1. Tahoe got an epic season.

After four seasons of dismal snowfall, the Lake Tahoe area finally emerged in the 2016-17 season from its discouraging drought. It’s debatable whether or not El Nino, the climate cycle that received so much preseason hype, really made the difference. Trending against the typical El Nino winning regions, Southern California still had a mediocre season and the Southwest did not reach its average snowpack.

From Tahoe down to Mammoth, however, skiers and boarders had opportunities to experience powder days once again. Squaw Valley accumulated 494 inches this past winter, stretching their season all the way through Memorial Day. (The previous season, Squaw received about half that with 223 inches overall.) Blessed also with a higher elevation, Mammoth received enough snow to be able to stay open until July 4th.

These Were The 5 Biggest Ski News Of 2015-16

2. East stayed dry.

Unfortunately, the East suffered through a historically bad snowfall season. On the plus side, resorts in the East tend to be well-outfitted with extensive snowmaking systems.

These ski areas put forth a valiant effort—Maine’s Sunday River and Sugarloaf even cranked their snow guns back up in April. However, places that rely mostly on Mother Nature had a tough year. Mad River Glen in Vermont called it quits after only 45 days of limited operations during the season.

These Were The 5 Biggest Ski News Of 2015-16

PHOTO CREDIT: Jay Peak

3. Park City became the largest ski area in the U.S.

In 2015-16, Utah’s Park City became the country’s largest single ski area after Vail Resorts purchased Park City Mountain Resort and constructed a gondola connection to the neighboring Canyons. Combined, the ski area covers more than 7,3000 skiable acres.

On a smaller scale, Vail Resorts made news again in January by buying Wilmot Mountain, a small Wisconsin ski area just north of Chicago.

Check out our list of top 10 biggest ski areas in North America.

These Were The 5 Biggest Ski News Of 2015-16

4. Skier visit numbers boomed overall.

The 2015-16 season was a good year for the ski industry in terms of skier visits. (A skier visit can be defined as one skier or boarder visiting a ski area for all or part of one day).

Not surprisingly, given the rough snow conditions, the East was the only exception. The Ski Vermont trade association reported 3.2 million skier visits versus the record 4.67 million in 2014-15.

Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade group that includes 21 member resorts, set a record with 7.4 million visits, a five-percent increase from the previous season.

Utah ski areas also set a record with almost 4.5 million visits, a jump of 13-percent compared to the 2014-15 season.

These Were The 5 Biggest Ski News Of 2015-16

5. Colorado I-70 toll lane made a debut.

With all those skiers in the mountains of Colorado, the new I-70 toll lane was a welcome addition. Opened for the first time this ski season, the new eastbound toll lane was created to help handle the masses heading back to Denver. The 13 miles of extra lane from Empire to Idaho Springs is only open during peak traffic times.

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  • Carlson Peters

    So, was the super-enlarged Park City/Canyons an awesome thing or was it just marketing hype? Looking at the map it just appeared to be a really long slog away from the good skiing and a good way to waste half the day. So, did the toll lane actually help traffic or was it just a silly way to pay for exactly one 13 mile traffic lane?

  • Alta

    Well, if I were the marketing director for a supersized ski area I’d certainly promote it that way. Intermediates wanting to cruise all day without repeating the same trails over and over can do so at larger areas. Advanced skiers now have more parking options… If staying in Park City I’d personally prefer to hop on my skis in Park City and ski to terrain in the former Canyon’s area rather than dealing with shuttles, traffic or parking hassles. As far as Colorado, and extra lane can make a huge difference in traffic flow, even if only for a few miles.

  • kdrski

    I know that this site is primarily a West oriented site but why do you keep ignoring the Beast of the East? Killington had one of its longest seasons staying open well into the end of May due to its snowmaking and grooming.

  • Don’t forget the 6th biggest story – ski carpools thanks to http://www.SHREDSHARE.io 😉

  • johnw

    The combined Park City/Canyons is nice but honestly isn’t even close to larger places in Europe. Getting from one side of the Three Valleys to the other and back is an all day, no lunch, high speed ordeal if you can do it at all. You can go from one side of Park City to the other and back before lunch (under 90 minutes one way). It’s also not the map reading challenge that the Dolomites is, but of course folks who can’t meet the challenge there face a $200 taxi ride when the lifts close. Park City has over 300 runs and a reasonably easy lift system to understand so it’s a great place to go explore. Lower runs at the Canyons and the no-man’s land between the Canyons and the old PCMR are problematic in bad snow years so you may need to download on the gondola.

  • And Alpine Meadows had a chair lift fall off while in operation (no one was on it, headed downhill)!

    Maybe Squaw should raise their ticket prices a bit since they apparently don’t have the budget to care about safety.

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