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16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:28 am
by q
Well my annual trip is over for another year so thought I would start the thread.

Discovery - 35
Non Ski Days - 4(1 day in 4/6 weekends in Montana)

Almost right up to my arrival the skiing on Limelight had at best been sketchy. A series of weather events meant they struggled to get a settled base. However, this changed in the last week or two in February and by the time I arrived to ski on March 2nd the coverage while not epic was certainly very good and remained so through our closing day on April 9th.

We had the usual mix of conditions, hardpack, freeze/thaw, powder with only 1 day that I can recall where it wasn't much fun skiing Limelight.

The trip was a real rollercoaster. I helped haul one of our patroller friends out of Limelight after he had a double break to his left leg, I came 3rd in the 40-49 men's Discovery Open ski race and have my medal to prove it \:D/ , I was invited to the end of season ski patrol party, I met and chatted over beers to ex governor Brian Schweitzer which was hugely enjoyable as well as many other highs and a few lows along the way.

I'm already planning for 2018 with a second visit in November 2018 to hunt and hopefully catch opening day at Discovery for the 2018-2019 season.

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:27 am
by Tony Crocker
Montana east of the Continental Divide was one of the few subpar western regions in 2016-17, particularly in early season. The only in season data I track in that region is Bridger Bowl. Bridger was 71% of normal as of Feb. 15 and got 5 feet during the rest of the month to jump to 91% Feb. 28. This corresponds well to q's comment about Discovery. Bridger fell back to 82% by the end of March. This would have been a good year for q to wander around toward the end of his trip as he has done some other seasons. As of the end of March, the West overall was 125% and Utah was 123%. Not too far away from q were Sun Valley, one of the standouts at 177%, and Whitefish at 137%.

2016-17 is very likely to be the second highest overall snowfall season in North America's ski areas to 2010-11. For various reasons (the handful of subregions that got off to a slow start being one of them) it was not necessarily as good qualitatively as 1981-82, 1996-97 and 2007-08, but it's still excellent in historical context.

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:09 am
by jamesdeluxe
18 Days
1 St. Luc/Chandolin, CH
1 Vercorin, CH
1 Anzère, CH
1 Evolène/Arolla, CH
1 Nax, CH
1 Thollon les Mémises, FR
1 Grimentz, CH
1 Zinal, CH
1 Loveland, CO
1 Ski Cooper, CO
1 Arapahoe Basin, CO
1 Crested Butte, CO
1 Monarch, CO
3 Camelback, PA
1 Montage, PA
1 Plattekill, NY

A literal last-minute cancellation of a late-January trip to eastern Switzerland -- while checking in my luggage at the airport, I discovered that you aren't allowed to travel to most countries by air with less than three months on your passport -- caused me to end up with only 18 ski days this season instead of the usual mid-20s. In short, two quick visits to Colorado, one to the Valais region in western Switzerland, and a few days in the Poconos and Catskills.


PostPosted: Thu May 04, 2017 9:01 am
by coldsmoke
73 Days

63 - Big Sky - Solid season except for 2 warm weekends in March, last 3 weeks of the season were excellent.
5 - Grand Targhee - 3 different trips in January, March and April, all very good conditions with 3 powder days.
2 - Great Divide - Recorded the most snow in 20 years, had two excellent mid-week powder days.
1 - Jackson Hole - The day after a 30+ inch storm cycle ended in January, very nice. Skid every lift at least once with 3 tram runs.
1 - Discovery - Bulletproof on every aspect in February. Especially disappointing after skiing nice winter snow the day before at Big Sky.
1 - Backcountry

The kid skiing Grand Targhee, March 28:

Re: 2016-17

PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 11:44 am
by jamesdeluxe
coldsmoke wrote:Great Divide - Recorded the most snow in 20 years, had two excellent mid-week powder days.

13 years ago on EpicSki, I asked about Great Divide because I hadn't seen any trip reports about it on any forum and was hoping to go there on an upcoming visit (which never happened). It's 2017, and I still haven't seen a report. The recent mention above is as close as it comes. Any additional info or photos, Coldsmoke?

For posterity, here's the question (because the forum linked above will be dead in a few days):
11/9/04 at 9:48am

Can't remember if I've ever posted a query about this place (my search didn't come up with anything), but I've always had my eye on it for some reason... not very big (1,500' vert), and not a ton of snow (150"), and kinda off the beaten path (22 miles north of Helena), but I'll always trade big for small if the place has no crowds, condos, or destination skiers, so I'm intrigued.

No one EVER mentions it (I assume there's a reason); it looks like an Eldora type joint. Has anyone skied there, have pix, or a trip report?

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Sat May 06, 2017 2:40 pm
by Tony Crocker
coldsmoke wrote:Great Divide - Recorded the most snow in 20 years, had two excellent mid-week powder days.

I'm very surprised to hear this. I know zero about Great Divide as a ski area, but its location would imply that like Bridger and Discovery, it was in the drier part of Montana in 2016-17. Big Sky is above average only because it got 85 inches in April, much of that after it closed.

jamesdeluxe wrote:No one EVER mentions it (I assume there's a reason); it looks like an Eldora type joint. Has anyone skied there, have pix, or a trip report?

Relatively dry, continental climate like Discovery, but far below it in terrain quality? I'll hazard a guess better than Eldora though.

JSpin posted this rundown of Montana ski areas from when he lived there: viewtopic.php?f=10&t=3102&p=17807#p17807 Great Divide was one of those he never skied either, but he definitely thinks it's in the dry zone.

West of the Continental Divide was excellent in Montana in 2016-17, as evidenced by 440 inches at Whitefish.

I have about half of the season end snow stats now. With the strong April there is little question in my mind that 2016-17 will be second to 2010-11 in overall North America ski area snowfall. And the easterners aren't going to whine this time judging by the rave comments I got from powderfreak along with Stowe's stats.

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 6:11 am
by jamesdeluxe
Tony Crocker wrote:Big Sky is above average only because it got 85 inches in April, much of that after it closed.

I assume you don't add the snow that came after it closed to the season summary? Thanks for reposting the JSpin link, helpful info.

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Sun May 07, 2017 9:02 pm
by Tony Crocker
My snow data is Nov. 1 to Apr. 30, so that's what I count. Snowfall should be compared on an apples-to-apples basis, not varying by when they happen to be running lifts.

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Mon May 08, 2017 2:33 pm
by coldsmoke
jamesdeluxe wrote:Any additional info or photos, Coldsmoke?

Fun hill when it gets a dump. A lot of the storms this winter came down the spine of the Continental Divide which treated and Great Divide very well. Bridger and Discovery would often miss these storms.The terrain is pretty funky, with no long cruisers or anything really steep, but lots of fun glades and areas like the Big Open that get wind loaded regularly. It operates Wed. - Sun. with all lifts running on Sat. and Sun. The snow preservation is poor as it gets slammed by the wind regularly and its relatively low elevation means warmer temps. If you are traveling through MT though and it is getting snow, it is definitely worth a stop.

This was Feb. 8 in the Big Open:


Tony Crocker wrote:West of the Continental Divide was excellent in Montana in 2016-17, as evidenced by 440 inches at Whitefish.
That is too general of a statement. Whitefish did have a great year with the nearby city of Kalispell breaking its all time Feb. snowfall record. Discovery and Lost Trail were below average with Discovery having a poor season by most accounts.

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 1:09 am
by q
Coldsmoke beat me to a reply.

I've been to Great Divide on several occasions. First time on my first 2002 tour around WA/ID/MT which whetted my appetite for organizing my on trips, skiing all over the USA and of course MT.

I can't really disagree with much of what Coldsmoke has said although my recollection is of reasonable intermediate groomers over on the Wild West lift. I'd also add that for me it seemed that it didn't need much snow to operate as the mountain seemed to be mostly meadow from what I recall on a warm spring day a few years back, that compared to much of Discovery which requires significant snow to ski on the backside.

Coldsmoke is also correct that Great Divide had a banner year. When I arrived at Discovery my buddy Jim was telling me that our large Helena contingent had not been around much this year as conditions at Disco v GD meant staying closer to home was the best option.

Discovery's skier visits were certainly down this year. My buddy works in the Sunshine Station and has the job of counting the lift tickets that are clipped in exchange for free beer/pop and normally they get ~10% of skier visits doing that each season. I think he said they were about 2000 tickets behind this season compared to last so 20000 skier visits less for the hill perhaps.

Discovery having a poor season by most accounts

Discovery had a very poor Nov-mid Feb for certain. From that point on they had a pretty good season which suited me perfectly and is the reason I visit in March. Coverage on the front side through closing day was as good or better than most years and the backside skied extremely well right through closing. Coverage at the bottom of Granite did well to see the season out though.

I was talking on the phone to my buddy Jim last week and we were just saying that in my 6 weeks out there we had very few freeze/thaw cycles which is very unusual for late March/April at Discovery. I skied 1 day on cement on Limelight just because that's where I ski, and maybe a couple days where I skied only on aspects in the direct sunshine. Normally I would factor in many more days of spring conditions but for the most part it was winter conditions with great coverage.

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 6:46 am
by q
I didn't notice Tony's link earlier, this part made me laugh:-

J.Spin wrote:Seems like a rather small (900 vertical) and VERY obscure area stuck out there among the last vestiges of the mountains in the northern part of the state as you head east. I've never met anyone who has skied there. I've never even met anyone that even knows the area exists as far as I'm aware.

Eh, I've been there..... :lol:

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2017 12:41 pm
by jamesdeluxe
Thanks for the debrief on Great Divide, Coldsmoke and q. Hard to believe that no one had written about it on either Epicski or TGR over the years, or maybe my search skills have deteriorated.

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Wed May 10, 2017 11:03 am
by Tony Crocker
My comments about west/east of the Continental Divide were based upon occasional reading of the Montana reporter's posts on OpenSnow. In season the only Montana areas where I check running totals are Whitefish and Bridger and the disparity between those two was huge.

From local input here, it seems the snowfall split was more on a north (high)/south (low) than east/west basis. There's no way anyone not local would have figured this out. Keep moving south and you get to Sun Valley, which had a huge year.

We heard constantly this season about the "SW flow." This explains Brighton considerably exceeding Alta and Jackson being equal to Targhee which are unusual relationships indeed. It also explains Sun Valley. There are many unusual relationships among ski areas within regions in 2016-17, and Montana is another one of those.

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Tue May 23, 2017 1:16 pm
by lono
86 lift serviced days between Dec 1 and April 21.
45 days on the IR.
Whitefish scored big snow for the holidays before a dry (35")January.
Early February brought more powder got us above average.
February 25 thru March 10th was the longest deepest powder cycle since Jan 2008.Everyday was a true 10.
High points on the season. ...

4 new to me areas Mammoth, Tamerack, Brundage and Silver.
Closing weekend at Alta with a 2-4pm romp with Admin. and Tele-Jon.
Blue sky new snow days at both Mammoth and Bachelor made a great season end trip.
I just might buy the MC pass for a UT trip next year.

Re: 16-17 Season Recap

PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2017 4:04 pm
Finally done with my season. Very up and down season in a lot of ways - temps, snowfall, travel... Some great pow days, some great spring days, and lots of getting Jr further up to speed. Surprising length of ski season in months considering how few total ski days involved. But then I wasn't overly interested in Feb and most of March and April when snowfall and temps stunk in Colo. Jr only picked up 16 ski days, partially due to my Canadian trip and because his season long rental is due back in mid April, so not available to ski in the later spring (he's more interested in wearing shorts and playing with friends by then anyway at his age).

A whopping 27 days:

Nov 1
Dec 5
Jan 7
Feb 2
Mar 8
Apr 2
May 2

Eldora 12
Copper 5
Winter Park 2
Fernie 1 <-New to me
Castle 1
Sunshine 1
Norquay 1
Lake Louise 1
Loveland 1
A-Basin 2