This post will compare snowfall and water amounts in the Town of Jackson and the Teton Mountains to last winter’s epic snow and water amounts, as well as, to the historic averages. Most of the contents of this post were recently published in the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
Town Snow and Water
In the Town of Jackson, between December 1st, 2017 and April 1st, 2018, 51 inches of snowfall was recorded. The average snowfall in town for December through March is 61 inches. Last year during this same timeframe, we received way above normal snowfall, with 94 inches recorded.
Water-wise, the Town of Jackson had a total of 6.31 inches for December through March 2017-18, compared to an average for these four months of 5.39 inches. So, a bit below for snow, and a bit above for water amount, in town this winter.
Last winter, the town received an unheard of 12.94 inches of precipitation (over a foot of water) for the four-month period, which was a record and more than twice the historic average.
Mountain Snow and SWE
Using data from the Rendezvous Bowl weather plot at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, at the 9,580-ft. elevation, the total snowfall from December 1st, 2017 to April 1st, 2018 was 330 inches. The historic average for that weather station, for the four-month period, is 302 inches. That puts this winter’s “ski season” snow total at almost 110-percent of average.
For the same time period the previous season, 2016-17, there was 462 inches of snowfall, or eleven feet more snowfall than this winter,
Looking at the total snowfall from the beginning of this winter season, from October 1st, 2017 to April 1st, 2018, the total snowfall was 465 inches. That is 79 inches more than the historic average snowfall between October 1st and April 1st, which is 386 inches. That calculates out to a total winter snowfall that was 120-percent of normal.
The extra snow we had in October and November this year made a big difference on pushing us well above the average.
The previous winter, 2016-17, between October 1st and April 1st, Rendezvous Bowl received 560 inches. That was about 95 inches, or nearly eight feet, more than this season.
Another metric by which we can gauge the winter season in the mountains is to look at the settled snow-depths. This provides perhaps the best measure of how much of that snowfall actually stuck around.
Settled snow depths at the Rendezvous Bowl site on April 1st, 2018 stood at 131 inches. That would be 127-percent of the average snow depth on April 1st, which is 103 inches. Last year on April 1st, the snow depth was 146 inches
So, as of April 1st this year, there was only 15 inches less snow depth than on April 1st, 2017. Translate that to mean, we still have plenty of snow to melt this spring.
Speaking of water amounts, what we call the Snow Water Equivalent or SWE (pronounced “Sweee!”); at the Phillips Bench SNOTEL site, at the 8,200-ft. elevation, SWE was at 115-percent of the median value for April 1st. Grand Targhee’s SNOTEL site, at around the 9200-ft. elevation, was at 122-percent of the median.
(Note: “Median” is the number where half of the data is higher than that number and half the data is below that number. In the case of SWE, the data set used is from 1981-2010.)
Bottom-line: Ideal Winter
Those are all the hard numbers from this winter, the soft version is: we had another above normal snowfall year in the mountains, coupled with below normal snowfall in the valley.
In my mind, that is an ideal winter. This year I didn’t waste as much time shoveling snow out of my driveway, before I could get to the mountains to ski powder. I can’t say that about last winter.
Jim is the chief meteorologist at mountainweather.com and has been forecasting weather in Jackson Hole and the Teton Range for more than 25 years.