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Western Snowfall Going Deep Into Record Books

Western Snowfall Going Deep Into Record Books

If you think this has been a particularly dark, dreary and dank winter, you’re not imagining things.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just released its observations for the past winter season (December through February) and numbers confirmed it: The total winter precipitation (i.e., rain) average across the entire contiguous United States was 9.01 inches, which is a record 2.22 inches above average for that period.

What that means for skiers and snowboarders is that the mountains across the West have been pummeled with powder, with many resorts, particularly in the Sierra Nevada range, reporting obscene — and in some cases record — amounts of snow.

 Above Average Snowfall

Try these numbers on for size:

  • Mammoth Mountain, which averages about 400 inches of snow per season, is sitting at 635 inches and has a good shot of breaking the all-time mark of 668.5 from the 2010-11 season.
  • Squaw Valley has had 618 inches of snow, which is just five inches shy of its all-time mark set two years ago.
  • Northstar, which averages a paltry, for the Lake Tahoe region, 350 inches of snow annually, has been buried under 555 inches of snow this season.
  • Brighton and Snowbird, which each average around 500 inches of lake-effect Wasatch powder annually, are sitting at 513 and 505 inches, respectively, and counting.
  • Jackson Hole, which averages 459 inches a season, had tallied 486 inches by March 12.
  • The various ranges of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are seriously above their average water equivalent, with Steamboat, which got 282 inches of snow this season, having received 124 percent already, Aspen (329 inches of snow) having received 136 percent, Purgatory (308 inches of snow) having received 141 percent and Crested Butte (264 inches of snow) having received 146 percent.
  • Speaking of the Centennial State, Colorado is in the middle of an historic avalanche cycle, with more than 500 avalanches recorded in the first nine days of March, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (as a perspective, the state averages around 2,500 avalanches per year).

A Look Ahead

With all this white stuff lying on the ground is it any wonder that many people are wondering when it’s all going to end? Well, with unsettled weather on tap for the next several days — there’s potentially two feet of snow headed for northern New Mexico and Colorado — and a chance of a strong storm or two heading for the Cascade and Sierra by month’s end, it looks like we’ll be riding and sliding for some time yet.

Indeed, several resorts already have have pushed back their closing dates by a least a week.

Both Purgatory and Monarch Mountain have announced they will have daily lift service until April 7, with weekends-only operations until April 21. Sugar Bowl says it stay open until April 21 and “then we’ll evaluate continued operations”. The Mary Jane portion of Winter Park will be open until May 12. And Squaw Valley and Mammoth Mountain, this season’s snowfall record-holders to date, each has announced a prospective closing date of July 7.

Dan Giesin

Dan Giesin

Dan Giesin has spent most of his life poking around the mountains of the American West, especially in his backyard Sierra Nevada range. It has been -- and still is -- an uplifting experience
Dan Giesin