Snowpack levels in California’s mountains were at the highest level in 40 years Jan. 3 but time will tell whether the latest storms will help deliver enough water to the state to end a three-year drought streak, state water officials reported.
California’s snowpack was measured at 174 percent of the historical average for the year Tuesday, boosted by recent storms that drenched the state during the holidays and brought snow to the mountains.
The state could see even more rain and snow this week and into the weekend, bringing much-needed water supplies.
“While we see a terrific snowpack—and that in and of itself may be an opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief—we are by no means out of the woods when it comes to drought,” said Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources.
The state could still face another year of drought this year as water reservoirs remain well below capacity.
State water officials took the year’s first official measurements of snow and water content near Phillips, a town east of Sacramento in the central Sierra Mountains, finding levels well above average for this time of year.
The snowpack in Phillips is 177 percent of the average. It was measured at 55.5 inches, which was enough to store 17.5 inches of water, according to Sean de Guzman, manager of the department’s snow surveys and water supply forecasting unit.
Last week’s series of storms caused flooding and damage but were warmer. Freezing elevations were around 7,000 feet, and the mountain snowpack statewide rose from 157 percent on average to 174 percent.
“We’ll take any kind of [precipitation] we can get, if it’s rainfall or snow at this point, just because we are in such a severe drought,” de Guzman said.
This week’s expected storm system should be colder and produce more snowpack.
Avalanche danger closes some Utah ski resorts
The recent incredible snowfalls surely have had most of us dreaming of powder days, but there can be too much of a good thing: several Utah resorts were unable to open in the last few days.
Sundance Mountain Resort announced on its social media channels that it would not be able open on Monday, January 2, 2023, due to extreme mountain weather conditions. Sundance had received 41 inches (1m) of snow, which unfortunately also contained a lot of moisture due to the low temperatures, making grooming a safe run impossible.
Sundance Mountain announced the following for operations this Tuesday, January 3, 2023:
‘In order to remove the many downed trees in the canyon Rocky Mountain Power will be closing SR92 tomorrow in order to get power back up as quickly as possible.
‘The canyon will close at 10 am until dark. There may be some intermittent openings but we would advise anyone who is coming to ski to plan to arrive at 10 am and stay until dark.
‘We will operate Outlaw Express as outlined below:
‘Rocky Mountain Power is working very hard to restore power. Hundreds of trees snapped affecting several power poles in the canyon. They have multiple line crews and a tree mitigation company working tirelessly. Latest projections on restoration of power may run into Wednesday.
‘We recognize the challenges this presents to many who want to be on the mountain and given the length of the anticipated outage and after further analysis of running one lift on diesel auxiliary power we have decided to open Outlaw Express only with limited terrain to season pass holders, S Card holders and lodging guests tomorrow (Tuesday, Jan 3rd). We will not be selling any day passes. We feel comfortable operating Outlaw Express temporarily on auxiliary power due to the investment made in a backup to the auxiliary power.
‘The beginner area (magic carpets) will not be able to operate. Maverick terrain park will not be open but we anticipate opening the small park on Stampede. With the limited terrain and single lift operating, lines will likely be long and we would encourage those who can wait to come once we have power restored and can operate all our lifts.
‘We are very grateful to our incredible mountain team who have worked so hard during this incredible storm. Thanks again for your understanding and support of Sundance!’
Other resorts affected by the snow masses are Alta Ski Area, which had to announce a closer for the day on Monday, and neighboring Snowbird. Alta and Snowbird received 37 inches (94cm) of wet snow in the recent snowstorm, which also increased the avalanche risk here.
Little Cottonwood Canyon and Highway 210 leading to Alta were closed to all traffic from Saturday, December 31, 2022, from 10 p.m. until Monday for avalanche mitigation. Both resorts were able to reopen on Monday afternoon.
Check the UDOT website for traffic updates before traveling, and stay safe out there! Be aware, ‘Interlodge’ or ‘Straight Line Travel’ orders may be in place in Alta or Snowbird.
Purgatory ski resort in Colorado records 23 inches of snow in 24 hours
Resort officials are ringing in the new year with another deep powder day at Purgatory Resort in Durango, Colo. Monday, Purgatory received 23 inches of snow in 24 hours, bringing storm totals to 53 inches over the past 7 days.
Purgatory’s mid-mountain base is now 52 inches with 102 open trails.
Purgatory is the only resort in North America that offers free unlimited skiing and riding to all kids ages 12 and under – no blackout days or purchase required. Guests can stop by the outside ticket window to pick up a free ticket for their little rippers. Please note proof of age is required.