After hearing there was “pow” in the forecast, the Jackson Hole Daily called a mountain weather meteorologist.
“More, you mean?” responded Jim Woodmencey, chief meteorologist at MountainWeather.com and a columnist for the Jackson Hole News&Guide.
With a low pressure system barreling toward the western U.S., Woodmencey is expecting at least a foot of new snow, if not more, to fall in the Tetons through the end of the day Friday.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch from 6 a.m. Thursday to noon Friday, expecting a total snow accumulation of six to 10 inches in the valley. Winds will likely gust as high as 35 mph and blowing snow could reduce drivers’ visibility. The new snow, which will fall in the first few days of December, comes after a record cold November that dropped enough powder for great, early season skiing.
“It was a good November for snow,” Woodmencey said.
In the first half of November, roughly 32 inches fell at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s mid-mountain plot, according to Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center records. Another 32 inches fell in the second half of the month, with a roughly 12-day period of cold — and later warm — temperatures that produced surface facets and crusts. That led avalanche forecasters to raise the danger of slides to “considerable.” The Teton Pass parking lot has, nonetheless, been full throughout the two most recent storm cycles.
With more snow on the way, an evening of avalanche education is on tap with Skinny Skis’ 23rd annual Avalanche Awareness Night starting at 5:30 p.m. tonight at the Center for the Arts. Also on the way is the opening of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s high elevation lifts: the Aerial Tram, Bridger Gondola, Sublette Quad and Marmot Double. The resort’s upper mountain will open Saturday, with the new Thunder Quad set to open Dec. 10.
But, while November was snowy, Woodmencey said it wasn’t the snowiest month on record.
Records for a half-dozen other Novembers showed higher snow totals, he said. November 2022 was, however, the coldest month on record. On average, temperatures in Jackson Hole reached a high of 27.7 degrees Fahrenheit in November, he said. The average low was 6.2 degrees. The next coldest November on record was in 1938, when the average high temperature was 30 degrees and the average low was eight.
Generally in November, Jackson Hole sees average highs of 40 degrees and lows of 16.
“Those are absurd numbers,” Woodmencey said of this November. “That’d be more like our average high and low in December.”
Woodmencey didn’t, however, want to talk much about powder projections for the rest of the season Wednesday afternoon. He said he’d save regional weather predictions for “Avy Night,” the nickname for Skinny Skis’ program. Presentations will start at 6:30 p.m. and experts also will discuss the state of the snowpack and backcountry access. This year’s keynote speaker is Dan Corn, an Exum Mountain guide who also works for the American Avalanche Institute.
A suggested $5 donation at the door supports Teton County Search and Rescue while the evening’s raffle raises money for the Avalanche Center, which has unveiled a new, updated website. The revamped site has been standardized to match other avalanche center websites across the U.S.
The new website has similar features to the old one such as daily avalanche and weather forecasts for the Tetons, Greys River and Togwotee Pass. The “Snowpack Tracker” and “Storm Tracker,” which allow skiers to view historical conditions, are also both still there. But the new site is intended to make it easier to upload observations and send photos and videos to the center, which is encouraging backcountry users to take time to get familiar with the new site.
Meanwhile, resort skiers who got a pass this year have something to look forward to: the opening of Big Red.
“We are elated to open the Aerial Tram and upper mountain on Dec. 3,” President Mary Kate Buckley said in a Wednesday morning press release. “The snowfall we have received thus far this season is providing some of the best early season conditions we have seen in decades.”
The new Thunder lift is set to open next weekend. A ribbon cutting and party is planned for Dec. 17. Crews have been working on replacing the popular chairlift this fall, and have been working down to the wire. A monthlong delay required workers to install the haul rope in the past month’s inclement weather.
The new Thunder lift will be about twice as fast as the old one, taking skiers and riders up 1,454 vertical feet in three-and-a-half minutes rather than the seven-or-so it used to take.
The resort will once again be limiting daily ticket sales this year, and requiring Ikon and Mountain Collective passholders to make a reservation to ski the East Tetons hill. The resort recommends that people with either pass make reservations far in advance. The idea is to limit capacity and improve the on-mountain experience.
Local skiers and riders were, however, incensed earlier this year when the resort sold out of season passes in August, including the cheapest season pass that most locals buy to ski at Teton Village. Jackson Hole Community Radio reported that, on opening day, some skiers felt the resort was prioritizing visitors over locals.