Above image courtesy of: Snow Ridge – Photo by: Nicola Rinaldo
As many skiers or snowboarders can attest, even in the snowiest areas, it can be weeks before the next big storm hits. Of course, snowmaking is a great option to keep those slopes in good shape. But, what if there was a natural way to get consistent snowfall? Here is a list of the snowiest ski resorts on the way to a lakefront snowbelt that are hammered by a lakefront snowstorm.
What is the lake effect?
For those on or near the Great Lakes, you know that the Lake Effect is a unique weather phenomenon that is only appreciated in person. Typically occurring a few times a year, it is when a blast of cold Canadian air blows over the relatively warm waters of the Great Lakes. When the contrasts of humidity and temperature meet, it creates instability and generates one or more intense snow bands that drop copious amounts of the good stuff. These snow bands within a lake-effect snowstorm can last for days or even weeks, drop FEET of snow… While ten miles away there may not be a single snowflake. A sight to see!
The snowiest ski resorts in a lake-effect snow belt
There are MANY ski areas in the Great Lakes region that are overwhelmed by the lake effect. To keep the list short and concise, we’ve focused on the ski areas that are getting over 200 inches per year. Without further ado, here are the snowiest ski resorts in a lakefront snowbelt that receive most of their bounty from a lakefront snowstorm.
HoliMont / Holiday Valley (Ellicottville)
While Holiday Valley scored high in après-ski activities (just behind Tremblant and Killington), it was also struck by the lake effect of Lake Erie. And across the cozy hamlet of Ellicotville is HoliMont, derived from the phrase Holiday Mountain. Dubbed “North America’s largest private ski resort for family ski adventures,” it’s open to the public Monday through Friday and private on weekends. Two ski areas, flanked on either side of the fun town of Ellicottville, both just minutes away. Pair that with an assortment of afternoon entertainment and you’ve got a winning combination.
Deep in the Northwoods of the western Upper Peninsula is Big Powderhorn. Receive over 17 feet of heavy snow each year from the large body of water known as Lake Superior. Due to its constant huge snowfall. Big Powderhorn is consistently ranked each year as one of the best ski resorts in the Midwest. With no ski lift lines, cold temperatures and LOTS of fresh snow, it makes sense that this is one of the area’s favorites. And it’s on the Indy Pass!
Big Snow Resort (Indianhead Mountain / Blackjack)
Originally two ski resorts, they merged in 2014 to provide a bigger and better option for skiers and boarders in the Upper Great Lakes region. Located in an area known as the “Big Snow Country”. So aptly named because of the more than 200 inches that fall each year, thanks to the lake effect of Lake Superior. This ski area will ALWAYS be close and dear to my heart. This is where I started my powder addiction and experienced my 1st REAL powder day.
Located in the 60,000 acre Porcupine Mountains Wilderness National Park, the Porkies are a truly unique experience. The way nature intended. No snow. No artificial lights. Just you, your gear and almost 20 feet of snow reliably fall on these ancient mountains every winter due to Lake Superior. Being in such a huge park and over 200 miles from the nearest metropolitan area, that means you’ll pretty much have the place to yourself. Also make sure to bring your backcountry gear, as they even offer an additional 40 acres of off-piste cross-country skiing.
Located on the infamous ‘Tug Hill Plateau’ at an elevation of 2,000 feet, they receive a bit more snow than nearby ski areas. While not large compared to the mountains to the west, it does help intensify the lake effect snows to settle and slam the Tug Hill Plateau (east of Lake Ontario). In fact, this region frequently sets daily snowfall records in the United States. With a record 374-inch snowfall in a winter season, Snow Ridge Ski Resort lives up to its title of having the heaviest snowfall in the East.
Mount Bohemia is located in the Upper Peninsula region of Michigan, on what is known as the Keweenaw Peninsula. This region averages more snowfall than almost anywhere in the United States. More than anywhere east of the Mississippi River and most of all non-mountainous regions of the continental United States. How to come? Well, since the Keweenaw is almost entirely surrounded by Lake Superior, lake effect snow can occur with all wind direction. The region is so proud of its 390-inch record set in 1978-79 that it installed a snow meter. Combine that with some great ungroomed trails and you’ve got a perfect mountain to shred.
McCauley Mountain (old forge)
As Mark Twain put it so eloquently, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” And that’s what McCauley Mountain is. On paper, it reads 240 acres and 633 vertical feet, but it packs a punch for a ski area of its size. Almost every acre of McCauley is filled with a variety of land that you’ll find at resorts three times the size. In addition to the terrain, it is also pounded when a lake effect snowstorm arrives. So much so that they receive almost double the snowfall than other ski areas nearby. We’re looking at you Whiteface. And with some winters registering over 400 inches, you’re pretty much ready for a great day on the slopes.
Honorable mention – Le Grand Lac Salé
While Utah’s resorts typically derive their snow from storms, we had to cry out at their unique phenomenon. Due to the “orographic” factors of the Wasatch, the great Salt Lake produced 3 to 20 lake-effect snowstorms since 1998 every winter. Usually, this does not create a snowstorm. Instead, it improves the storms that pass through Utah. This is why ski resorts like Snowbird, Alta and Brighton receive over 500 inches of snow per year.
So if you are looking for a cheap lift ticket and consistent good snow without a ski lift, these snowiest ski areas in a lakeside snowbelt region will do the trick. For more interesting facts about the weather phenomenon of skiing, like what were the biggest snowstorms to hit a ski resort, which resorts are preferred to be pummeled in an El Niño or La Nińa winter, make sure to check out you to take a close look at our home page on everything related to the weather: