Friday, February 2, 2018

Dude, Where's My Winter?

It's groundhog day, which naturally makes me grumpy.  As I tweeted yesterday, one of these is a supercomputer that performs a gazillion calculations to produce life- and property-saving forecasts.  The other is a groundhog.

I don't really understand why a bunch of weird people in Pennsylvania pulling a rodent out of a cage attract so much attention.  Call it fun if you will, but while some play with rodents, I'd rather do it with models.  

It now being February 2nd, I'm coming to the sad realization that Steenburgh winter, the crème de la crème of backcountry skiing in the Wasatch, will not happen once again this year.  Steenburgh winter is that magic period when we have 100 inches or more of natural snowpack and a low angle sun.  It starts when we hit 100 inches on the Collins stake, and it ends on February 10th, declared by me to be the end of the low-angle sun period (some have argued this is too stringent, but we're talking crème de la crème here).

This year, I think it is safe to say that we've had no winter whatsoever.  The Collins stake sits at 58", and that's pretty generous compared to what is on many other aspects and does not reflect the bony lower elevations.   I consider 60" on the Collins stake to be the start of good early season skiing conditions.  We crested that briefly this year, but with settlement have slipped back.  

For entertainment this year, I've been doing a lot of skate skiing, and even that looks to be on life support now (TUNA has called a temporary hiatus of grooming at Mountain Dell and the Park City area options are once again fading fast).  

On the plus side, we've had some skiing and that's better than none.  Most days I've gone out the skiing has exceeded expectations.  Vacationers seem to be happy at the resorts, consistent with my belief that a bad year at Alta is still better than a good year most anywhere else.

There is one clear exception to that statement.  Japan.  My social media feed from there is killing me. 

I keep trying to convince myself that the powder skiing sometimes isn't as good as it looks in pictures, but it doesn't seem to help.  


  1. How about a post about the epic 2010-2011 season: a ho-hum first half followed by neverending snow in March, April, and May?

    1. For the first half of the 2010-2011 season, a quick and not perfect look at snowfall history from Collins snow data on Alta's website ( shows 132.5" had fallen with 14.66" of 30 Nov 10. As of 1 Feb 11, Alta is reporting 143" and 14.01" of water this season. So we've received less water and ~10" more snow this season when compared to just 31 Oct-30 Nov 10. For further comparison, 1 Feb 11 was up to 322" snowfall and 35.47" of water...which was ~45% of snowfall and ~53% of water for their totals through 30 Apr 11 (723" and 67"). Note those numbers don't include the snowy May. So while the 2nd half of the 10-11 season (well,1 Nov-30 Apr) did have more snow (but less water) than the first half, the 1st half was no slouch and well above average. Let's just hope the 2nd half of our current season looks like any part of 10-11.

    2. That was the first winter I was blogging and it provided an endless stream of topics and ideas. In addition, I skied a ton that year as well, so I was writing frequently of experiences in the mountains. You can relive it by using the blog archive in the right hand column and selecting any year/month of your choice.

      As Ty notes above, 10/11 was a great year for many reasons, but it always helps to have a robust early season snowpack. My view is that snowfall in November and December is far more important than snowfall in March and April.


  2. On this Groundhog Day, I have to admit that we've been experiencing November for the past 3 months. Also, it doesn't really matter what Phil predicts today; the result will be the same. Whether it's 6 more weeks of the winter we've had, or an early Spring, it's going to be warm.

  3. As one of the many folks with water responsibilities, the huge concern now is where we will be in September 2018, with low stream flow driven by minimal snowpack this season. There is some minor early season overhang from last year's bumper pack, maybe, in some places, but a lot of us and the farmers are going to be in a world of hurt.