Salt Lake City is a snowy place: It gets an average of 62.7 inches of snowfall per snow season. The greatest snowfall recorded in one season was 117.3 inches in 1951-52, and the least was 16.6 inches in 1933-34. On average, snow begins falling in Salt Lake City Nov. 6, and the average date of the last snowfall is April 18.
Earliest and Latest Starts and Latest Endings
The earliest date snow fell in Salt Lake City was Sept. 17 (1965); the latest early start was Oct. 22 (1995), a difference of more than one month.
There is a slightly smaller range of about three weeks for the latest snow season start, the very latest beginning on Christmas Day (1943), with the sixth latest beginning on Dec. 4 (1976).
The range of endings for snow season (meaning the last day in that year on which snow fell) was from May 8 (1930) to May 24 (2010), a range of a little more than two weeks.
Predicting Future Weather Events
Knowing the ranges of snowfall starts and endings for Salt Lake City -- or any other skiing region -- is useful for trip planning. The data suggest, for example, that planning a Salt Lake City area ski vacation in December before the snow has begun to fall is somewhat risky.
Even so, there are outliers and even within time ranges substantial differences in how much snow is actually available for skiing. The two latest starts for snow season both occurred on Christmas Day, one in 1943, the other in 1939. But the 1939 season began with only a half inch of snow. Therefore, the start date in 1939 is relatively meaningless for skiers. In 1943, on the other hand, Christmas Day arrived in Salt Lake with almost 6 inches of snow.
One longstanding weather-forecasting entity, the Farmers Almanac, has been delivering long-range forecasts for nearly two centuries and now claims 80 percent accuracy. This is disputed by competent meteorologists like the Golden Gate Weather Service's Jan Null, who investigated the claim and concluded the real figure was between 25 and 30 percent accuracy. Putting it another way, according to Null this particular long-range forecasting service is wrong more than two-thirds of the time. Not really a great basis for vacation planning.
While the Farmers' Almanac's refusal to reveal how it arrives at its forecasts has deepened the skepticism of weather professionals, it's not a problem that's limited to the Farmer's Almanac. Null's view is that the dependability of any weather service's forecasts, including U.S. government agency forecasts, plummets beyond about seven days.
The takeaway here is that it's a good idea to see what the past snowfall situation has been in any skiing area and then to add at least a couple of weeks to the latest start figures and to subtract the same amount or more from the latest season-ending snowfall figures.
Another variable in the weather forecasting situation that makes trip planning particularly chancy is global warming. Suffice it to say that NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration analyses conclude that 2016 was the hottest year since record-keeping began in 1880.
How this will affect skiing locations is not known, but it has prompted both the Salt Lake Tribune and Fox's Salt Lake television affiliate to speculate that the skiing industry in Utah could come to an end by the end of the century. This may or may not occur, but it does suggest that conservative and careful trip-planning in America's skiing regions will lessen your chances of a disappointing ski vacation.