Great snow situations could make a ski journey magical. Skiers can weight the percentages of their favor by choosing their locations in accordance to the time of winter.
Two components decide how a ski resort’s snow usually evolves throughout a season: snowfall and geography. Inside of these two parts, nonetheless, exist a number of layers. Here’s how to make sense of them.
Average annual snowfall tends to be the quantity that skiers obsess about greater than another. Yes, it’s necessary. But averages — even these based mostly on 40 years of climate — omit a lot of the related knowledge when it comes to snow.
For occasion, a 350-inch common within the Rockies is extra helpful to skiers than the same common in California’s Sierra. The commonplace deviations of annual snowfall in California and alongside the West Coast are far greater than most of these within the Rockies, which suggests a 350-inch Sierra common normally consists of a number of years of 600-inch winters and some within the 150-inch vary. The feast-or-famine climate patterns imply that it’s much more probably that California’s Heavenly will go three weeks with out snow in contrast with Colorado’s Vail, regardless that the resorts possess annual snowfall averages inside 10 p.c of one another. To be precise, 31 p.c of winter months at Heavenly see fewer than 30 inches of snow, drought-like for out west; at Vail, solely 11 p.c of winter months are so lean.
Standard deviations matter much less when planning spring journeys, because it’s probably that sufficient snow has fallen at that time to fill the slopes. But commonplace deviations are paramount when contemplating early season journeys, when the winter is younger and ski resorts with greater propensities for drought and rain stand greater odds of getting small quantities of terrain open.
Three attributes matter most when it comes to geography and snow: slope points, elevation and latitude.
The route a ski resort’s slopes face performs a serious position in figuring out how properly they protect snow. It’s particularly related from February into the spring, when the solar’s angle within the northern hemisphere goes from indirect to extra direct. The finest mountains for spring snowboarding have good quantities of north-facing terrain, which retains snow shaded and chilly. Conditions at resorts that largely face different instructions can degrade rapidly in any daylight, particularly within the spring.
The different two geographic components that matter most: elevation and latitude. High altitudes see fewer rain occasions and keep colder, preserving snow. California’s Mammoth is a far better bet in the spring than is Squaw Valley, as its base area is 1,753 feet higher. Latitudes farther north help, too, as they receive less direct sunlight and have cooler springs. The best ski resorts further south in North America, for that reason, tend to have high elevations that provide a counterweight to their latitudes: Telluride, Taos, Wolf Creek and Silverton all have in-bounds terrain at or near 12,000 feet.
Those who haven’t booked their trips yet should find a pencil now, as mashing up all these factors helps to determine when to go where.
Some resorts make for great snow bets all season, from the holidays to spring break. These places have large annual snowfall averages, smaller standard deviations and plenty of north-facing terrain: the leaders here are Utah’s Alta, Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude. These spots benefit from the funneling effect of the Wasatch’s Cottonwood Canyons, which squeeze significant amounts of snow out of insignificant weather systems. In Colorado, the most consistent bets across the entire winter are Wolf Creek, Winter Park and Loveland, which all combine high elevations, lots of north aspects and some of the larger snow averages in the state.
Around the holidays
For skiers looking toward the holidays around New Year’s, Colorado’s Steamboat and Wyoming’s Jackson Hole perform well here. These resorts’ smaller amounts of north-facing terrain matter less in the darkest days of winter, and both receive lots of early snow. In the Sierra, where standard deviations are high, Kirkwood and Mammoth provide skiers the best options across the entire winter, including the holidays, to find good snow. Farther up the West Coast, Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor gets steady snowfall and has a good early winter record. In British Columbia, Whistler-Blackcomb, where the low-base elevation has less effect during the coldest time of the year, is a good pick.
For spring trips, Colorado abounds with great options: Telluride, Copper Mountain, Arapahoe Basin, Snowmass, Beaver Creek and Vail combine high elevations and lots of north-facing terrain to keep snow fresh as it gets warm. Breckenridge’s small amount of north-facing terrain is countered by its exceedingly high base elevation of 9,600 feet. In Montana, Big Sky’s northerly latitude and decent amount of north-facing terrain help slopes stay cooler.
Where to Ski in the East
In the east, three ski resorts stand out for their natural snowfall, all of them in Vermont: Jay Peak, whose frequency and quantity of snow would be excellent even in the west; Stowe, whose location on the east shoulder of Mt. Mansfield brings it plenty of snow; and Smugglers’ Notch, just north of Stowe, which has a similar snow profile with more than 60 percent of its terrain facing north. All three are good bets throughout the season.
Around the holidays
In the spring, Sugarloaf’s northerly Maine latitude and its north-facing terrain — 70 percent of the resort — make it a plum pick. Maine’s Sunday River is also a good spring option, with 50 percent of terrain facing north. Just to the northwest of Killington in Vermont sits the smaller Pico Mountain, which receives similar amounts of snow, but features 85 percent north-facing terrain at a high-for-the-east base elevation of 2,000 feet, making it an elite preserver of snow.
Christopher Steiner is the founder of ZRankings.com, which uses data, including those from Bestsnow.net, to score ski resorts based on their snow history, terrain and preservation characteristics. He has written two books and was a staff writer at the Chicago Tribune and Forbes magazine.