I’m unofficially starting to worry about this year’s snowpack. The official worrying begins after Thanksgiving if there is still no new snow, but as of right now, the area around Alta is looking mighty bony and dry. Sigh. A “great” early season starts around Halloween and continues all year long. A normal one kicks in around Thanksgiving, and a really sad one waits until Christmas (essssh… please, no) to finally fill in. For backcountry skiing in the Wasatch, you need about a three foot base to make it happen.
Oftentimes, what separates a good season from a bad one is how low the snowpack fills in. Since the Wasatch is a fairly small range, if it is skiable all the way down to 6,000′ there will be five times the amount of terrain available if it is only filled in above 8,000′. Right now, there are a few north facing patches above 9,000′ but not many.
But, last year started out like this (see photo above) and it was a stellar season. 2007/08 was only slightly above average in total snowfall, but it came in with very nice layering, where we had frequent storms in the 8″ to 12″ range, which refreshed everything, while still keeping the snowpack relatively stable. Huge storms are good for the overall depth, but often cause tough trailbreaking, dangerous conditions and settle out after a day or so. A few years ago (2003?) the Wasatch went from bone dry to 111″ in three days right around this time of year, so I’m crossing my tips that that will happen again sometime soon.