There is a long-held belief among skiers that Western resorts receive more powder during any given year than other parts of the country, and perhaps even the world. Powder dogs head to the Rockies and other western mountain ranges each ski season to test their mettle in mounds of freshly fallen snow, the kind of light powder that can only be experienced in the west. This western snow often has an extremely low water content of only 6% compared to 15% in other parts of the country. The result is an almost effortless feeling when skiing.
True to their reputation, Western ski resorts have experienced banner snowfall this year, with Alta, Utah receiving a whopping 36 feet so far. Other ski resorts have reported their own substantial totals.
REMARK: All snow totals were reported between January 16 and 21.
Alta, Small Cottonwood Canyon, Utah
Known for its abundance of snow and deep snow skiing, Alta has already received 433 inches of snow and appears to be quickly moving towards its annual average of 542 inches. Can they reach their record 2004-05 season when 697.5 inches fell? Time will tell.
China peak, Lakeshore, California
“This year can only be compared to 2011,” says resort operator Tim Cohee. “There have been many big snow years in the resort’s 65-year history, but I don’t think there were more than 2011.” Located just 65 miles northeast of Fresno on scenic Huntington Lake in the Sierra National Forest, the mountain has 1,679 feet of vertical with a base elevation of 7,030 and a peak of just over 8,700 feet.
Sun Valley Resort, Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley, one of the world’s most iconic ski resorts, has received 112 inches of snow so far, bringing smiles to the entire resort. It remains to be seen if they can approach or exceed 2016-2017, a huge season that resulted in 12 feet of total snowfall. True to its name, Sun Valley receives sunshine 80% of the year.
Big sky, Big Sky, Montana
Big Sky has the lowest standard deviation of snowfall (most consistent snowfall) in the northern Rockies, meaning that while other resorts may see significant peaks and valleys, Big Sky’s snowfall tends to remain consistent year after year. To date, the resort has received a total of 164 inches of snowfall this season, which is above the current average of 115 inches. On average, they get 400 centimeters of snow per year.
Purgatory, Durango, Colorado
With 78 inches of snowfall so far this month with forecasts for more on the way, this January in Purgatory was one of the snowiest in recent memory. Recently, Purgatory recently received an additional four inches of snow overnight, bringing the total accumulation this season to 149 inches of snow. The mountain is 100% open with skiing and horseback riding on 105 trails.
Resort Deer Valley, Park City, Utah
Deer Valley is already at 291 inches of snow in the season. Could this be the season where they surpassed 2016/17 when a record 484 inches fell? The three-month total then (November 2016 to January 2017) was 308 inches. “This is an excellent snow season,” said Emily Summers, senior communications manager. “As of January 10, 2023, we had more snow than the total for the entire season for four of the past five years, the 18/19 season being the exception.” That season was their fifth all-time record, finishing at 388 inches.
Beaver Creek, Beaver Creek, Colorado
Beaver Creek has received 178 inches so far, which is currently 128% of the average for the season. The most recent season where they had more than 170 inches of cumulative snow on January 17 was 2008-09, the year the resort recorded 209 cumulative inches on this date. There have been a handful of seasons in the past decade where they had similar cumulative snowfall on January 17: 2016-17 had 157 cumulative inches, 2014-15 had 156 cumulative inches, and 2010-11 had cumulative 154 inches. Since opening in 1980, the year with the most cumulative snowfall is January 17, 1996-97, when 237 cumulative inches covered the slopes. That season ended with a total of 408 inches of snow.