So how is this season stacking up?
I spent the first cup of coffee trying to get a perspective on this season in the Tetons. The best year round source for this data is the Philips Bench SNOTEL located on the east side of Teton Pass, so I paged through the graphs back to 1986 (the year of “The Storm”). Water Years (WY) extend from October 1 of the year before to September 30 of the year that is listed).
Without reading too much from any particular year I was struck by the 30 year median curve. Most SNOTEL’s have a smooth curve of Snow Water Equivalent that ascends to sometime in March/April and then starts to decline. Philips Bench has a couple of notable exceptions. There is a flat line section of the median that reflects a typical snow drought from mid-January to the beginning of February. I’m hoping that our drought is coming a little early this season and the hose opens again soon. As Woody would say that is ‘wishcasting’ not forecasting.
The other part of the 30 year average that jumps out is the start of the melt-off in mid April, quickly followed by a storm at the end of the month. That is typically the storm that fires up a few skiers, but sends most Teton County residents south to Moab, Fruita, and Zion.
So this year has been a bit weak in terms of historical norms. We started a bit late and then flat-lined through most of November. Storms through December 8-24 brought us close to “average” snow water equivalency and now we are watching the settled snow settle slowly lower. That being said we have had more good powder days than through all of last year (even working around the persistent then deep instability), so graphs be damned – get out and there and enjoy the mountains!
WY 2001 – Possibly the worst winter of recent memory
WY 1997 – Ninety-sick/Ninety-heaven
WY 1986 – “The Storm” – 14” of SWE in one storm. The year the JHMR headwall almost hit the condos at the base of the mountain.
This season – How we got here…