Just one corner of the boundless playground. (RealSkiers)
Every day I get the chance to ski is better than a day I don't.
Nearly a foot of snow came down Monday at Alta Ski Area in Utah, and they are loving the forecast with more snow in the cards at the end of this week. (Alta /Facebook)
We turn the calendar into April in this week’s SnoCountry SnoCast. There’s still plenty of great skiing and riding to be had, with more snow in the forecast.
In this week’s outlook, I’ve got my eyes on a large storm system that will impact all areas from the Great Lakes to Northeast Friday-Saturday (March 31-April1) that will no doubt leave some bullseyes of deep snow in parts of New England and Quebec. In the West, a storm system drops in from British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest Thursday, before spreading inward by the weekend. Here’s what to expect by region for March 29 - April 3.
Eastern U.S. / Midwest: In the Northeast and Midwest, March is sure to go out “like a lion," as they say. A storm system/low pressure will track from Missouri on Thursday, east-northeastward, eventually scooting off the Southern New England coast by Saturday. On the northern side of this storm system, a swath of snow will fall from Eastern Wisconsin, to Central/Northern Michigan, then eventually spreading over parts of New York and New England. There is some discrepancy among weather models by the time this system reaches New York and New England. The trusty GFS (American) and European models disagree on exact placement of heaviest snow once the storm reaches the northeast. 3-6” is a “safe” forecast for now for most of the lower Adirondack slopes, southern Vermont and the southern White Mountains in New Hampshire, with nearly 10” in far southern Vermont and Massachusetts’ Berkshires. That forecast is more in line with the GFS.
The European is hinting at the system being a bit farther north, which would bring more widespread 6”+ amounts in the areas I just mentioned, and also spread farther north to cover more areas of northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine with snow. Given that difference, it’s important to check the forecast as the time gets nearer to seek out the deepest snow for your Friday/weekend ventures to the slopes. If I had to pick some early best bets, I’d say you can’t go wrong with some central and southern Vermont mountains, and even western Massachusetts Berkshire mountains by Saturday first chair. But again, keep an eye on that forecast because the storm can shift by the weekend.
Western U.S.: The Western U.S. gets another system or two this week as energy moves into the Pacific Northwest Thursday, then eventually spreads inward by the weekend. This will mean more snow over nearly all of the higher mountains to finish March and start April. Look for anywhere from 4-9” for the Washington and Oregon Cascades, all mountains of Idaho (5-10"), and northwest Wyoming through Thursday. Then, look for new snow, probably higher totals, 6-12”, widespread for Utah’s Wasatch and Uinta Mtns, Wyoming and Colorado Rockies from Friday-Saturday. Locally higher totals will likely be squeezed out at the higher mountains, with up to 2 feet possible over the Colorado peaks. A good setup for the West into the weekend. Use caution, though, for those venturing into the Cascades. I do see high risk of avalanches after recent temperature fluxuations and wind. Ski areas typically maintain and control avalanche danger, but caution for those who seek out the backcountry.
Now remember, what I've shown you in images is a computer forecast model. There always needs to be some human interjection to make a good forecast. Thats what I do! And also what the National Weather Service does. Here's a look at the actual forecast snowfall totals from the National Weather Service. This shows through the end of Saturday, April 1. No joke!
Canada: Plenty of new snow opportunities in Canada this week. The same storm I mentioned in the Midwest/Northeast section will bring fresh snow to our Eastern Canada mountains in Quebec and Ontario Friday-Saturday. Again, depending on storm track, forecast amounts may vary by the weekend. Generally, 5 – 10 cm looks achievable, with locally higher amounts if the storm sneaks a little farther north. Just enough to soften up the trails. In Western Canada, a storm system brings ample mountain snow Thursday (March 30). Many ski areas in British Columbia and Alberta will squeeze out 20-40cm from Thursday-Friday. Enjoy that!
That's all for this week's SnoCountry SnoCast, skiers and riders. Have a blast with any new snow in your area. As always, I'll catch you next Wednesday for the next edition of SnoCast right here on SnoCountry.com.
Special thanks to Lyndon State College student forecasters Amanda Stone, Scott Myerson, and Christopher Kurdek for their weekly contributions and forecasts.
Snowbasin joins The Mountain Collective. (Snowbasin Facebook)
Sugarbush, Vermont and Snowbasin, Utah have joined The Mountain Collective for the 2017-18 season, bringing the pass alliance count to 16 resorts worldwide, with more than 51,306 acres of terrain, 2,517 trails and 458 lifts.
A limited number of Mountain Collective passes are on sale for $399.
Also new for the 2017-18 season, Alta and Snowbird in the Salt Lake City area, and Banff Sunshine and Lake Louise in the Banff National Park area will be considered as separate and distinct destinations, providing passholders with two days at each and unlimited 50 percent off days with no blackouts.
The dividing of the destinations along with the addition of Snowbasin and Sugarbush brings the total ski days available from full partners to 32 days at 16 destinations.
In addition, spring pass purchasers receive one bonus day at the destination of their choice and two additional days at Global Affiliate Resorts - Valle Nevado, Chile, Hakuba Valley, Japan and Chamonix Mont Blanc, France.
For a limited time, pricing for the kids pass (12 and under) is just $1 for the 2017-2018 season when purchased this spring with an Adult Pass, offering an incredible deal for families.
Sugarbush and Snowbasin join Alta, Aspen Snowmass, Banff Sunshine, Coronet Peak – The Remarkables, Jackson Hole, Lake Louise, Mammoth, Revelstoke, Snowbird, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Sun Valley, Taos, Telluride and Thredbo.
“We are delighted to join the Mountain Collective, and feel that it is a great fit for Sugarbush,” says Win Smith, President and majority owner of Sugarbush. “The Collective brings together the best independently-owned ski resorts across the country—and some abroad—and offers a terrific pass product, as well as benefits for each mountain’s passholders and staff. We are honored to be in the company of these well-respected mountains and are excited to offer these additional benefits to our Sugarbush community. I have personally skied at many of the Mountain Collective resorts and consider them among my favorites.”
“Snowbasin Resort is honored to join the Mountain Collective family,” says John Loomis, Snowbasin resort general manager. “The Mountain Collective offers skiers and riders the opportunity to enjoy the finest mountain resorts in the world. Snowbasin Resort, home to the speed events in the 2002 Winter Games, is proud to add to the opportunities for passholders.”
Nighttime in Alta, with Salt Lake City down the canyon. (Alta/Facebook)
Just by its name -- Alta Ski Area – you can tell that you’re skiing “old school.” The famed powder mountain is one of the oldest in the country, opening in 1939, and much is the same today. Don’t bring your snowboard: Alta’s one of three resorts that prohibit knuckle-draggers. But do bring goggles, powder suits and perhaps a snorkel for, typically, the Alta gets 500-plus inches.
Terrain. Alta is two cirques side by side. The front under 11,000-foot Mt. Baldy rolls gently down the middle. But get up on the sides, and that’s where Alta really speaks to you. Be ready for lots of traversing to get to iconic Sunspot or High Rustler skier’s right or Ballroom to the left off Collins high-speed. Take Wildcat chair for a trip up into Alta’s original trail – and peek over into Snowbird. Or traverse over to the backside for an array of wide-open slopes in Greeley Bowl, the gnarly drops off Supreme lift, or the only greens on the hill -- gentle long cruisers all the way to the base.
Tickets. Used to be cheapest day ticket around, but now at full retail of $96. Online, reloads and multi-days cut prices. Alta is in the Mountain Collective, also has combo with Snowbird. Beginners get late-afternoon deal for novice-only tickets for Albion lift.
Ski School. Alf Engen Ski School among nation’s best, especially for powder skiing. Alta Lodge hosts renowned multi-day “performance ski camps.”
Eat. Basic skier’s fare on the hill at Watson’s Shelter on the front, and Alf’s Lodge on the back. Down below, the same during the day, but the fondu flames fire up every evening at lodges.
Lodging. Three classics await -- Alta Lodge, Peruvian Lodge, Rustler Lodge – with European cuisine, cozy rooms and steins of beer. Goldminer’s and Snowpine a bit newer but also compact. A limited number of condos and townhouses up near the mountain. Down below, town of Sandy is full of VRBO’s and motels.
Transportation. The airport-to-lift trip is the quickest in country. Utah encourages taking a bus up Little Cottonwood rather than fight the traffic, which can be monumental if it’s snowing. Shuttles run regularly back down to town and nonstop to the airport. Parking’s cheek-to-jowl around the base (no lot shuttles).
Insider Tips: You want challenge? Head skier’s left off Wildcat and stick near the boundary rope. All it does is get steeper, cliff-ier and longer the farther you go. Want to miss crowds? Stay overnight and hope the access road is closed by avalanche.
It'll be skiers only at Alta Ski Area after latest ruling from federal court. (Alta)
A final round of appeals by a group seeking to force Alta Ski Area to admit snowboarders has failed, leaving the Utah resort as one of three U.S. mountains that only skiers can enjoy.
All across ski nation, winter mountain resorts are devising ways to grow the sport by keeping kids and beginners coming back to the slopes. Utah is no exception.
The pre-World War II years were halcyon days for the ski industry in the American West, with more than two dozen iconic ski areas firing up their lifts for the first time – including Alta Ski Area in 1938.
It's official. The season - at least in Utah - is going down as the warmest and driest on record. According to the National Weather Service, temps were consistently 7 to 13 degrees above normal from December to March; and that news comes on top of the reports that our nation’s winter overall was the 19th-warmest in the last 120 years.
Conversations have begun in earnest to figure out how to more efficiently connect Salt Lake City with seven of Utah’s ski and snowboard resorts -- and reduce environmental impact at the same time.