Monday, April 25, 2016

It Really Wasn't a Very Good Snow Year

Although April 1st is commonly used as a key date for Utah snowpack, in the upper elevation north facing terrain in the Wasatch Range, the peak snowpack water equivalent isn't usually reached until late April.

It's late April now and the results are clear.

It really wasn't a very good snow year.

Oh, you probably had some good skiing.  There were a few good stretches and 2015/16 was certainly better than 2014/15, but if we're interested in snowpack at the end of the snow accumulation season, this year fell well short of par.

Let's take a look at the Snowbird SNOTEL.  Median (magenta line) and average (blue line) snowpack water equivalent both peak in late April at about 44 inches.

In contrast, this year (green line) we peaked around April Fools Day at about 34 inches and subsequently lost several inches of water equivalent due to an early ripening and melting of the snowpack.  April is the new May, at least this year.

What's that you say?  It snowed for Alta's closing day?  Perhaps, but that barely put a dent into the snowpack demise.  This week we may get a bit more snow, but we are about 15 inches below average, and that's a lot.  There won't be any making that up this year.

Be sure to take out your frustrations on all those people predicting a huge snow season because of the Super El Nino.


  1. I believe the air quality was overall better. I don't think the 2 are necessarily connected unless we get one of those long cold periods after storm. I'm not a skier, but I missed the storms!

  2. Ouch... The warmth in April really hurts the Backcountry skiing especially. I was wondering why this April felt so different and you just hit it. The warmth means a lot fewer late season places to ski and gives us a wet deep slab danger associated with a melting snowpack that usually waits until May on north facing aspects.

    I'll give the backcountry this year a C grade with a B- being the mean (but still a lot of fun) and the resort skiing a C+/B-.