Christmas Snow Depth

by Mark Lahtinen
December 31, 2019

A Christmas Day snow depth of 6 inches or more is a good sign for the ski season. We’ve had 32 winters (including this year) in the period of record with snow depth of 6 inches or greater. We were right at 6 inches this year but dropped to 2 inches on December 30 with the warm weather and rain. The average snow depth on Christmas Day is about 4 inches.

The average ski days (I’ve used 2 inches on the ground as a ski day) on natural snow for winters with 6 inches plus on the ground at Christmas are about 96 days or almost a month more than the normal ski season natural snow ski days which is about 10 weeks or 70 days. The ski days have ranged from 34 (1920-21) to 132 (1950-51) with 18 of the 31 years over 100 ski days. Fourteen of the 18 winters with 100 plus ski days have been since 1950. Six of the 31 winters have had total ski days less than 70 days (all before 1950). The maximum snow depth on Christmas was 20 inches in 1983.

There have been 7 winters (not counting this one) with 6 inches of snow on the ground on Christmas. The average ski days for those winters is 89 days (range 66 to 128).

Eight of the 31 winters have had more than a foot on the ground at Christmas. They averaged 104 ski days. Two were under 100 ski days (1927-28 at 97 and 1945-46 at 57).

There have been 9 of the winters where we’ve lost most snow depth after Christmas (like this year). The average ski days for these winters is about 68 days (range 34 to 120) or about the same as an average winter.

The average temperature for this December will be about 3.5F above average and above 20F. In the 31 winters with 6 inches or more on the ground on Christmas 4 have had average December temperatures above 20F. The average ski days for those winters is about 82 days (range 34 to 125). The average December temperature for the 31 years is 14.7F.

We’ve had a good winter so far with manmade skiing starting on November 12 with the early cold spell. We’re at 33 natural snow ski days with the natural snow ski season starting on November 27 or roughly 10 days early. (Note- the start of a ski season is sometimes hard to measure as the snow comes and then sometimes melts early in the season). Certainly some of the natural snow trails were not good or not skiable the last couple of days due to ice and/or bare ground.

This is also now the wettest year on record with 43.17 inches of precipitation beating the old record (2016 – 40.32 inches) by over 2 inches and about 12.5 inches above average.

With manmade snow we’ve pretty much always had 100 plus ski days in the last few years. It is great to be able to ski other trails on the natural snow and not have to drive so far to get on manmade snow. As I write this it is snowing with another 4 inches or so expected here in the Twin Cities. Hopefully we’ll get our Christmas present of a long ski season.