given the CA prohibition on resorts providing lodging it may be for the best there hasn’t been snow. (See our piece from mid-December – Covid Update – Europe and California) The exception on the west coast (which fits into the predicted La Nina pattern) is Mt Baker in Washington which has been clobbered – 272 inches as of year end.
One has to go inland to the Rockies to find the snow. While it was a slow start to the season for most areas, by mid December many Rocky Mountain resorts had a decent base and have received consistent refresh snowfalls. This is particularly true up north across the border. As examples, Whitewater (a conSKIerge favorite) and Fernie on the Canadian “Powder Highway” are up to 160 inches for the year and have recently had some classic powder days.
In the United States it is a tad hit or miss – Schweitzer in Idaho is over 100 inches, but Big Sky is quite dry – reporting a 30″ base. Not surprisingly, the sweet spots in the United States are Jackson Hole and Alta, with both areas reporting 145 inches to date. This puts even them a tad below “normal” but perhaps in this current wacky world “normal” is just a cycle on a washing machine.
Colorado resorts are generally reporting 75-90 inches to date with roughly 75% of their terrain open on 40 inch bases. Again, true to the early season predictions, the further south you go the less snow there is. Telluride and Taos are both reporting roughly 30-35 inch bases with generally less terrain open than the northern CO resorts. While both hills have some great steeps, few of those trails are open.
So…as a huge generalization, while there are some bright spots, we can’t say it is an exciting start to the season. If you live on the coasts you are essentially waiting for the season to fire up. The Rockies have provided some relief from the in laws, but generally deep powder days have been elusive. Check out the latest reports and forecasts from one of our favorite sources at Open Snow.