JACKSON, Wyo. — The current dry spell we’re experiencing is now the least snowy 30-day winter period (December-March) at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in 30 years.
From January 12 through February 10, the Rendezvous Bowl Plot on JHMR’s upper mountain only received 10.5 inches of snow and the Mid-Mountain Plot only received 7 inches of snow. The last time both of these locations received less snowfall in a 30-day period from December to March was during the winter of 1991-1992.
Most of our snow so far this winter occurred during an impressive five-week period from December 6 through January 9 when the Rendezvous Bowl Plot received 164 inches of snow. Ever since then, our snowpack has essentially flat-lined.
Check out the graph from the Phillips Bench SNOTEL station at the southern end of the Tetons, and notice how the flat-line in snowpack for 2022 (the black line) since early January.
After the first week of January, snowpack in the Tetons was about 115% of average, but as of February 10, snowpack now ranges from 73 to 83% of average for the date depending on the exact location in the Tetons.
The current settled snow depth at the Rendezvous Bowl Plot is 66 inches, which is the lowest snowpack for February 10 since 2007.
The dry pattern has not just been limited to the Tetons, either. The same story has been true throughout the Western U.S. after a promising start to the winter in December and early January.
For example, the Sierra Nevada Range in California experienced its snowiest December on record, followed by one of its driest January’s on record.
Cold temperatures in January allowed skiing conditions to hold up reasonably well despite the lack of new snow. However, a strengthening sun angle along with warmer temperatures heading into mid-February will start to affect snow conditions more.
The dry spell with only light snow potential at best looks to continue for another 10 days or so, with some hints that we could possibly see a more active pattern heading into the final week of February. Of course, confidence is low in the details of the forecast beyond 10 days.
Barring a miracle March, this will likely end up being the first truly below-average winter for the Tetons since the winter of 2014-2015. We have actually had quite a stretch of good winters, and perhaps have been overdue for a down winter.
Of course, the timing isn’t great either as we experienced a dry pattern last spring that sent us into a drought. A light winter for snowfall will not help with the drought, so we’ll have to hope for a wet spring.
When it comes to summer fire concerns, spring weather typically plays a greater role than winter weather (although both seasons are factors). For example, during our last dry winter in 2014-2015, we ended up having a wet spring/early summer and a minimal fire season.
Last year, a snowy winter was followed by a hot and dry spring and early summer throughout the West, and although we didn’t have many fires locally due to well-timed rains, fire season in the West as a whole was severe and we dealt with smoke issues in Jackson all summer long.
Alan Smith, Meteorologist