This article was originally written by Montana Forecaster Bob Ambrose. Follow the Montana Daily Snow to read Bob's latest snow forecast.
Digging back through the dusty data of seasons past, I thought I’d kindly remind folks that Montana is arguably the best place to be in the Rockies during the coldest and snowiest “ber” month.
After leafing through the Treasure State’s resort stats, I’ve found some very interesting observations. Basically, the early season in this part of the Rockies is conducive to a consistent northwest (NW) flow pattern. Moisture and cold air tend to sweep down from the Gulf of Alaska and/or British Columbia and slows down once it encounters the western slope of the Northern Rockies.
This, historically speaking, has been our transitional season snowmaker, entering Montana first across the Northwest region (Whitefish, Blacktail) and tracking through into the Southwest mountains (Bridger, Lost Trail, Big Sky) before exiting into Wyoming.
Pretty spiffy information from the good folks at the snow-ghost capital of the world (Whitefish Mountain Resort) indicates that since December 2011, they have opened 100% of the Big Mountain by Christmas every year but one. Lost Trail Powder Mountain also had some impressive numbers with 7 out of the last 10 years with 100% terrain open by the 25th.
East of the Divide, the massive that is Lone Mountain (Big Sky Resort) carries an excellent 10-year average of having 80% of its 5,800 acres of terrain open by St. Nick’s big day. Anyone of these three places is the best bet for an early season day trip or week-long ski-a-palooza.
Another area that isn’t too shabby in the early season is Bridger Bowl which has averaged roughly 80% open by Christmas over the last 10 years. Bridger is fairly liberal with opening terrain so if you want to hit the steeps early on bring your rock skis.
Lookout Pass, straddling Montana and Idaho, also deserves special mention as they are generally one of the first places to open in November. Early storms can bring copious amounts of wet snow there but can also be plagued by rain with their somewhat low 4,500-5,600’ elevation.
Montana Snowbowl is kind of a wild card with a 10-year average of having roughly 70% of the mountain open by Christmas day. It’s a huge state and it all just depends on that fickle force of uncertainty we call weather.
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