Snow: A story of haves and have-nots

Brighton, Alta are outpacing the next snowiest non-Utah resorts by more than 100 inches.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Snowboarders try their luck hitching a ride up Big Cottonwood Canyon on on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023. While three resorts in the East have already closed due to poor conditions, Utah is having one of its best seasons ever.

With all the snow Utah’s mountain resorts have gotten this season and more in the forecast, it almost seems as though the ski season will be ceaseless.

One can dream.

Further to the east, however, comes a reminder that seasons like this one — in which several Utah resorts reached the revered 500-inch mark in record time — should be enjoyed while they’re here. Because next season, the mountain bikes might be coming out before March. That’s the case for three resorts, so far.

Cockaigne in upstate New York called it quits on the season on Friday, joining Indiana’s Paoli Peaks and Tennessee’s Ober Mountain, both of which halted operation Wednesday. All three cited lack of snow and warm temperatures for their decision.

The town of Cherry Creek, N.Y., where Cockaigne is located, has only seen 35-37 inches of snow this season, according to a post on the ski area’s website.

“We have also seen a lightening of guest visits especially when the weather is less than ideal,” the post said. “We are not alone in these challenges as most of the East has experienced the same issues.”

Paoli Peaks on its website reported just 13 inches on the season, about half its average according to OntheSnow.com. It had a 6-inch base on Feb. 16, its last snow report. Ober Mountain, meanwhile, gets about 18 inches of snow annually but typically has about a 40-inch base thanks to snowmaking. It measured a 10-20 inch base in its last, undated, snow report, according to Out There Colorado, and was experiencing 64-degree temperatures Friday morning.

On the other side of the spectrum is Utah with its near embarrassment of riches.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

Four of the state’s ski areas boast the most snow in North America this season according to snocountry.com. And despite what is being heralded as “the biggest snow event in decades” laying siege to California on Friday, they are likely to hold onto those crowns for quite some time.

That’s because three of the resorts — Alta Ski Area, Brighton and Snowbird — are the only ones in the United States and Canada to have crested the 500-inch tally, and the fourth, Solitude, is just a storm or two away.

Brighton actually jumped ahead of Alta ahead of this weekend after reporting 45 inches piling up on its slopes between Wednesday and Friday. That gives it a reported 546 inches to date for the season. Alta got 29 inches in the storms and is sitting at 543 inches, the most it’s ever had from October through February, while Snowbird joined the 500 club during Wednesday’s big storm and now sits at 507. Solitude, meanwhile, was the big winner this week with a reported 50 inches of new snow for 484 for the season so far.

The next closest competitors? Alyeska in Alaska and Kirkwood near Lake Tahoe, Calif. Both are reporting 436 inches — more than 100 inches less than Brighton or Alta.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

But wait, there’s more! Or so say the forecasters.

The National Weather Service is calling for more snow Sunday through Tuesday and OpenSnow.com forecaster Evan Thayer said a cold front is expected to be in place for the first week or two of March.

The downside of getting so much snow in a relatively short span, however, is that it increases the avalanche danger. The Utah Avalanche Center said 10 avalanches had been reported Thursday between Ogden and the mountains around Salt Lake City. On Friday it warned that avalanche danger remains considerable at mid to upper elevations.