Strategies and Tips: Mtn Snow Conditions and Forecasts

Finding the snow! That’s all any of us really care about, right?? An integral part of being snow chasers is accessing information about current snow conditions and weather forecasts. Your run-of-the-mill local forecast and ski resort snow reports are nice, but they just won’t cut it for what we do. Here is what we have learned over the years. Please share your resources and methods in a comment below. 

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SNOTEL

As with most of you, SNOTEL is our go to information to check out snow fall amounts and current depths. SNOTEL is a network of automated sensors maintained and published by the National Water and Climate Center under the United States Department of Agriculture. They provide tons of unbiased information in tons of locations.

There is a national map of sites with current snow depths that are updated daily, click here to check it out. Simply scroll into the area you want to check on and hover over the bubble to see the current snow depth value.

If you want more detailed information about a specific SNOTEL site, you can click on the bubble, click on “Site Page” at the bottom of the pop-up, and you will be sent to a page specifically for that location.IMG_0249[1]

Now, simply select Daily or Hourly in the “Time Series” box toward the bottom and then choose last 30 days, last 7 days, or  last 24 hours in the yellow box. Now, click on the “View Current” button.IMG_0251[1]

The great thing about accessing the individual IMG_0252[1]locations is that you can watch the snow accumulations throughout the day by choosing the hourly option. This way you don’t have to wait for the daily update. The hourly
updates are usually about 1.5 hours behind real time. I simply bookmark my favorite individual SNOTEL locations on my phone and I can efficiently check what areas are getting the most snow.

Pretty awesome stuff…though it drives my wife crazy when storms are dumping because I am glued to my phone.

OpenSnow

WE’RE A TEAM OF WEATHER FORECASTERS WHO WRITE LOCAL BLOGS, MAKE INCH-BY-INCH FORECASTS, AND SEND POWDER ALERTS SO THAT YOU CAN CATCH EVERY POWDER DAY.

OpenSnow.com

From opensnow.com you can jump to sites from a ridiculous number of local forecasting blogs for specific mountain locations. While these guys seem to be ski/board oriented, they do a great job of providing tons of super accurate information about most mountain locations. Not only do they provide forecasts, but also reliable snow total amounts.

One of the best is forecasters is at www.wasatchsnowforecast.com. While his primary focus is the mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah, he does a great job of covering forecasts and snow totals for much of the mountain west area. He also takes the time to educate his readers about how and why the weather is developing, along with best and worst case scenarios.

I love this resource. Thanks to Opensnow for what they do! Sadly, my sanity often hinges on the words of these guys.

Avalanche Center Websites

Not only do the avalanche center websites provide awesome/life-saving information about current advisories, they are also a great resource for mtn weather and forecasts in their respective areas. Here are just a few that we utilize…you can find others by internet searching a specific location and adding the words “avalanche center”.

Southern Idaho – click here

Colorado – click here

Western Wyoming – click here

Northern Utah – click here

Southern Montana – click here

Realistically, in the interest of safety, we should all be checking these websites for avy conditions before EVERY ride. BE SAFE and LIVE TO RIDE ANOTHER DAY!

Snowest Forums

Another valuable resource that we refer to is the Riding Areas/Snow Reports section of the Snowest forums, click here to check it out. You’ll have to create an free user account, but it is easy. This site has information from other riders, hopefully firsthand accounts, about the current snow conditions in areas all across the country. Since it is an open forum, you’ll have to assess the credibility of posts using your own judgement. No guarantees, but it has treated us well over the years.

Grooming Reports

Grooming reports are very hit and miss, but you can get a few good nuggets from recent grooming reports. I have compiled the ones that we use and that tend to have recent updates.

Colorado – click here

Utah – click here

Idaho – For the Boise area click here, for the McCall area follow the McCall Area Snowmobilers on Facebook.

Montana – For the West Yellowstone area click here, Follow the Flathead Snowmobile Association or the Ponderosa Snow Warriors (Lincoln).

Wyoming – For information from Wyoming, call (307) 335-8229

Local Snowmobile Shops

When we just can’t find any solid information, we break down and make a cold call to the nearest snowmobile shop. This has been a really successful method of gathering snow information. They know. They have seen firsthand or have heard from someone who has been in the area recently. The only issue we have found is human error. The accuracy of random human reports varies widely. Some dudes are willing to risk A-arms every day, while others are on the opposite end of the spectrum. Some people want to hoard the pow for themselves, others are willing to tell all. For the most part, I believe shops get good information and have an incentive to share it with would-be visitors.

Ski Resorts

There are pros and cons with referring to ski resort snow reports. First, the resort needs to be fairly close to your riding location. Second, and I am not questioning the integrity of anyone, ski resorts have a vested interest in inflating snow totals and embellishing current conditions. For this same reason though, they do provide very up to date information. I believe they are generally on point, but this is not our preferred resource. You decide what works for you.

OUR QUESTIONS TO YOU!

  1. We would like to hear from some Canadians about the resources they use. Please share below!
  2. We would also like to hear what other resources the rest of you use in your local areas…if you are willing to share :).
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