2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

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2010-11: The Greatest Natural Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Jun 29, 2011 11:49 pm

I finished compiling this year's snow stats with the usual results published here:
http://bestsnow.net/seas11.htm and http://bestsnow.net/summ11.htm

A historical comparison leads to the conclusion that 2010-11 was the overall top snowfall season in North America in my records, which are fairly extensive back to 1975-76 and scattered for a few seasons before that:
snowtrend.JPG

There is a clear margin of superiority at 128% overall vs. the next best 3 seasons: 119% in 1981-82, 117% in 2007-08 and 116% in 1996-97. 2010-11 was the #1 season for Northern and Central Colorado, #2 for California and #3 for Utah. It's also the only season with more than 4 regions over 120%. 18% of areas had record snowfall and only 16% were below average.

The preliminary Kottke Report published last month says 2010-11 is the best snow year in the 20 that they have been tracking. Their measure is different, in that they are U.S. only and count Midwest and Southeast resorts, while I ignore those but include Canada. Their regional definitions are driven by skier visits while mine are driven by distinct geographic regions in terms of snowfall patterns. I weight areas equally within region and the 8 regions equally for the total.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:26 am

What about northern New Mexico and Arizona? I don't see them in your table. Didn't they have subpar seasons due to the strong La Nina?
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby Geoff » Thu Jun 30, 2011 5:50 am

As Tip O'Neil said, "All politics is local". 102% and a May 1 closing with everything non-snowmaking melted out.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Jun 30, 2011 9:57 am

jamesdeluxe wrote:What about northern New Mexico and Arizona? I don't see them in your table.

Arizona Snowbowl was 93% and is part of the California group. New Mexico and Alaska were the only western subregions that were bad. Taos is one of 6 areas in the Southern and Western Colorado rating of 114%. All of the others were above average, with Gothic and Crested Butte being very high. I think a 1/6 weight for New Mexico within that region (extends as far north as Aspen) in terms of national skier interest is about right, though that weight is determined by where I can get data more than by my subjective opinion of importance. Alyeska's 69% season had a 1/9 weight in the Pacific Northwest total. Everyone else from Whistler through Crater Lake was huge this year.

jamesdeluxe wrote:Didn't they have subpar seasons due to the strong La Nina?

La Nina is a bias, not a guarantee. Over the long term Southern California, Arizona and Brian Head are more sensitive to El Nino/La Nina than New Mexico is, and those places were all close to average in 2010-11. The 2007-08 La Nina was quite strong also and Taos was 118% then.

Geoff wrote:As Tip O'Neil said, "All politics is local". 102% and a May 1 closing with everything non-snowmaking melted out.

May 1 means Killington, which is very local. :lol: There was extensive lift served skiing until May 9 at Sugarloaf, and qualitatively the overall eastern season was better than that 102% would imply. As evidenced by this updated page: http://bestsnow.net/vrmthist.htm

My subjectivity is mainly in the region definition. The Northeast is 1/4 of skier visits but 1/8 of my weighting. My interest is tracking areas which have some national interest and in particular where natural snowfall has key importance in the quality of the ski season. This is true in upper New England and Vermont in particular. In southern New England, MASH, the Laurentians, the Southeast and the Midwest average natural snowfall is in the 100 inch range and skiing quality is driven mainly by temperatures/snowmaking. Is it relevant for a national ski area snowfall average if Hunter or Tremblant get 170 inches vs. normal 120? Or if some Midwest molehill gets 90 instead of 60? The same argument can be made for Big Bear, but I use one number for all of SoCal (which includes natural snow dependent Baldy and Waterman) and that number has a 1/13 weighting in the California total along with another 1/13 for Arizona Snowbowl and the rest for 11 locations in the Sierra Nevada.

I have no claim to a perfect model here, so I'm willing to entertain suggestions for improvement. But for the avid skier market, as represented on ski forums, Powder magazine subscribers (for whom the model was first constructed in 1995) etc. I think I'm providing a definition that reflects what's important to them.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby EMSC » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:35 am

Tony,

Do you have an easy to see table that lists the specific resorts representing each region in that table? It might help to see that to correlate it to the regional numbers. Or is that easily findable on your season snowfall tracking page?
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Jun 30, 2011 1:11 pm

They are the resorts listed on http://summ11.htm with complete season data on the left. Regional defintions:
California includes Nevada and Arizona
Pacific Northwest is Oregon, Washington, Whistler and Alaska
Interior Canada is Alberta and non-coastal British Columbia
US Northern Rockies is Idaho, Montana and Wyoming
Utah includes Brian Head as well as the Wasatch areas
Northern and Central Colorado is the I-70 corridor west to Beaver Creek plus Winter Park and Steamboat
Southern and Western Colorado is the rest of the state plus Taos
Northeast includes Whiteface, Le Massif and Snowshoe as well as New England areas

The regional historical tables referenced in the frame on my home page lists that areas within each region. I have some data for 102 locations but only 80 areas reported in 2010-11 and 70 of those were used to compile the regional averages.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby berkshireskier » Thu Jun 30, 2011 2:38 pm

If these are the results of global warming and climate change, bring it on !!! :stir:
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby riverc0il » Thu Jun 30, 2011 2:46 pm

Certainly not for the northeast by a long shot. Good year overall but I certainly won't remember it for epic powder or frequent snow storms. Just for its consistency and lack of thaws.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby rfarren » Thu Jun 30, 2011 9:01 pm

riverc0il wrote:just for its consistency and lack of thaws.

Which is huge. That means snow remains snow after it has fallen. For much of the Metropolitan population who's work schedules dictate their ski days, that's far more important than huge storms. It's fairly meaningless to a huge segment of the NE market when it snows 40 inches on wednesday, especially if on friday it rains 1/4 of an inch and is followed by 2 inches of pixie dust.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby riverc0il » Thu Jun 30, 2011 9:18 pm

rfarren wrote:
riverc0il wrote:just for its consistency and lack of thaws.

Which is huge. That means snow remains snow after it has fallen. For much of the Metropolitan population who's work schedules dictate their ski days, that's far more important than huge storms. It's fairly meaningless to a huge segment of the NE market when it snows 40 inches on wednesday, especially if on friday it rains 1/4 of an inch and is followed by 2 inches of pixie dust.

But just because consistency works best for metro population skiers does not a great snow year make. Big difference between great snow and consistent snow. I certainly don't think Tony's misplaced nationwide greatest snow of our lifetimes would apply if the west had the consistent season we had rather than the huge totals. But Tony's measurements for the east do favor rfarren's suggestion, that of consistently having high percentage of terrain open with reasonably good conditions. Tony's measurements certainly don't count the epic Wednesday 2 footer that is washed out by the weekend. But some of my best seasons are likely not great in Tony's eastern measurements. So I guess I don't know why I bother knowing this and having gone down that road before.

:snowball fight:
--Steve

TheSnowWay.com
"Skiing is not a sport, it is a way of life." - Otto Schniebs
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby Admin » Thu Jun 30, 2011 9:26 pm

Consistency doesn't mean jack in most of the West because most western destinations don't depend upon weekend warriors for skier visits.

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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby rfarren » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:07 pm

riverc0il wrote:But just because consistency works best for metro population skiers does not a great snow year make. Big difference between great snow and consistent snow. I certainly don't think Tony's misplaced nationwide greatest snow of our lifetimes would apply if the west had the consistent season we had rather than the huge totals.


Well, I can't disagree with you, as a local a lot of big storms followed by rain would be better. That being said the major difference for out-west is: they don't have the threat of rain. Furthermore, as the Admin pointed out, most areas out west are destination resorts, where the business model isn't based on weekend traffic.

The NE's ski model requires huge numbers from metropolitan areas. It is therefore a reasonable argument to make that having average snowfall, but less than average rain fall makes a superior year as you pointed out:
riverc0il wrote:Tony's measurements for the east do favor rfarren's suggestion, that of consistently having high percentage of terrain open with reasonably good conditions.

It's for that consistency that every year I split my time between out west and EC. I know that the odds are stacked in my favor for solid conditions out west.
riverc0il wrote:Tony's measurements certainly don't count the epic Wednesday 2 footer that is washed out by the weekend. But some of my best seasons are likely not great in Tony's eastern measurements.

Clearly you're correct about that. However, given a Benthamesque prism to look through I would say Tony's rating is reasonable.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby soulskier » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:15 pm

Here in Lake Tahoe, this is the biggest snowpack ever recorded for this time of year. Yesterday we skied the Slide Chutes on Mt Rose, which is unheard for the end of June.
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby rfarren » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:16 pm

soulskier wrote:Here in Lake Tahoe, this is the biggest snowpack ever recorded for this time of year. Yesterday we skied the Slide Chutes on Mt Rose, which is unheard for the end of June.

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berkshireskier wrote:If these are the results of global warming and climate change, bring it on !!! :stir:
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Re: 2010-11: The Greatest Snow Year of Our Lifetimes?

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Jun 30, 2011 10:37 pm

Riverc0il wrote:Tony's measurements certainly don't count the epic Wednesday 2 footer that is washed out by the weekend.

For the exercise in this thread (102% for Northeast) all snowfall from 11/1-4/30 is counted, washed out or not. The vrmthist.htm exercise is what's looking at the weekends, and is probably the more useful exercise for the vast majority like rfarren who are weekend warriors based in the metro areas.

admin wrote:Consistency doesn't mean jack in most of the West because most western destinations don't depend upon weekend warriors for skier visits.

Actually consistency is what makes a viable destination resort in the first place. I don't many people are willing to shell out $1,000's in advance air, lodging and lift commitments if there's a significant chance that it will rain during the week before they arrive and wreck their trip. This is what makes Colorado so attractive to vacationers while Seattle is probably better for the local powder-chasing type.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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