Montana Daily Snow

Final Post of the 2022-2023 Season


A pre-season “Triple Dip” La Nina prediction was thought to bring above average snowfall to NW MT, while bringing drier than normal conditions to SW MT. So much for seasonal predictions as SW MT’s Big Sky had their snowiest season in recent memory (128% average/310” tally), with NW MT’s Whitefish (normally 332”/year) falling below average (65% average/210” tally). Big state, lots of highlights…

Short Term Forecast

November came in cold and snowy across the Northern Rockies bringing above average snowfall to the ski mountains on both sides of the Continental Divide.  Lookout Pass (west of the Divide on the Idaho border) and Great Divide (east of the Divide) both became the first ski areas to open the Treasure State’s 22/23 season on November 12th. A testament to the well above average snowpack found across the mountains east of the Divide, Great Divide is still operating top to bottom on the last weekend of April. That’s quite close to a 6-month long season!  

Below: Opening day line-up at Whitefish in anticipation for the first freshies of the season. 


And a wonderful first day it was... (image R.McLaury) 

The stoke was in high gear west of the Divide as a snowy pattern kicked in during the first week of December bringing cold temps and a steady stream of storms that continued through the last week of December. All ski areas and resorts across the region were in fine shape for the Christmas – New Year’s Holiday week. I can personally recount almost 10 full-on powder days at Whitefish in December. The month ended up with above average snowpack numbers ranging from 105% of average at Lost Trail Pass, to a hefty 123% of average at Whitefish Mountain Resort. All good, smiles abounded. 

East of the Divide, the storm track during the month of December was also active. Persistent light accumulations every few days in the 2 – 4” range began to slowly build the snowpack by mid-December. This snowy pattern continued into the third week with adequate snowpack on the ground for the Holiday week. But it was during this last week of December that significant storm systems really started piling up the snow at Big Sky, Bridger Bowl, and Showdown. The season was off to an excellent start at Big Sky which ended the month at 140% of average snowpack, with Bridger Bowl at 100%. Red Lodge was just east of the storm track ending the month at 80% of average.

Below: Deep December turns at Big Sky. Image/BSR 


A pivotal shift in the overall weather pattern happened in January as the jet stream was consistently bringing the active storm track to the south of the Northern Rockies. High-pressure then moved in bringing mostly dry conditions across the Treasure State through mid-January. By the last week of the month a ferocious arctic front met a moist SW flow that brought heavy snowfall to SW Montana’s resorts. 31” fell in a 36-hour period at Bridger, with 30” at Big Sky January 26-28. The southerly storm track was not great for locations west of the Divide as every ski area and resort ended the month with below average snowpack. The arctic storm system during the last week in January did bring a couple of memorable storm days on Jan 26th and 27th to Snowbowl (27”), Discovery (19”), Lost Trail (12”). Whitefish, just to the north of the moisture feed, received only 4” from this vigorous storm system, a harbinger of things to come. 

Below: The new Eagle Peak Quad chair opened at Lookout Pass this season accessing a bunch of new terrain, almost doubling the size of the ski area. Lookout is known for their copious amounts of powder thus their nickname "The Number 1 Powder Place". Image/M.Sawyer 

A series of arctic fronts brought seasonably cold temps and steady snowfall during the month of February for the mountains east of the Divide. While Big Sky and Bridger were receiving steady light accumulations sporadically through the month, a couple of major snow events occurred at Showdown and Red Lodge in February. Red Lodge picked up a 2-day total of 34” on 2/18-19, and Showdown saw 36” fall 2/19 – 21. This was true cold smoke powder under cold Canadian air. Besides these big dumps, February was right around average in snowfall for most of the mountains east of the Divide. That said, Showdown was the exception with well above average snowpack.

West of the Divide, colder than average temps were widespread throughout the month of February but with the storm track running to the south, below average snowfall and snowpack were widespread across the region. By the end of February, Lost Trail and Lookout Pass brought in 20” to 25” during the last week. A monthly snow total of 60” fell at Lookout Pass, with well below average snowfall at Whitefish, which only received 38” for the entire month.

Below: The last week of February was a great one at Lost Trail Pass. Image: Dave Gardner Creative/LTSA 

March started on a good note west of the Divide as a SW flow aloft brought remnants of an Atmospheric River into the region during the first week. Whitefish reported 12” between the 1st and the 3rd bringing back smiles to the local powder brethren, me included. The jet stream once again shifted south during the second week of March returning Whitefish to the doldrums where only an additional 14” fell during those last 3 weeks of the month. However, that southerly jet was quite kind to areas along, and south of the I-90 corridor. The stand outs were Lost Trail and Discovery, both along the Continental Divide on the far southwest tier of the region. In fact, Lost Trail received the most snowfall of any Montana resort/ski areas for the month of March with a reported cumulative total of 70”. Disco brought in 59”.     

East of the Divide, SW Montana’s Big Sky, Bridger Bowl, and Red Lodge Mountain were the stars of the show being on the northerly fringe of an extremely active storm track that was burying Jackson Hole and Targhee.  March 16th, snow riders were greeted to 13” of cold smoke at Big Sky, but the supreme highlight of March were the two-day period 3/25 – 27.  A slow moving, almost stationary closed low over northeast Idaho and northwest Wyoming brought copious waves of wrap around heavy snowfall. Below are 2-day mid-mountain snow totals from those days:

•    52” – Red Lodge Mountain
•    23” – Bridger Bowl
•    21” – Big Sky Resort
•    11” – Showdown

East of the Divide, healthy snowpack percentages of average ranged from 110% to 125% across the region.

Below: It was a March to remember at Bridger Bowl.


During the first 3 weeks of April, the jet stream was transporting a parade of late season storms into North Idaho and into the Tetons directly south of SW Montana. Resorts closest to these locations, Lookout Pass to the west, and Big Sky to the southwest were both on the fringe of these various storm systems. Lookout was the only stand out west of the Divide bringing in over a foot of snow during the first 6 days of April. Big Sky, just north of the Wyoming and Idaho border, saw persistent light accumulations every few days well into the third week of April. During that third and closing week, a slow moving closed-low over northeast Idaho brought a snowy and cold period 4/18 through 4/20 that brought a three-day storm total of 17” of winter like snow. Big Sky closed on April 23rd with slushy and warm springlike conditions, but if you were there the previous several days it was like skiing in January. An epic last week once again (remember last year?)  to top off an extraordinary 22/23 season at Big Sky.   

Below: Current % of snowpack across the Treasure State. Besides some below average numbers across NW Montana, overall these are some excellent numbers. 

 Thanks so much for reading, and hopefully I helped in a little way to bring the powder to the people this past season. We’ll talk again next November, until then enjoy an amazing spring, summer, and fall in the Montana Rockies! 

Powder Out – 


Extended Forecast

Below: Take a look at your favorite ski area and/or resort to get a gauge on last season's highs and lows in the snowpack. 

West of the Divide:

East of the Continental Divide: 


Great Divide Ski Area outside Helena will be OPEN top to bottom this Saturday April 29th for one last day! An extremely fun pond skim will also take place during the warm (actually hot) afternoon hours! Be there.