Warm temperatures grounding winter sports

WYOMING – Unseasonably warm temperatures may be welcomed for some in western Wyoming but a certain group of winter sports fans are stuck waiting for powder days to come.

Wyoming is experiencing the effects of the La Nina year, which is almost recreating moisture concerns from earlier this year. Current indications recorded by the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show conditions in Sublette County stretch from abnormally dry to severely dry. Parts north of the county were categorized in extreme drought as of the most recent data, reflective Nov. 1. Sublette County hasn’t experienced much precipitation since then.

But NOAA officials believe La Nina, coupled with a warming climate, favor above-normal temperatures across most North America. Odds also favor winter’s onset will be wetter than usual in the northern Rockies. But it requires some patience.

That brings promise for winter sports fans in Sublette County, who haven’t had much to be excited about thus far. So far, snow is only present in the highest of elevations in the Wind River and Wyoming ranges. Winter road access to Elkhart Park was marked by the U.S. Forest Service as of Wednesday, but Nordic ski trails weren’t ready for activities. Natural snow is highly anticipated for those hoping to frequent White Pine Ski Area, which has yet to announce its opening date for the 2021-22 season. Owner Alan Blackburn said White Pine hoped to open this weekend but will instead push back to Dec. 10-11 with an open house hosted on Dec. 11. If still unable to open by then, White Pine will instead open for the season on Friday, Dec. 17.

For comparison, Grand Targhee Ski Resort opened on Nov. 24, and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort opened on Thanksgiving, Nov. 25.

“Mother nature has been off to a slow start on the lower mountain, but with increased snowmaking capacity and a dedicated staff working around the clock, we are thrilled to open our lifts this Thursday,” JHMR president Mary Kate Buckley said in a release early last week.

Elsewhere in Wyoming, Snowy Range Ski Area outside Laramie is scheduled to open Dec. 10, having already delayed its projected opening day. Hogadon Basin, outside Casper, is projected to open Dec. 11 if conditions allow.

Snow King Mountain Resort, featuring large-scale renovations made since closing at the end of last season, is planning to open Saturday, Dec. 4.

“The new gondola and backside lift will be open for the season, but will likely open later mid-December to allow for sufficient snowmaking/snow coverage,” the resort’s general manager, Ryan Stanley, said.

Cross-country skiers may find suitable trails in the highest of elevations in either Wind River or Wyoming ranges, but downhill winter sports aficionados in Sublette County will have to look to neighboring paths in order to get their snow fill in the near future.