Who got the most snow in North America in 2015-16?
Guest feature by Tony Crocker, 9 September 2016
2015-16 had average snowfall in western North America, but the season was qualitatively good because western snowfall before New Year's was 125% of normal, with no below average regions. The drier months in the West were February and April.
Eastern North America had its worst snowfall season on record and thus had its lowest skier visits in 35 years. Conversely skier visits in the US Rocky Mountain resorts were at a record high.
Overall, North America ski area snowfall was 94% of normal.
Colorado's Front Range resorts had 103% of normal snowfall, with consistent snow the entire season, except for a dip in February. Leading areas were Steamboat with 10.4m (110%), Winter Park with 9.1m (103%), and Vail with 8.7m (95%). A-Basin saw 7.6m (94%) and closed on 12 June. Aspen had 6.5m (101%).
The Southwest had an excellent first half of the season but was severely dry from early February to late March. Overall, it was 95% of normal. Taos had 6.5m (98%), while Wolf Creek led the region with 10.7m (109%).
Utah snowfall was 92% of normal. While it missed some of the early season storms, 2m of mid-December snow got most terrain open by Christmas. January was above average, February far below average and the late season close to normal.
Park City had 7.6m (105%), while Alta (as usual) had the most snow between November and April, with 11.1m (84%). Snowbird remained open through May and got another metre of snow, totaling 11.5m (91%).
California snowfall was 97% of normal, welcome after the prior four lean seasons. There was snow every week from November through January, but only one modest storm during February.
After a 1+ metre storm mid-March, spring snowfall was below average. Squaw Valley had 9.5m (110%) while Heavenly had 8.6m (101%). Kirkwood led the region with 11.6m (101%). Mammoth had 9.1m (102%) and kept a couple of runs open until 4 July.
US Northern Rockies
The US Northern Rockies had 96% of normal snowfall. The first half of the season was strongest, especially in Idaho, while February and April were unusually warm and dry.
The Northeast had a record low 56% of normal snowfall in 2015-16. The entire season was also plagued by excessive rain and thaw, so the natural snow base in most places never exceeded 60cm.
Only a handful of New England areas reached full operation and, in those cases, for only a couple of weeks mid-season. All Vermont areas saw record low snowfall, including Jay Peak (4.2m, 51%), Stowe (4.0m, 51%), Killington (2.1m, 31%) and Stratton (1.5m, 31%).
Further north in Eastern Canada, more of the storms in February/March were snow instead of rain. Thus Le Massif, Quebec led the Northeast in snowfall with 5.3m (90%). Surprisingly, Killington stockpiled enough man-made snow on its Superstar moguls to stay open into late May.
Interior Western Canada
Interior Western Canada was the strongest region for most of the season, particularly in November and February, and December/January had above average snow like most of the West. The region was overall 116% of normal at the end of March, but ended up at 104% after a record warm and dry April.
The Pacific Northwest was slightly above average at 105%. November was decent at Whistler, but below average further south. December was huge, with 3-5m of snowfall throughout the region.
January and February had intermittent low elevation rain, but frequent enough snow for good skiing most of the time. After 2+ metres during the first half of March, snowfall tailed off and April was extremely warm and dry.
Whistler had 12.3m (117%) and Mt. Bachelor 10.4m (107%). Alyeska had huge snow up high, excessive rain at its base and 10.5m (83%) mid-mountain. Mt. Baker led North America in snowfall with 15.8m (97%).
Tony Crocker is an award-winning snow-sports journalist
and founder of www.bestsnow.net - the definitive guide to weather
and snowfall patterns in North American Ski resorts.
Read more about him here