The 2014-15 ski season’s snowfall will be remembered for many years to come. For several parts of North America though, the memory won’t necessarily be a great one. The good news is that the law of averages means that next season brings hope for a banner year.
The usual East vs. West natural snowfall disparity was flipped in 2014-15. For once, skiers in the East could brag about deep powder days, while fat skis often sat idle in the West. And, after four down seasons, the Tahoe region is especially overdue for a comeback.
Here’s a regional recap of the season’s snowfall.
Starting on a good note, the East enjoyed a fantastic year. February in particular was a bountiful month. Mount Snow in Vermont lived up to its name with a record 76 inches in February. Averaging 355 inches, Jay Peak is one of the few resorts in the East that can generally hang with western snowfall totals. This past season, however, Jay Peak blew past the West with 373 total inches—its best tally in four seasons.
With 197 inches for the season, Killington actually finished below its 10-year average of 250 inches. An unusually light March was to blame. Nonetheless, January and February offered prime conditions with more than 50 inches in each of those months.
Up in Maine, Sunday River started off the season well with a big Thanksgiving holiday storm of 28 inches. Again, January and February were strong with a total of 90 inches in those two months. The resort was able to stay open until May 2.
The Midwest relies heavily on snowmaking, so consistently cold temperatures were a blessing. Natural snow, however, did not match up to the near-record previous season. For example, Boyne Mountain in Michigan had 103 inches versus 180 the previous year.
The best powder day of the season at Michigan’s Crystal Mountain was February 18 with three feet of new snow. Not surprisingly, February was the resort’s best month with 53 inches of fresh snow. Crystal Mountain finished with 124 inches, less than a foot shy of its annual average.
Colorado resorts had a decent season for snow. Copper Mountain was typical of the region with a slightly below-average season total of 278 inches, compared to the annual average of 306 inches. New Mexico puttered along with an unremarkable season until a huge late-February dump brought smiles to places such as Taos Ski Valley.
Wyoming, Montana and Idaho fared much like Colorado. Grand Targhee in Wyoming is about as reliable for snowfall as any U.S. resort. The ski area received a healthy 301 inches. Of course, it averages 500 inches, so 2014-15 was a down season by its high standards.
Like Grand Targhee, Utah resorts have huge annual snowfall averages. The 2014-15 season did not meet their high standards, but Alta Ski Area still tallied 324 inches. However, snowfall during the three months of January, February and March added up to just 98 inches. (Alta usually receives about that amount in each of those months.)
The much-publicized drought in California obviously affected snowfall in the Tahoe area and farther south at Mammoth Mountain. The season rivaled 1976-77 as the worst in recorded history. Several resorts around Lake Tahoe had to close early. Mammoth picked up a paltry 2.6 inches during the entire month of January, but a late-season storm in May allowed the resort to stay open through Memorial Day Weekend.
Oregon and Washington resorts were not particularly dry, but many were warm. Lower elevations saw rain, rather than snow, so lower-mountain coverage was a serious problem. Mount Bachelor set its closing date at May 10, the earliest since the infamous 1976-77 season.
Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia had similar results to the neighboring Pacific Northwest. However, cool temperatures in the high-alpine environment of Whistler did permit the resort to extend its closing date to June 7. Many Canadian resorts away from the coastal climate such as Lake Louise did better to push slightly beyond their annual averages.