Jackson Hole Mountain Resort recorded 593 inches of snow last winter – or more than 49 feet. It was the most ever documented in the Rendezvous Bowl in the resort’s 51-year history.
Pinedale saw just short of 165 inches of snow from October through May, blowing past the previous winter’s record of 137.5 inches.
The throttle of winter storms killed wildlife and paralyzed roadways. But mountain resorts? They loved it.
“The deep base depths have changed the way the mountain has skied,” according to a resort blog entry from April. “Notable cliffs in Cheyenne Bowl completely disappeared. The right side entrance of Corbet’s Couloir became almost as common an entrance as the traditional left side “goat path.” Our grooming team was able to groom terrain like never before.”
Forecasters couldn’t have predicted those kinds of epic systems, said Chris Jones, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Riverton. They can say if a winter will be above or below average for precipitation or temperature, but there’s no way to know months in advance if an individual storm will drop an inch of snow or a foot.
Last winter was a strong La Nina pattern, which means, in general, more snow and colder temperatures in the northern part of the state and warmer temperatures in the southwest corner.
This winter, Jones said, is also a La Nina.
“When you’re getting into a weak La Nina or weak El Nino, it’s not a slam dunk, but this is the pattern we usually see,” he said. “It is shaping up precipitation-wise across the northern third of the state to be a better than average chance of above normal precipitation.”
And it’s off to a good start in the northwest mountains. As of Wednesday, 118 inches of snow had already fallen on Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Social media feeds were filled with people snowmobiling on Togwotee Pass and trudging through knee-deep snow near chair lifts.
Outside of the snowy northwest corner and warmer and drier southwest corner, the rest of the state is a little less clear, Jones said. National meteorologists are predicting equal parts above, below or near normal precipitation.
Once March hits, the La Nina pattern is supposed to quickly fade and the above normal chances of precipitation will also leave.
“Just because this is the way it should be, doesn’t mean it will be,” Jones added Tuesday afternoon. “There’s a 50 percent or better chance of above normal temperatures across most of Wyoming that would put us into early December. Right now the pattern is shaping up into the first week of December to be drier. The first start won’t be all that wet.”
What’s coming for the rest of winter, particularly through the central and eastern parts of the state, is anyone’s guess.