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Record-breaking winter in the making, Alyeska Resort reaches 704 inches of snow since November 1st
March 20, 2012 (Girdwood, Alaska) – The winter of 2011/12 in the Chugach mountain range has been a tale of two stories: abundant snowfall top-to-bottom and high quality snow. These two attributes have created the perfect winter experience for skiers and riders. To date, the resort has received 704 inches of snow since November 1, 2011. The record to be beat is 939 inches from the 2000/01 winter season.
This winter started early and with a vengeance with two sizeable storms and countless smaller ones that delivered a healthy base of snow above 1,500 ft in the month of October. The storms kept coming and temperatures remained cool resulting in 71 inches of snow at the base alone for the month of November which was just shy of the record set in 1994 with 77 inches. The month finished with 96 inches at the top, elevation of 2,750 feet.
Opening day, Wednesday, November 23, 2011, opened with fresh powder and the trend continued through the month of December. There were 29 days of precipitation in December. The abundant early snow allowed the resort to open High Traverse and Christmas Chute on December 13, one of the earliest openings in the past decade. Alyeska snow safety and ski patrol teams have been able to offer more diverse amounts of terrain much earlier than normal. Skiable terrain from the far reaches of the North Face to Max’s lower face has been open consistently. New Year’s Chute, an expert-only area on the North Face, opened for three days in January, the earliest opening in the resort’s history.
On January 21, for the first time in the resort’s history, Max’s Chutes opened to the general public from the very top, elevation of 3,302 feet. Skiers accessed the mountain face from a boot-pack to the Headwall saddle. The 45 minute boot-pack was followed by a ½ hour traverse across the ridge-top to the entrance to Max’s Chutes. Skiers were rewarded with panoramic views of countless mountain peaks and the Turnagain Arm. The resort estimates about 300 runs were taken that day.
Beyond just the sheer quantity of snow, there is also a great story behind the science of this winter’s snow. The snowfall in January was exceptionally dry in character averaging 4.4% (base), 5.0% (mid) and 5.6% (top) in water content. In particular, the snow-water content of the snowfall at the base of the resort measured 44% lower than normal while the total amount of measured snowfall was up 203%. The Chugach range is known for its maritime snow conditions, however, this winter, the abundance of precipitation has met its match with cooler temperatures.
After what seemed like a record-making January, February also delivered with 26 days of precipitation. There were 10 days with 10 inches or more of new snow and five days with 20 inches or more of new snowfall during the month. The snowfall continued to accumulate from top-to-bottom resulting in an average base depth at the base of 60 inches. Alyeska Resort’s base area is one of the lowest in the world measuring 200 ft above sea level. The current base depth is about twice the normal depth of 30 inches for the month of February.
The resort’s snow safety and patrol teams were able to open for the public the iconic Headwall for two days on March 8 and 9. The Headwall is the dramatic face at the very top of the ski area and is approached via boot-pack to the saddle. From the saddle, skiers can access open bowl runs up to an area called Slow Boy approximately halfway up the ride to the north. Skiers were required to wear a beacon to do the hike, and the resort encouraged all guests to hike with a partner and carry shovel and probe.
With the spring equinox on March 20 Alyeska Resort is enjoying 10 hours of daylight per day and gaining light quickly. Spring conditions have been excellent. There are close to 50 more days of ski operations and the snowfall record of 939 inches could be within reach. Alyeska Resort boasts one of the longest ski seasons in North America. The resort will be open for skiing through April 29, 2012 and will reopen for weekend May skiing. May skiing is available on select chairlifts and the aerial tram between 11:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday between May 5 and 27 including Memorial Day, Monday, May 28.