By Jim Stanford on February 28, 2014
With 7 inches of new snow measured this morning in Rendezvous Bowl, February 2014 will go down as the second-snowiest February since record keeping began at the Jackson Hole Ski Area in 1975.
This month has seen 133 inches of snow fall in the Tetons, trailing only the infamous February 1986, when the Headwall slid to Teton Village and a ski patroller died during avalanche control work.
“This is a very close second to an unbelievable year, an unbelievable February,” Bridger-Teton avalanche forecaster Bob Comey says.
The precise amount of snowfall that fell in Rendezvous Bowl in February 1986 will never be known, as the upper mountain was closed for eight days because of avalanche danger. The 129 inches listed on the avalanche center’s website is an estimate, Comey says.
An additional inch of moisture fell in February 1986, and the mid-mountain study plot received 122 inches of snowfall, compared to this month’s 117.
Ski patrollers and avalanche forecasters use the measurements from Rendezvous Bowl and mid-mountain for historical record keeping. Raymer Plot was created by the resort’s marketing department in 1998 for more favorable readings.
Even by Jackson Hole standards, this latest, unrelenting storm cycle has been ridiculous. Since Jan. 28, there have been only 1.5 sunny days.
In fact, since the snow began falling after a two-week drought, the Tetons have received 153 inches between Jan. 29 and today.
February 1986 made history in many ways. The barrage of storms began Feb. 13 and lasted 13 days. A slide in Glory Bowl buried two cars on Highway 22, and Teton Pass was closed for more than two weeks. Patroller Tom Raymer died Feb. 17 in an avalanche on Moran Face.
On Feb. 23, 1986, the patrol triggered a massive slide on the Headwall that took out the Halfway House (snack shack and bathrooms) near the bottom of Thunder chair and ran 1.5 miles to the residential area of Teton Village.
This month’s snowfall has been spread out over a longer period of time, Comey says, meaning skiers have been able to enjoy it. In 1986, because of all the danger and closures, they could not.
“We got to ski all these 150 inches, which is spectacular,” he says.
Peak runoff on the Snake River in 1986 was the highest in modern history, until 1996 and 1997.
The record for most snowfall in any month in Rendezvous Bowl is 225 inches, set in December 1996. That winter boasts the highest total for the season, 577 inches, in the history of the resort.
The National Weather Service is calling for an additional 30 to 36 inches of snow in the high Tetons this weekend. Comey says forecasters are skeptical of those numbers, but there should be plenty of new snow, and more storms are headed our way from the Pacific.
(Photo via JHMR)