Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Eastern Powder: Add Snow Ridge to the List

Whenever I need material for a blog post, I find it helpful to turn to Unofficial Networks for either a bogus seasonal forecast or a top-10 list that I can quibble with.

Todays offering, served up via Twitter, is their top-10 list for scoring powder in the east.

Truth be told, there's not too much to complain about the resorts on this list, although I'm not sure I would have picked Whiteface, even though I loved skiing there as a kid.  It was nice to see Plattekill make the list as back in the day I provided forecasts for them and found it to be a nice family run place with decent snow by eastern standards.  

There is, however, one very important omission, and that is Snow Ridge Ski Area.  Snow Ridge is on the Tug Hill Plateau, which is well known for extreme snowfall.  The ski area advertises an average snowfall of 230 inches, and that's probably fairly close to reality.  A nearby climate station in Boonville, New York, averages 210.

Approximately two-thirds of this snowfall is lake effect and typically of high quality and low density.  In fact, the average water content of snow downstream of Lake Ontario is lower than that of Utah.  All snow is not created equal.  In the east, many storms produce heavy or upside-down snowfalls.  Much of what falls at Snow Ridge is high quality (ditto for Mount Bohemia in northern Michigan).

And, if you want to play the odds, the snowfall climatology at Snow Ridge exhibits a pronounced peak in December and January, with average monthly snowfalls of 46 and 52 inches at the nearby Boonville climate station. For comparison, Berthoud Pass, Colorado, a relatively snowy high-altitude pass near Winter Park, averages 51 and 50 in those months.

Oh yes, you can badmouth the limited vertical at Snow Ridge (500 feet), but there's a hill there and some damn good snow.  Let's give Snow Ridge some props!

Snow Ridge Ski Area


  1. Hi Jim,

    I thought this was a very interesting post. However, I do have a question. I did a quick comparison of average snow depth between Boonville and Winter Park via the NWS. What stuck out to me was although they may average roughly the same annual snowfall, their snow depths differ quite greatly. Since 1975 Boonville's average winter (Dec, Jan, Feb) snow depth was 18.3 inches while Winter Park's was 27.6 inches. I also noticed that daytime temperatures in Boonville are considerably colder during this time than Winter Park. I figured the lower snow depths would be due to the snow density in the East, but after reading your post is there another factor that I'm missing?


    1. Tough to say how good that snow depth data is, but there is a fundamental difference in the snow climate of the two regions and that is rain and humidity, both of which conspire to cause mid-winter melt events in Boonville.

    2. Okay, that makes sense. Thank you for your response.

  2. Could snowmaking make the difference? Are they measuring on the mountain at Winter Park?

    1. Typically National Weather Service cooperative observations are collected in areas not influenced by snowmaking.

  3. Also, crazy as it sounds, the band of lake effect north to south is quite narrow. So Boonville, only 10 miles south of SR, can get 10 inches overnight while Turin gets 18. /homesick but waiting for UT pow with vertical!

  4. Rain and poor snow preservation from low altitude and high humidity degrade eastern vs. western snow depths even whebn snowfall is abundant.

    There are a few other places omitted on that list in the East that get 200+ inches:
    Le Massif
    Maybe Wildcat
    all of these have 2,000+ vertical

    Mont Sutton a few miles north of jay Peak
    Probably the Saguenay areas Le Valinouet and Mont Edouard
    These 3 are over 1,000 vertical.

    Whiteface is under 200 inches
    I see the rationale for Plattekill being open only 3 days per week though snowfall is under 200, and probably under the 175 quoted.

    Killington owns Pico but it's open only 5 days per week. If Plattekill is on the list, Pico should be also.

    Considering all of the above areas, it's a close call whether to include Snow Ridge with its 500 vertical.

    I know Jim spent some time there studying lake effect. But the Keweenaw/Mt. Bohemia area in UP Michigan has more lake effect from a bigger lake, so that's where I'd recommend studying lake effect. There or Japan.