Warm temperatures cut into ski hill snowpack

By PETER HOAG/Montana State News

Bridger Bowl has recently experienced an alarming amount of warm weather. The current data indicates a troubling situation for local skiers and snowboarders, especially those who purchased a season pass.

The last four weeks have all maintained an average temperature at or above freezing, slowly increasing to this past week’s average temperature of 44 degrees Fahrenheit. The current mean average temperature for February is currently 39 degrees Fahrenheit, 15 degrees higher than the last three months’ average, and 13 degrees higher than the next highest February average of the last five years.

The most startling data would be the maximum high temperatures: In the last 30 days, 19 days have recorded temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above, six days have recorded 50 or above, one day peaked over 60, and four record highs were recorded.

At Bridger Bowl, the warm temperatures have led to a disappointingly low amount of snow. Only 60 inches have fallen since the beginning of the year, 10 inches less than the previous lowest amount at recorded during this period (recorded in 2012).

The quality of the snow is also under more scrutiny. As the temperatures force the snow to melt, it creates wet and heavy snow, and encourages the formation of unstable base layers. An official at the resort was contacted, but was not available for a statement at this time.

Unfortunately, conditions outside of major resorts like Bridger don’t show much sign of quality either. According to a Bridger Ski Foundation official statement, “Current weather will accommodate warm spring skiing where you can find snow coverage. […] Maybe go on a bike ride or run…”

However, the trend of unseasonably warm weather does not have a direct indication of how much snow will fall during the rest of the year. In the past five years, anywhere from 95 to 254 inches have fallen after Feb. 10, making good skiing entirely possible.

None of those seasons were considered strong el niño or la niña years either, so perfect weather conditions aren’t required for a strong turnaround. In fact, Bridger Bowl did not reach its average snowfall of 350 inches in any of the last five years.

Nonetheless, the temperatures have to drop significantly in order for the snow and good skiing to return, and they might not come down for a while longer. Through Feb. 16, the average high temperature is forecasted to be at or above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, with lows not dipping below freezing.

– Edited by Jason Berg

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