Canadian Rockies Daily Snow

Final Post of the 2022-2023 Season


What a difference a year makes! Last year we were reveling in a deep May snowpack and continued bouts of late season powder. That was the 'Yin', and this year’s 'Yang' is a below average snowpack and a late season heatwave that has draped a thick haze of early season wildfire smoke over the Rockies. All said and done, there was just enough snow all season long to keep coverage adequate.

Short Term Forecast

For the third year in a row, a La Nina’ weather pattern was the winter pre-forecast for Western Canada and the Rockies. A cold and active storm track set up quickly in October and November delivering consistent small storms that slowly blanketed the mountains from Banff south to Castle with an above average early season snowpack. In fact, 126cm had already fallen at Sunshine Village by opening day on November 3rd, which was the earliest in all off Canada. Lake Louise followed shortly after on the 4th. Things were off to a blazing start and the stoke was high.

Below: Opening Day, first Sunshine Village, then Lake Louise. Images: SkiBig3 


A more southerly pattern to the storm track started developing in December across the Rockies. Castle Mountain was now getting the goods and had quite the memorable opening weekend (12/9-11) with over 20cm of fresh pow. That southerly pattern of storms would end up being one of the main stories to develop as the winter progressed. The snow continued to fall consistently in light amounts during the month with only Marmot Basin, riding north of the storm flow, falling below average. Sunshine and Louise had a memorable Christmas Eve/Christmas Day storm that dropped nearly 20cm. Besides that, most resorts were near or just slightly below average for the month of December.

January started off warm and dry, and unfortunately continued so for three more weeks as a predominant ridge to our west cut off Pacific storm systems, nudging them south across the western US. An arctic front during the last week of the month brought a two-day total of 15-20cm at the SkiBig3 resorts as well as Castle Mountain and ended up being the only real highlight of the month. After a decent early season start, a dry January was starting to expose a thinning of the base depths at many resorts. The steeps were becoming boney and there was definite concern among the locals.

Below: Boot top pow at Lake Louise in January. 


February started off on the right foot with 2 – 5cm snowfalls every few days or so that continued for almost three weeks. Conditions were steadily improving across all resorts. Now, enter the Polar Vortex event that began just before Family Day (2/20) and plunged the Rockies into a deep freeze for most of the week to follow. We hopefully remember the deep cold-smoke powder that fell as the arctic front invaded on the 17th meeting a plume of Pacific moisture. Two-day totals of over 30cm for the SkiBig3 resorts, Castle Mountain, and even Nakiska. Marmot, north of the moisture feed saw 15cm. A few days later during Family “week” surface temps plummeted to a polarizing -40C, and many resorts either closed or had very limited operations for several days.  With the airmass temperatures finally moderating, but still staying below seasonal average, the last few days of the month continued to bring consistent light snowfall. The surface conditions had significantly improved at most resorts during February as did the local stoke factor.

Below: Images of the mid-February arctic storm at Sunshine. Images: SkiBig3


With La Nina’ finally fading in the Pacific, a more seasonally average pattern emerged during March. This type of familiar pattern brought a few days of ridging, followed by a weak Pacific storm front, followed by another ridge, then more light snowfall. A few stints of arctic air brought some memorable 15cm days at Sunshine and Louise during mid-March. But with the bulk of the storm track now consistently riding to the south across the western US, it was Castle Mountain that rode the northernmost fringe of this parade of storms bringing in just over 100cm during the month. Castle became the leader in seasonal snowfall for all Alberta resorts by the end of March.

Below: Shredding some March 20th pow through the sub-alpine trees at Sunshine. Image SkiBig3


Enter April, where upslope conditions developed with easterly winds enhancing snowfall, especially at Norquay, Nakiska, and Castle, which historically are favored with upslope snowfall. The first week of April brought 20 – 40cm for these locations. Ironically, Castle Mountain which had the deepest seasonal snowfall was the first resort to close on April 9th. That said, they opened for a few bonus days the following weekend. For the Banff/Lake Louise region, April delivered the best conditions of the entire 22/23 season. Sunshine picked up a combined 85cm during the second and third weeks. Lake Louise had the single biggest one-day snowfall of the entire season across the Alberta Rockies on April 17th, picking up almost 50cm. Marmot Basin also saw a productive month with successive bouts of light accumulations that drastically improved conditions and allowed them to stay open until May 1st. A productive month with much improved snowpack, but still slightly below seasonal average across the entire range.

Below: "Pitted" (as in arm pit deep) in April at Lake Louise. Image: SkiBig3/Pforsey


Only two resorts, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise were in operation during the first week of May. Louise, which historically receives less snowfall than Sunshine, endured a record-breaking heatwave during the end of April that extended into the first week of May. This devastated the snowpack along with creating extreme avalanche conditions that closed all their steep runs. Still, Louise made it to the end of the May 7th party with top (of the world) to base lodge skiing. Down Highway 1 at Sunshine Village, the snowpack was also under an accelerated melt off. Record heat brought wet snow avalanches across numerous exposed areas. Ski Patrol was on high alert closing much of the mountain by early afternoon due to these dangers. Kudos to the snow safety teams at Lake Louise and Sunshine Village for their proactive measures to keep us safe in-bounds. Talk about accelerated snowmelt, I chronicled almost 100cm of melt off from Sunshine Village’s mid-mountain snow stake (shaded) from April 28th through May 17th. Sunshine, which is now down to only the Strawberry lift at the Village, is still on target to close next Monday, May 22nd with the infamous “Slush Cup” pond skim.

Below: Last year's Slush Cup at BSV. 

It wasn’t a bad year, but one that barely squeaked by with just enough snowpack for all Alberta resorts to carry out successful operations. Stand outs were Castle Mountain, which kept the snowpack fresh throughout the season with numerous small and medium sized storms that accumulated into Alberta's deepest snowpack. The entire month of April at Lake Louise and Sunshine Village, especially midmonth, when several super deep powder days brought back recollections of last year’s powder packed season. I guess the ‘Yang’ was not all that bad after all. 

Thanks so much for reading this season! We’ll talk again next November, until then enjoy a safe and adventurous summer in the Rockies! 

Powder Out – 


Extended Forecast

2022/23 Cumulative Seasonal Snowfall Totals and Percentages of Average: 

1#  Castle Mountain Resort   732cm / 288 inches / 80% of average 

2#  Banff/Sunshine Village   678cm / 267 inches / 75% of average 

3#  Lake Louise Resort   464cm / 183 inches /   86% of average   

4#  Marmot Basin   365cm / 144 inches / 83% of average                       

5#  Mt Norquay  289cm / 114 inches / 96% of average (300cm) 

6#  Nakiska   249cm / 98 inches / 98% of average  


SLUSH CUP at Sunshine Village on Victoria Day Monday, May 22nd - BE THERE for one of Canada's great annual parties celebrating an almost 7 month long ski/ride season!!