The best skiing and boarding is often found during the calm after the storm.
In a record-breaking January for snowfall in the West, bluebird skies are finally forecast to take over the region. This past month might have been one of the rare occasions that skiers were praying for it to stop snowing. At several resorts, there was so much snow that it actually became a problem. Now that the hardy ski patrols and lift crews are able to safely prepare the mountains and literally dig out the chairlifts, the conditions are ideal.
The eastern U.S. has had a less impressive start to the new year, but the good news? Many states in Northeast are currently under some form of Winter Weather Warning through today and in some places through tomorrow afternoon.
Mammoth Mountain buried its single-month mark for snowfall with 246 inches during January. In records going back to 1969, the previous snowiest month was December 2010 with 209 inches. With a treeless top half, Mammoth is a perfect example of a resort that must close partially or completely during storms. Not surprisingly, operations were affected for quite a few days during the month. Mammoth was able to open the upper gondola on the Tuesday afternoon of Jan. 24, so an insane 300-inch base depth at the summit awaits.
Farther north in the Tahoe area, Squaw Valley totaled 282 inches at 8,000 feet during January. Two seasons ago during the Tahoe region’s extended drought, the same elevation received just 223 inches during the entire 2014-15 season. This season’s total-to-date measures 387 inches, a snowfall amount about 85 percent of the seasonal average.
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Snowbird and Alta Ski Area sit at the end of Little Cottonwood Canyon just outside Salt Lake City. A traffic cam video taken on the highway going up the narrow canyon made the rounds on the web when it caught an intentionally triggered avalanche going across the closed road. The viral video showed the value of avalanche control during the big snowfalls so common in the area.
With the road cleared and clear skies in the forecast, Snowbird has excellent conditions with a 121-inch base. Neighboring Alta reported 117 inches of new snow in the first 22 days of the month. The ski area typically receives about 95 inches each January.
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Arapahoe Basin received 93 inches of snow through Jan. 24—about twice its average for the month of January. A-Basin’s marketing and communications manager, Adrienne Saia Issac, reported that “every run I’ve taken lately is just incredible. Even Gauthier, one of our steepest runs, is skiing fat—although it’s still a tricky one to get down. The fact that East Wall season started early has everyone smiling.” The ski area’s famous East Wall terrain opened on Jan. 15.
Elsewhere in Summit County, Copper Mountain accumulated 78 inches during January. With a base of 54 inches at mid-mountain, the resort has been able to open all of its nearly 2,500 skiable acres.
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Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has picked up more than 340 inches of snow for the season. Interestingly enough, nearby powder magnet Grand Targhee Resort usually averages slightly more snow than Jackson Hole, but this season is a little behind with 288 inches season-to-date. Of course, when almost 300 inches of snowfall by the latter part of January does not lead the pack, it’s the sign of a good year across the region.
Even Sun Valley, who usually averages 220 inches of snowfall annually, had an excellent January. The Idaho resort accumulated almost 80 inches during the month. Not normally known for huge powder days, Sun Valley visitors enjoyed a three-day stretch with three feet of new snow.
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From West To East
According to meteorologists at OpenSnow, by the end of January, the coldest air will start to move out of the western US and toward the eastern US. The snow will follow, with powder potential in New England and the Great Lakes. And as February hits, New England should see nearly continuous chances for light snow.