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Historical season openings since the 94/95 season

Categories: Guest Connection Weather Blog Media Center Inside Meadows

Oregon icon Mt. HoodSo we've slipped by Thanksgiving and we haven't opened for the season yet. And even with the promise of a "colder-wetter" La Nina season, we haven't yet been able to offer a preview day. So should we be worried? A review of opening dates the past 26 seasons (going back to 1994/95) and ultimately the amount of snow we received that season suggests we're going to do just fine.

Season snowfall compared to opening date over the last 26 seasons at Mt. Hood Meadows

Meadows receives a whopping 441 inches of snowfall just during the season

The graph above is based on the data table below which displays the opening date of each season and how much snow we received that season. For clarification, we start counting our seasonal snow with the snowfall that gets us open - and end it on closing day. So we don't include any early or late season snow accumulation outside of our days of operation. That would be annual snowfall, which would actually add a few more feet to our already staggering 441.5 inch seasonal snowfall average. For perspective, only Loveland and Silverton report 400 inches or more average the last 10 years on the official Colorado Ski Country USA website. Western ski areas average more snow than the rest of the country as you can see from this Snowbrains article published at the end of last season and a Ski North America 100 article from 2015 which placed Mt. Hood Meadows at 14th in the country (but remember, we report seasonal snow, not annual.) If nothing else these articles illustrate the tremendous annual snowfall advantage western resorts (and those in the Cascade mountain range) have over the rest of the country.

Our average opening date is November 25

Looking back over the past 26 seasons, you can see most of our openings are clustered between November 18 - 25. Our average opening date is November 25 - twice we opened on that date, fifteen years we opened before that date, and nine times we've opened later. When you look at the nine seasons we opened after November 25, we still averaged 332 inches of seasonal snowfall - much greater than the rest of the country. Three of those seasons were very low snow seasons: 2000/01 with 183 inches in a weak La Nina; 2004/05 with 158 inches in a weak El Nino; and 2014/15 with 195 inches in another weak El Nino. Hopefully with the current moderate La Nina conditions we can avoid a historically low snow season. The other six seasons averaged 410 inches - we'd be very happy with more than 34 FEET of snow this season!

By the way - La Nina's aren't typically early season storm systems. It's not unusual to receive storms in La Nina years that start up in early to mid December - but don't stop until February. We'll see how that plays out this La Nina season. Check out the Fox 12 "No Need to Panic" Weather Blog by Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen.

Snow harvesting is a game changer

Meadows has pioneered both the art and science of harvesting snow from parking lots and other areas to build up base area lift ramps, which has allowed for early openings or limited preview days in the early season. The initial high capacity dump trailer built on the chassis of a used snowcat was fabricated in the summer of 2014 - and it paid off big time that 2014/15 season. We have since added three customized dump snowcats with dump beds and buckets to our fleet of snow haulers, and purchased more loaders and ODOT snow plows to bolster our snow hauling efforts. We have the expertise and the equipment to make the most of whatever natural snow we receive. This helps to get us open and also fortify our upper mountain snowpack during any prolonged dry stretches. Snow harvesting is also used to build up the snow bridges in lower Heather, which has allowed us to open that terrain earlier. The point is, we have capabilities and expertise to manage the natural snow we receive more than ever before. We've created a playlist below so you can appreciate the skills and efforts our fleet operation team has made to design, fabricate, construct and operate the equipment needed to accomplish this task.

Snow harvesting can be credited with the advent of our preview days allowing for at least some limited operations prior to having enough snow to operate daily. In 2015 we presented three preview weekends before opening for the season on December 11. 2016 and 2017 each saw one preview weekend before opening for the season.

On a positive note - our seasonal snowfall is maintaining at or above average

Average snow fall at Mt. Hood Meadows dating back to 1994/95 seasonWe grouped the last 26 seasons into three periods: 1994/95 thru 2001/02 (8 seasons); 2002/03 thru 2010/11 (9 seasons) and 2011/12 thru 2019/20 to see what changes, if any, there are over time to our seasonal snowfall. The base period (1994-2002) season averaged 395 inches. The second period (2002-2011) averaged a mountainous 470 inches of seasonal snowfall - up 19%! And the most recent period (2011-last season) averaged 436 inches - less than six inches off of our average over the last 26 seasons. So while we fully acknowledge climate change and encourage efforts to reduce carbon emissions and the resulting global warming, the data says we are maintaining our seasonal average snowfall at Mt. Hood Meadows.

The 10 day forecast is looking much more favorable

We don't like to keep kicking the can down the road, but there are improvements to the 10 day weather forecast next week. There are a couple of days with heavy precipitation and the freezing levels are heading lower. Ideally, we'll be able to start building and maintaining a snowpack that will get us open for the season, or possibly a preview limited opening by December 11. Whatever the weather brings us, we will be prepared to make the most of it. And - we're doing our snow dances - you're invited to dance with us and enjoy this flashback to 2013.

Here is the data for the past 26 seasons going back to 1994/95:

Average opening date: November 25
Average seasonal Snowfall: 441.5 inches
Times we opened after November 25: 9
Average seasonal Snowfall for those later openings: 332 inches


Opening Date

Season Snowfall


94-95 4-Nov 415 Moderate El Nino
95-96 3-Dec 290 Moderate La Nina
96-97 21-Oct 584 Neutral
97-98 24-Nov 353 Very Strong El Nino
98-99 22-Nov 547 Strong La Nina
99-00 3-Dec 396 Strong La Nina
00-01 1-Dec 183 Weak La Nina
01-02 24-Nov 561 Neutral
02-03 17-Dec 366 Moderate El Nino
03-04 20-Nov 407 Neutral
04-05 18-Dec 158 Weak El Nino
05-06 11-Nov 526 Weak La Nina
06-07 9-Dec 372 Weak El Nino
07-08 23-Nov 792 Strong La Nina
08-09 14-Dec 566 Weak La Nina
09-10 11-Nov 417 Moderate El Nino
10-11 20-Nov 618 Strong La Nina
11-12 19-Nov 551 Moderate La Nina
12-13 22-Nov 444 Neutral
13-14 23-Nov 382 Neutral
14-15 22-Dec 195 Weak El Nino
15-16 21-Nov 478 Very Strong El Nino
16-17 25-Nov 555 Weak La Nina
17-18 18-Nov 443 Weak La Nina
18-19 25-Nov 411 Weak El Nino
19-20 29-Nov 469 Weak La Nina




Seasons openings After Nov 25: 9

Season snowfall when opening after Nov 25: 332