While the calendar may read a “New Year,” for skiers & snowboarders the new year starts around Thanksgiving. This is when the chairs start spinning at a majority of the resorts. The NEW YEAR is also a good time to look and see how the 2019 ski season is doing. And based on what you loved reading in 2019, this is a perfect time to do the North America snowfall comparison. The good news is across the board we’re in MUCH better shape than we were last winter. Huge thanks to Tony Crocker for allowing us to use his information. Curious about how our past seasons started? Be sure to visit our Ski Weather Facts & Phenomenon page where we highlight that and many, many more fun facts like what were the biggest snowstorms ever to hit a ski resort.
2019-2020 Season Snowfall Compare To 2018-19
For those that visited California last season, the storm train may have started a little slow, but when it got rolling, watch out! The month of February was one for the record books, and we even had one of our best powder days of the season in May! For this year, while the numbers look impressive, pretty much anything below 7500′ is very bony due to the warm storms. The silver lining is we’ve started WAY better than the 2018-19 winter. Will this be a repeat of the 2018-19 season? Who knows.
Mt. Hood started off hot in October with over 31 inches of snow falling late in the month, helping make it one of the best early season options for this year. Unfortunately, it was followed by one of the driest Novembers on record for nearly the entire PNW. As you can see below, Whistler has had a VERY bad start to the season. How slow? Record setting low terrain open… only 30% open through the holidays. In fact, even the perennial early season favorite of Mt. Baker didn’t open until December 14th! Luckily, there is substantial snowfall predicted in the coming week that should help restore their snowpack.
Canadian Rockies / Interior BC
Seriously, it always feels like they NEVER have a bad start to a season. BIG snows started in October which helped Lake Louise open a week early on November 1st, and due to the storms continuing to pound well north of the US border, it had the most terrain open in November. While near the US/Canadian border there was a short break in November, the area continued to get hammered with snow. The consistent snowfall helped open nearly all the terrain for the holidays with a base depth of over 4-5 feet. 2019-20 ski season yet again is another shining example of this special place. For those looking for their next ski vacation spot, you may want to consider Revelstoke or Banff.
Just like many other regions in the western half of North America, the Northern Rockies got a decent amount of snowfall in October (40 inches in Grand Targhee), but November was a VERY dry month. Luckily, over two feet fell in Wyoming and Sun Valley with other regions getting about a foot. They continued to get a few minor accumulations helping the Tetons build a 4 foot base and 3 feet farther north. Hopefully, they’ll have some bigger storms roll through to help open the “big boy” terrain.
While the greatest snow on earth is amazing to ski on, it doesn’t help create a snowpack. For example, Snowbird’s 40 inches of October snow shrunk to a minuscule 9 inch base. Fortunately, Thanksgiving provided what Utah skiers & snowboarders wanted – a LOT of pow (nearly 4-6 feet), helping bring the early season base depths to 3-5 feet. Once the snowfall stabilized, it helped the Cottonwoods open a bunch more terrain for the holidays, and they’re now sitting pretty on a 5-6 foot base. The clear winner for the 2019-20 season in Utah is Brian Head with nearly twice as much snow than their normal average.
Northern & Central Colorado
Yet another region that had a record October snowfall. We’re not talking just storm after storm hitting the Rockies, but enough for ski areas like Eldora to have the earliest opening in their history. Unfortunately, most of the snow melted away in November making open terrain through early December well below average. With the help from a few more storms, most of the Colorado resorts were able to open their average amount of terrain for the holidays.
Southern & Western Colorado
The clear winner this early season has to be the southwest. Both Wolf Creek and Monarch were able to open by Nov. 1st on natural snowfall. While they may have lost most of that snow in early November, the storm track was pointed to the Southwest during the third week of November and into early December. With almost 100% open, this area is living high on the hog, especially that another storm dumped 4 feet at Wolf Creek and about 2 feet at other southern areas after Christmas.
Talk about another wild & wacky start for the Northeast. With a big southern cold snap in November, a small ski area in North Carolina by the name of Cataloochee was the 1st to open in the East. There was a mixed bag of precip throughout the early season like a yo-yo with weeks of new snow followed by weeks of rain. After New Year’s though, it seems like the conditions are improving with a foot of new snow.