home of the Pure Awesomeness Factor Talk with an expert: 800-778-8578

Snow

It's fickle.
It's glorious.
And it can make your trip.
There's more than a few things that go into evaluating resorts' snow profiles. To have a look at all of the factors for which we account, browse all of our explanations below.
Snow Ranking Calculus
Or just head straight to our resort snow rankings and all of the numbers (there's a lot).
Snow Rankings!
  • General Notes

    For most major areas there are well over 100 months of snowfall data. Within each region there is at least one area with a minimum of 35 years of complete monthly data that can be used to index snowfall to any closely correlated area in that region. Snowfall is sufficiently volatile that even 10 year averages can deviate from long term averages by 20%.

  • True Snowfall: Why our numbers might be different from those posted by ski resorts

    1. Ski areas don't always measure snowfall precisely from November 1 to April 30. It’s not fair to penalize remote areas which open late and close early due to number of skiers, not lack of snow. With very few exceptions October snow that melts away before ski areas open and May snow that falls after areas are closed are excluded.

    2. Ski areas may not keep long-term snowfall data, and utilize averages over shorter periods of time—often five years—for marketing purposes. These can vary radically from long term averages, and the temptation is strong to leave the number alone after a bad year rather than update. For virtually any area an optimal 5-year streak can be cherry picked that exceeds a long term average by 25% or more.

    3. Ski area snowfall figures are occasionally white lies—marketing directors blow smoke with anecdotal information and inflated figures. More often legitimate data is collected from a choice snowfall area and marketed as representative of the entire mountain. That is why the altitude where snowfall is measured is shown in the tables here for every area so it can be compared to the lift served elevation range of the ski area. A few areas measure from more than one location. In those cases we look for a mid-mountain location representative of the ski terrain, and occasionally we average upper and lower measurements.

  • For ski areas which do not collect monthly snowfall data

    The word “estimate” appears with the snowfall total and no elevation is listed for measuring snow. We do not accept marketing “brochure quotes” at face value. We will use them if they are consistent in regional climate/topography context and with our personal observation or local reputation. If not we make our best educated guess to the nearest 25 inches and expect that in the vast majority of cases it will be within 10-20% of the “real” average.

  • True Number or Estimate

    This is either the real snowfall figure, culled from true data (not imaginary brochure-land) or, when there's a dearth of true data for this resort, this number is an estimate based on the region and data we know about close-by points. We indicate whether this number is pure data or an estimate in the next column. True Data is drawn from places like daily patrol reports and avalanche center records that go back decades.

  • Elevation from which data drawn

    Patrol shacks and avalanche observatory points from which data is sourced can be placed on different spots on the mountain. Some are low, some high. This can make a large difference in the reported snowfall figure; precipation at the top of a resort can be double or triple the base. Some of our data comes from points high on the mountain, some low. Jackson Hole's data number, for example, is drawn from a lower number than another observation point higher on the mountain, where it snows more. You can gauge how relatively high or low our data point is by looking at the base and summit elevations of the resort in the next column.

  • Confidence in Estimate

    Some of our estimates we have a extremely high level of confidence in: we base off of data coming from spots in the near vicinity with similar aspects and elevations. For others, we can have lesser degrees of confidence, as indicated by this column. In all cases, however, our estimate number is the closest thing to the truth that you can find, in lieu of real data.

  • Days w/ 6"+

    The average percentage of days within the months December through March when this Resort sees more than six inches of snow. As any skier knows, four inches is kind of neat, but six inches is when the real fun starts, especially with bigger skis.

  • Months w/ 90"+

    The average percentage of winter months (December to March) during which this resort sees more than 90 inches snow. This is a strong indicator of the likelihood of experiencing deep powder conditions (storms of a foot or more) over a shorter period, such as a week. Also, a high percentage here shows a greater likelihood of achieving a deep mid-winter snowpack by Christmas.

  • Months w/ less than 30"+

    The average percentage of winter months during which it snows less than 30 inches. This figure does not always vary inversely with average annual snowfall. Some resorts that see prolific averages of 400 inches per year may also be prone to extended periods of warm and dry weather. Most of these mountains are in California, where it is possible to get 8 feet of snow in a week, or by contrast no snow at all for a month. Either these extremes are very rare in the Rockies. This figure is also a red flag for early season reliability. A high percentage of 20% or more indicates a risk of only a limited amount of terrain being open by Christmas. Christmas weeks in the California Sierra tend to be feast or famine, as indicated by the high figures for both 90+ and less than 30 inch months.

  • North, East, West, South-facing terrain

    These headings are mostly self-explanatory. A quick primer: Snow on north-facing terrain tends to stay cold and chalky long after the snow on other aspects has turned to mush or, in some cases, melted completely. Snow on south-facing terrain can degrade quickly, depending on the latitude and altitide of the resort. Steep terrain is most sensitive to exposure, preserving better than gentle terrain if facing north but degrading faster if facing south. Chronically cloudy areas in the Northwest and Western Canada are less degraded by south exposure because of much less direct sun.

  • Snowfall Score

    This is a rating accounting for snowfall quantity, quality and consistency. It’s a good indicator of the attractiveness of a resort for powder skiing.

  • Total Snow Score

    The reality is that powder days occur not much more than 20% of the time even at the snowiest places. The final snow score adjusts the snowfall score for the factors than help or hurt preservation of snowpack and packed powder conditions the other 80+% of the time. The key factors affecting snow preservation are exposure, altitude, latitude and rain incidence. Many Colorado and Vermont areas have similar snowfall scores, but most Colorado areas get large positive adjustments for the snow preservation factors while all Eastern areas take a big hit for low altitude and rain incidence.

  • Snowmaking

    For large western resorts a relatively small proportion of terrain is covered by snowmaking and almost none beyond the intermediate level. For many western areas that do well with snowmaking, such as Sun Valley, Mammoth and several in Colorado, a key reason is high altitude, which is already a positive factor in the snow score. For smaller areas with modest natural snowfall but good snowmaking reputation, we adjust drought resistance and in some cases raise the snow score by 15-20 points. However, given the severe snow preservation issues (altitude and rain) highly snowmaking dependent areas rarely score more than 30-35 points even with a snowmaking adjustment. The highest scoring eastern areas, notably in Vermont, derive most of their snow score from their 200-300+ inches of snowfall, with a modest assist from the snowmaking.

ZRankings has Special Rates On Ski Trips To the Snowiest Resorts:
 

Z rankings logoBest Snow in North America

   Resort     Zone True
Snow*
Data or data-
based Estimate
Elevation of data
Base & Top Elev.
Confidence
in estimate
Days w/ more
than 6 inches
Months w/ more
than 90 inches
Months w/ less
than 30 inches
Snowfall Score
North-facing Terrain
East-facing Terrain
West-facing Terrain
South-facing Terrain
Total Snow Score
w/ Preservation 
121 Sipapu Ski Resort
NM
Rockies 190" Est -- 8200'
to
9255'
high 8.0% 1.0% 48.0% 37.9 70% 30% 0% 0% 51.1 more
123 Pebble Creek Ski Area
ID
Rockies 225" Est -- 6300'
to
8560'
medium 9.0% 5.0% 35.0% 40.0 35% 50% 0% 15% 51.1 more
122 Grouse Mountain
BC
BC-Coastal 350" Est -- 2890'
to
4100'
medium 15.0% 22.0% 18.0% 62.8 0% 35% 10% 55% 51.1 more
124 Marmot Basin
AB
Canadian-Rockies 160" Est -- 5570'
to
8570'
high 6.0% 0.0% 63.0% 28.8 30% 50% 0% 20% 50.9 more
125 China Peak
CA
SoCal 300" Est -- 7030'
to
8709'
medium 5.0% 25.0% 40.0% 49.3 55% 25% 20% 5% 49.8 more
126 Great Divide
MT
Rockies 180" Est -- 5900'
to
7250'
medium 7.0% 1.0% 45.0% 37.3 25% 75% 0% 0% 49.6 more
127 Mt. Hood SkiBowl
OR
Northwest 350" Est -- 3527'
to
5027'
medium 15.0% 22.0% 18.0% 62.8 65% 30% 5% 0% 49.2 more
128 White Pine Ski Resort
WY
Rockies 150" Est -- 8400'
to
9500'
medium 6.0% 0.0% 60.0% 28.6 60% 40% 0% 0% 48.9 more
129 Stowe Mountain Resort
VT
East 305" Data 3014' 2235'
to
4395'
-- 13.3% 6.8% 11.3% 64.2 35% 50% 0% 15% 48.5 more
130 Smugglers' Notch Resort
VT
East 322" Data 1600' 1030'
to
3640'
-- 13.1% 8.6% 11.2% 62.4 65% 0% 35% 0% 48.4 more
131 Showdown Ski Area
MT
Rockies 175" Est -- 6800'
to
8200'
low 7.0% 1.0% 45.0% 36.9 5% 65% 0% 30% 46.3 more
132 Snow King Resort
WY
Rockies 150" Est -- 6237'
to
7808'
high 6.0% 0.0% 60.0% 22.1 80% 10% 10% 0% 45.3 more
133 Massif du Sud
QC
Eastern-Canada 236" Est -- 1689'
to
3001'
low 10.0% 2.0% 27.0% 47.8 70% 15% 15% 0% 44.7 more
134 Harper Mountain
BC
Canadian-Rockies 156" Est -- 3600'
to
5000'
medium 6.0% 0.0% 65.0% 26.5 70% 0% 30% 0% 44.5 more
135 Nakiska Ski Resort
AB
Canadian-Rockies 99" Est -- 5003'
to
7415'
high 4.0% 0.0% 80.0% 24.6 25% 65% 0% 10% 44.3 more
136 Snow Summit
CA
SoCal 83" Data 8000' 7000'
to
8200'
-- 3.6% 0.0% 78.8% 45.4 70% 15% 15% 0% 44.1 more
137 Mont Sutton
QC
Eastern-Canada 236" Data 2200' 1675'
to
3175'
-- 10.4% 4.6% 15.3% 54.7 70% 30% 0% 0% 43.0 more
138 Sugarbush
VT
East 267" Data 3000' 1483'
to
4083'
-- 11.3% 6.5% 14.1% 59.4 28% 60% 0% 12% 41.8 more
139 Killington
VT
East 240" Data 4241' 1165'
to
4241'
-- 10.5% 5.2% 19.7% 59.8 30% 55% 0% 15% 41.7 more
140 Stoneham Mountain Resort
QC
Eastern-Canada 165" Est -- 695'
to
2075'
high 6.5% 1.0% 60.0% 52.5 5% 60% 0% 35% 41.6 more
142 Montana Snowbowl
MT
Rockies 250" Est -- 5000'
to
7600'
medium 10.0% 5.0% 30.0% 44.1 2% 20% 33% 45% 41.5 more
141 Bear Mountain Resort - CA
CA
Sierras 83" Data 8000' 7140'
to
8805'
-- 3.6% 0.0% 78.8% 37.6 70% 20% 10% 0% 41.5 more
143 Pico Mountain
VT
East 250" Est -- 2000'
to
3967'
high 11.0% 6.0% 20.0% 54.8 85% 5% 10% 0% 41.3 more
144 Mt. Shasta Ski Park
CA
Sierras 300" Est -- 5500'
to
6900'
low 13.0% 20.0% 30.0% 54.1 0% 30% 20% 50% 41.0 more
145 Kimberley Alpine Resort
BC
Canadian-Rockies 150" Est -- 4035'
to
6500'
high 6.0% 0.0% 55.0% 30.0 35% 65% 0% 0% 40.8 more
146 Mt. Spokane Ski Area
WA
Northwest 200" Est -- 4200'
to
5889'
low 8.0% 1.0% 40.0% 39.5 0% 70% 0% 30% 40.7 more
147 Mission Ridge Ski Area
WA
Northwest 170" Est -- 4550'
to
6820'
medium 7.0% 1.0% 50.0% 32.6 60% 35% 5% 0% 40.3 more
148 Blue Mountain
ON
Eastern-Canada 110" Est -- 740'
to
1482'
medium 4.0% 0.0% 75.0% 47.5 45% 55% 0% 0% 39.5 more
149 Sandia Peak Ski Resort
NM
Rockies 125" Est -- 8678'
to
10378'
high 5.0% 2.0% 65.0% 25.0 40% 60% 0% 0% 39.4 more
150 Indianhead Mountain
MI
Midwest 210" Est -- 1297'
to
1935'
low 8.5% 1.0% 37.0% 50.4 60% 15% 25% 0% 39.3 more