Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Snowpack Status

It's early in the season, but I thought we could take a quick peak at the western US snowpack .  Technically, this is through 11 December so that I could use many of the State of California snow measurement systems to get a more complete picture of the Sierra snowpack.

Then again, maybe I shouldn't have done that since things are fairly dismal in the Sierra Nevada.  The snowpack in the Sierra sits at less than 50% of median.  It gets worse the farther south you go.      

Source: NRCS

Most of the Cascade Mountain basins are below median.  If you look carefully, there are a small number of stations that are well above median.  Curiously, these are low elevation sites that don't always have much of a snowpack.  For example, the Pepper Creek SNOTEL in southwest Washington was at 300% of median on December 11th, which sounds fat, but in reality, they had only 1.4 inches of snowpack water equivalent.  Thus, the percentage relative to median at these sites doesn't really tell you much.  You wouldn't ski there anyway.  

Below median snowpacks also extend inland across the Pacific Northwest and across Montana.  

The healthiest snowpacks relative to median are in the Great Basin, including portions of Nevada and eastern Oregon and the eastern Great Basin in...wait for it...northern Utah!  The Lower Bear Basin sits at 151% of median and the Weber Basin at 130% of median.  Hooray.  There a a few stations in this area over the coveted 10" snowpack water equivalent mark indicative of what I consider to be a good early season snowpack for skiing including Tony Grove Lake and USU Doc Daniel in the Bear River Range and Ben Lomond Peak, Farmington, Snowbird, and Atwater in the Wasatch Range.  

The fattest snowpack at any SNOTEL site in the interior west appears to be Grand Targhee with 13.1 inches.  This is, however, a bit below median, so it doesn't jump out at you in the map above.  

High altitude areas of central and northern Colorado are running a bit behind median.  The fattest snowpack there is at the Tower SNOTEL in the Park Range north of Steamboat with 11.3 inches.  My friends in Colorado like to tell me how that site is often ahead of Snowbird.  #SkiColorado please.

Utah resorts and skiers should feel fortunate about our current situation.  If there is a negative, it's probably that everyone with an IKON or EPIC pass is rebooking their holiday vacations to come here.  To anyone thinking about doing this, my advice is to go to the northern Alps as they are off to a good start and you can ski bigger mountains and enjoy better food and drink there. 


  1. Jim- vicious (!!) summation regarding the bigger mountains, better food and wine found in Europe. But very true nonetheless.
    Keep up the good work๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ’ฅ

    1. A New Jersey friend who normally spends this upcoming weekend at Solitude is in St. Moritz instead.

  2. Is this map something that I can find to look at later or was it put together by you for your post? Thanks either way!


      You might need to change the date to current.

  3. Try this link for an interactive map:!&states=!&counties=!&hucs=&minElevation=&maxElevation=&elementSelectType=any&activeOnly=true&activeForecastPointsOnly=false&hucLabels=false&hucIdLabels=false&hucParameterLabels=true&stationLabels=&overlays=&hucOverlays=2&basinOpacity=75&basinNoDataOpacity=25&basemapOpacity=100&maskOpacity=0&mode=data&openSections=dataElement,parameter,date,basin,options,elements,location,networks&controlsOpen=true&popup=&popupMulti=&popupBasin=&base=esriNgwm&displayType=station&basinType=6&dataElement=WTEQ&depth=-8&parameter=PCTMED&frequency=DAILY&duration=I&customDuration=&dayPart=E&year=2023&month=12&day=13&monthPart=E&forecastPubMonth=6&forecastPubDay=1&forecastExceedance=50&useMixedPast=true&seqColor=1&divColor=7&scaleType=D&scaleMin=&scaleMax=&referencePeriodType=POR&referenceBegin=1991&referenceEnd=2020&minimumYears=20&hucAssociations=true&lat=40.00&lon=-99.00&zoom=4.0

  4. First trip of the season to the northern Alps was Sat 9 Dec and they were good. Valleys looked better than basically any point last year. Glad both here and Utah are off to decent starts, this disparity last year was almost too much to handle. -Tyler W.