The Snow Gauge

Running the rule over the ski & snowboard industry since 1995

When will it open; what’s the snow like?

Posted by on Oct 28, 2016 in Canada, Europe, Japan, United States | 2 comments

Japan snow

Truckloads of snow for Japan in 2016/17? The suggestions are there might be. Pic:

From the USA to Japan and even Europe I’ve tabled the key resorts with expected opening dates, what if any snow has fallen and taken a broad look at what forecasters are predicting for the season in each of the regions.

Hopefully it will help you with your choice of where to head this northern hemisphere winter!

United States

USA snow

Forecasting has been all over the place for the US this winter but most say Northern Rockies is where it’ll be at.

What’s happened snow-wise to date?: Arapahoe Basin (Colorado) is already open with man-made snow but  Loveland needs some colder temperatures for snowmaking. We’ve seen some small drops of snow in Utah, Colorado and even on the east coast but no substantial season starters yet. Suggestions of big snow on the west coast a week or so back didn’t eventuate, the snow coming later in the storm but it was mostly rain.

Season outlook: There has been such a mixed bag of reports, it’s hard to know. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s official winter outlook released last week is tipping La Nina conditions which will favour warmer winters in the southern US and wetter, cooler conditions in the northern US. Yet the NOAA also describes it as potentially “weak and short lived”. But if a La Nina season plays out even in part or if it veers towards neutral it sounds like the further north you can go the better you’ll be – so Montana, Oregon etc could come in to play this season. There seems to be average calls for Colorado and Utah and nothing firm and fast for the Sierra Nevada ranges in California.

Key projected opening dates

Heavenly: November 18
Northstar: November 18
Kirkwood: November 18
Squaw/Alpine Meadows: November 11

Aspen: November 24
Vail: November 18
Breckenridge: November 11
Steamboat: November 24
Keystone: November 4

Park City: November 18
Deer Valley: December 3
Snowbird: November 19
Alta: November 18


Canada snow map

Oh, Canada: I’m digging that blue blob to the left.

What’s happened snow-wise to date?: We’ve seen some nice falls in the high alpine areas of Whistler and some reasonable drops further into the BC interior with the likes of Revelstoke having had up to 60cm of snow. There’s been several falls already in Lake Louise.

Season forecast: Extending on from the US predictions, suggestions are that British Columbia will for the most part have an above average snow season – The Weather Network and Accuweather have said as much. Alberta will fall into the average to above average slot. This from The Accuweather’s Brett Anderson: “West coast will get off to a stormy start this winter with several, potent storms bringing heavy rainfall and strong winds to the coast of BC, while heavy snow will quickly pile up in the mountains, which should get the western ski season off to a good start.” Here’s hoping.

Key projected opening dates

British Columbia
Whistler: November 24
Big White: November 24
Fernie: December 2
Red Mountain: December 10
Revelstoke: December 3
Sun Peaks: November 19
Silverstar: November 24


Lake Louise: November 10
Sunshine: November 11


World snow

Look closely: It says Japan will be cold, ok.

What’s happened snow-wise to date?: Not a lot. We’ve seen Mt Fuji get its first dusting and not much going on in Honshu with the white-stuff yet. Tokyo has been closer to t-shirt weather than warm jacket of late. There’s been a little more snow in Hokkaido in recent days.

Season forecast: The Tokyo Climate Center is predicts a La Nina pattern too and this in theory should be good for Japan. If we go back to 2011/12 and 2005/06 there were big snowfalls and colder than average temperatures in what were La Nina seasons. Indeed, in 2011/12 Myoko Kogen had a 23-metre year! With last season a relative bust (still, the likes of Niseko had around nine metres which is nothing to be sneezed at) this season could be one to soak up in Japan.

Key projected opening dates


Niseko: November 23
Furano: November 26


Hakuba/Shiga Kogen: Late November
Nozawa Onsen: November 26
Myoko Kogen: December 1


Europe weather

Europe had it’s warmest winter on record in 2015/16. How will it play out in 2016/17?

What’s happened snow-wise to date?: Not a huge amount in terms of snow below 2,000 metres. There has been some good falls in Austria and France in the high alpine.

Season forecast: It’s very hard to generalise across such a big and varied continent but with the broadest brushstrokes the suggestion seems to be in some of the key areas it will be mild and wet – so that should mean advantage high altitude resorts (ie Val Thorens in France). Accuweather meteorologist Eric Leister says December and January might be a bit sparse on the snow-front, so perhaps it’s best to make a later booking if possible.

Key projected opening dates

St Anton, Austria: December 2
Chamonix, France: Early December conditions pending (Grand Montets weekends in November if conditions suitable)
Dolomites, Italy: November 26



  1. When does Copper mt open ? more Australians heading there than ever before.

    • December 10 Sam – but I have a sneaking suspicion you knew that already …

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