Alta Ski Area hit a mythical snow total — two days after it closed

Late April storm still counts toward ski area’s seasonal total.

Just because the lifts aren’t turning doesn’t mean ski season is over — or that the snow will stop falling.

Two days after Alta Ski Area turned the lights out on its epic 2022-23 ski season Sunday, the resort hit a season snowfall total that prior to this year would have been considered mythical:

Nine hundred and one inches.

For context, 901 inches is a 61% increase over the resort’s average snowfall of 547 inches of snow in a season — which still ranks among the top three highest average snowfall totals in North America.

Alta’s totals have ventured into the 700-inch realm four times since it became a ski area in 1939. In its previous best season, 1981-82, it topped out at 748 inches. It had that much this season by March 25. In the month since then, it has gotten 153 more inches of powder. That’s more than three Utah resorts saw all of last season.

Nine hundred inches isn’t a world record — that belongs to Mount Baker, which according to the forecasting site On the Snow got 1,140 inches during the 1998-99 season. But before this season, that number seemed fantastical.

“I never thought we would see 900 inches in a season,” general manager Mike Maughan said Monday night, after a 2-inch dusting brought the resort’s total to 896 inches. “We have four years when we’ve had over 700 inches, and they’re all kind of packed in there from 748 to 702. So, you know, we thought if we had a stellar year sometime maybe we’d make 760 or 750 or something. But blowing through the 700s into the 800s and now approaching the 900s is quite astounding.”

An additional five inches overnight lifted Alta over that milestone. Solitude also hit a benchmark behind the brief storm, cresting the 800-inch mark Tuesday. Brighton reported 10 inches between Monday and Tuesday to take it to 878 inches this season and Snowbird now sits at 828 inches with no closing date in site.

Alta saw 800 inches for the first time during a record March that dropped 229 total inches — or about 165% of the previous most snow for that month. When the ski area got 60 inches within a couple of days at the start of April and chairlifts began to drag on the ground and plows ran out of places to put the snow, Maughan said he started to wonder if it really is possible to have too much of a good thing.

“That amount coming in the month of March,” Maughan said, “was really challenging to stay on top of.”

The weary workforce made it to the finish line, though, wrapping up the actual season with 894 inches. Yet while the season is technically done, the count is not.

Maughan said the resort traditionally includes any snowfall it gets through the end of April in its seasonal total. On the front end, the season starts on opening day, Maughan said, but also includes any snow that is already on the ground and could be considered part of Alta’s snowpack.

The next snow storm on the horizon — and yes, there is another one — is not expected to drop in until the beginning of May, however. So Alta basically got into the 900 club by the skin of its skis.

Speaking of which, Maughan said the second season — when the resort becomes the exclusive playground of backcountry skiers and splitboarders — could start as soon as this weekend. He said he hopes to have Alta open for uphill travel by then.

Maughan, meanwhile, is taking a few days post-closure to reflect on this season and mourn its end. Soon, he said, he will be looking forward to next season. It probably won’t compare to this one, but he would be just as happy if nature took a few hundred inches off the top.

“I told my employee that this was an awesome year for us snow-wise and [that I] appreciate everybody’s efforts. [It took] a lot of hard work” to keep the ski area operating, Maughan said. “And we’re hoping for another great year next year — but maybe just around 700 [inches].”