JHMR workers shoveling deep snow off of the roof at the Teton Lift patrol shack during a storm on February 20. Photo: Alan Smith

TETON VILLAGE, Wyo. — Following Tuesday’s storm, the Rendezvous Bowl Plot at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) has received 160 inches of snow during the month of February, which places February 2021 into the top five snowiest months on record (out of all months, not just February) dating back to 1974-75!

We’re not finished with snow yet this month, either, as another big storm is expected late this week. Will it be enough to challenge more records?

Top 10 Snowiest Months at JHMR’s Rendezvous Bowl Plot (1974-2021):

  1. 225″ – December 1996
  2. 193″ – February 2019
  3. 167″ – January 2020
  4. 160″ – February 2021*
  5. 155″ – December 2016
  6. 154″ – March 2011
  7. 150″ – January 1998
  8. 148″ – February 2017
  9. 138″ – December 1977
  10. 136″ – January 2006

Top 5 Snowiest February’s at JHMR’s Rendezvous Bowl Plot (1975-2021):

  1. 193″ – 2019
  2. 160″ – 2021*
  3. 148″ – 2017
  4. 133″ – 2014
  5. 126″ – 1986

Grand Finale Storm Cycle late this week

Our active February pattern is not quite done just yet. Snow showers on Wednesday will result in another 1-3 inches of snow in the Tetons, followed by a stronger long-duration storm from Thursday night through Saturday.

This next storm will be another good one for powder-thirsty skiers as it will feature a steady feed of Pacific moisture from the west/northwest along with very cold temperatures aloft, which will result in low moisture content snow.

The heaviest snow will fall from early Friday morning through late Friday night followed by lighter snow showers on Saturday. As a result, both Friday and Saturday are looking like good powder days with storm total snowfall ranging from 1-2 feet.

In order to match the February snowfall record of 193 inches that was set two years ago in 2019, we need to pick up another 33 inches of snow at the Rendezvous Bowl Plot. Based on the current snow forecast, we would come up just shy of reaching the record.

However, there are enough positive factors going for this storm, that there is at least some “boom” potential in which snowfall could be higher than forecast, and also it’s always possible the snow forecast could increase leading up to the event.

As a result, there is still an outside chance JHMR could break its February record, but it’s a bit of a long shot as this storm will have to over-perform. Still, it will be fun to watch over the coming days.

Record or not, this February (and really, extending back to late January) has been remarkable in the strength and consistency of storms.

Recent Trend of Deep February’s

You may have noticed in the records listed above that the top four snowiest February’s at JHMR have all occurred since 2014. Historically, December (average of 90 inches) and January (average of 86 inches) have been the snowiest months at JHMR, while February is the third snowiest month (average of 72 inches).

For whatever reason, February has become the deep month of the season in the Tetons in recent years. Since 2013-2014, the Rendezvous Bowl Plot has averaged 105 inches of snow in February, and the February record has been broken three times (2014, 2017 and 2019) since the original record was set in 1986.

January has been a consistently snowy month since 2013-2014 as well (seven-year average of 94 inches), whereas December has trended drier during this time period (seven-year average of 84 inches).

Over the past four years, in particular, Teton winters have been more back-loaded with drier Decembers and snowier February’s while January has remained consistently snowy. March has seen a slight upward trend in snowfall over the previous five winters as well.

There are no obvious explanations for the recent upward trends in February snowfall and downward trends in December snowfall. Most likely, it is just a coincidence, especially since these trends have only emerged in the past 4-7 years.

Nevertheless, it will be interesting to follow these snowfall trends over the years to come to see if they continue or not.

For perspective, check out the graph below, which shows the monthly breakdown (December-March) of snowfall at the Rendezvous Bowl Plot since the winter of 2010-2011.

February Snowfall in the Town of Jackson

If you live in Jackson, it may seem surprising that this has been one of the snowiest February’s on record in the Tetons, since snowfall has not been overly impressive in town, especially compared to 2017 and 2019.

So far this month, Jackson has received 17.5 inches of snow in town, which is above the monthly average of 14.3 inches, but otherwise unremarkable. By comparison, in February 2019, the Town of Jackson received 55.1 inches of snow, which was the snowiest February on record and just barely missed reaching the all-time monthly snowfall record (56 inches in January 1969).

The reason for the large discrepancy is that most of the storms in February 2021 have been arriving from the northwest, which results in most of the precipitation being “wrung out” by the Teton Range located northwest of town, with less precipitation and snowfall reaching the Jackson Hole valley as a result. With active northwest flow storm tracks, Jackson usually sees light but consistent snow.

In 2019, the majority of the storms arrived from the southwest. This pattern still resulted in huge snowfall totals for the Tetons, but also, moisture arriving from the southwest does not encounter as many steep mountainous barriers to “wring out” the moisture, and heavier snow tends to fall in the Town of Jackson as a result.

Alan Smith, Meteorologist

Buckrail Meteorologist Alan Smith

Alan is a professional meteorologist who holds a degree from MSU Denver and writes weather forecasts for Buckrail. He has worked in the private sector of weather forecasting since 2013 and has lived in Jackson since 2015. Alan specializes in mountain weather and forecasts for ski areas across North America.