Think Feet, Not Inches.

Homewood: Monumental snow, lake level.
Credit: Homewood Mountain Resort

“Nevada” (Spanish for “covered in snow”) is back with a vengeance at the end of “Sierra” (“mountain range”) and California’s skiers and ski resorts are jubilant! Since January 1st, the Sierra Nevada has been

Mt. Rose lodge buried.
Credit: Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe

clobbered with one storm after another, and except for one spate of warmer temperatures that brought rain for a couple of days earlier in the month, it’s been nothing but fluffy white stuff ever since—feet of it! This week, it’s experiencing a nice long stretch of cold days and sunny skies that isn’t predicted to end until next Wednesday when another storm rolls in. Last year, many resorts were forced to close off and on because of no snow; this season nearly every Sierra ski area has had to close a couple of days here and there because of too much snow!


January has broken snowfall records across the mountain range.

Northstar shoveler at work.
Credit: Northstar California

The remarkable record-breaking snowfall statistics that Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows has tallied up in the first 23 days of January are typical of many Sierra Nevada ski areas. According to Public Relations Coordinator Sam Kieckhefer, the combined resorts have seen 276 inches (that’s 23 feet or an average of one foot a day!) fall since the month began, easily surpassing the previous record snowfall in a single month (241 inches in March of 2011) since record-keeping began 46 years ago. Its total snowfall since the 2016–17 ski season began—381 inches—is more than double the average for this point in the season.

This jubilant tale is being repeated throughout the Sierra, from Mt. Shasta in the north to Southern California’s cluster of Big Bear Mountain ski areas. Like Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, many ski resorts in the northern and Central Sierra are reporting record-breaking total snowfall amounts to date averaging around 380 inches. Mt. Rose over the hill from Tahoe in Nevada has a season-to-date total at 412 inches and Sugar Bowl sitting atop Donner Summit back in California may be able to claim the highest total snowfall to date of 451 inches.

At the top of Crow’s Nest lift
Credit: Sugar Bowl Resort

This latest storm that wrapped up this past Monday added tons of light, fluffy powder to an already impressive snowpack. Dodge Ridge in the Central Sierra, which has often found itself on the short end of the snow stick, had 10 feet of snow fall in just five days, bringing its total January snowfall to 19 feet! Other impressive storm totals were 97 inches at Kirkwood, 88 inches at Heavenly, 94 inches at Northstar, and up to 106 inches at Sugar Bowl. Most ski resorts in northern California currently have top-of-the-mountain snowpacks ranging from 150 to 185 inches. Mammoth Mountain in Central California has a upper base of 300 inches and even Homewood Mountain Resort, which sits near the shore of temperature-moderating Lake Tahoe, can lay claim to impressive base figures: lower and upper bases of 77 to 156 inches respectively.

Squaw Valley lift
Credit: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Are the ski resorts happy that Easter—the weekend that most Sierra ski resorts traditionally close—is relatively late this year (April 15th)? You betcha. It’s likely that a good number of them will keep the lifts running well past that date. And, with the exception of 2015–16, which was the first respectable ski season in the Sierra after five years of sparsely covered slopes, thin layers of man-made snow, and some resorts not even opening, skiers and boarders are happy campers, too. Barring a barrage of warm “Pineapple Express” storms emanating from the Hawaiian Islands or the storm door slamming shut, 2016–17 is going to go down as one epic Sierra ski season!


Shovel all the day and nothing moves away. Digging out at Kirkwood resort.
Credit: Kirkwood Mountain Resort

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