December 7, 2021

After some promising early season (ok, pre-season) snowfalls, particularly out west, most of ski country is looking very brown. We were especially struck by this as we watched the giant slaloms and downhill races from Vail this last weekend. (Yes, folks we are probably 1 of the 10 people in the country watching this stuff live. FYI – Peacock (NBC’s streaming service) is broadcasting many races live this winter.) While the racers were doing their usual crazy dance down sheer ice, it was clear they were charging down a narrow path of man-made snow (using that term liberally). Any panoramic shots of the the mountains or even 10 feet off the Birds of Prey area showed bare, brown woods! And while we all know the racers love the man-made crap, it isn’t why we travel out west in the winter.

Unlike the west, the eastern areas have not even seen a decent dose of god-snow, and are relying almost exclusively on man’s creation. The Beast of the East (aka Killington) claims they got 19 inches a week ago, but first hand accounts suggest they had their 19 inch ruler at work. Presently they state they have a 20 inch base and have only 24% of their trails open on man-made snow. Jay Peak, which by far gets more snow than any area in the east, claims they have received 52 inches thus far, but even they are offering only skiing on limited terrain on a man-made surface.

Not to be cynical, but we don’t expect much better from the eastern areas at this point in the season. And while we are used to pictures on social media of eastern areas pumping out copious amounts of ice, we have been struck by all the pics of western areas proudly showing their snow guns ablaze. Almost every Instagram account for western areas has been dominated by plumes of white stuff blasting out of their guns. It is sad to think that they even have snow making equipment, much less that they have to use the damn things to open up.

A review of snow reports from North American western resorts brings the bleak picture into focus. With rare exception, it doesn’t matter where you look – there isn’t any natural snow! Read it and weep – CA – Palisades Tahoe (aka Squaw) – 7 inch base with 2 trails open. CO – Vail – 18 inch base with 7% of terrain open. WY – Jackson Hole – 8 inch base with 6 trails open. WA – Crystal – 0 inch base (yes, actually says that) with 4 trails open. The only encouraging reports come from our northern neighbor. Whistler/Blackcomb is fairing a tad better reporting a 50 inch base but that has translated into only 25% of their terrain being open and mandatory downloading given no snow at the base. There does seem to be one sweet spot – eastern interior British Columbia/western interior Alberta. Kicking Horse in Golden, BC and Lake Louise across the border in Alberta are reporting 65-70 inch bases; 30 inches in the last week; and 70% of their terrain open. (Canadian Christmas anyone?) However, 3.5 hours south, Fernie Alpine Resort has delayed their opening due to lack of snow.

Alas, there is hope at least for the west. The high pressure that has plagued the western US is breaking down and several serious storms are expected over the next two weeks. See Open Snow’s overview forecast for the west at Open Snow Forecast

Be Well; Ski Well


conSKIerge co-founder

Kevin Dennis is a life long ski bum with a 34 year legal career on the side. Now retired, he skis 80+ days a year. While he lives in Alta UT in the winters, he has traveled extensively through skiing and has skied almost every major resort in North America (and many you have never heard of). He continues to hit the road often throughout the western United States and Canada and trips over the last several years have included ventures in British Columbia, Montana and Colorado. Whether you want to know about the behemoths like Aspen or Squaw or are interested in the road less travelled (Lost Trail Powder Mountain in Montana or Whitewater in BC anyone?), Kevin has been there, has an opinion and you will most likely have to tell him to shut up after a half hour!