Skiers, snowmobilers and other winter sports enthusiasts are seeing the best Black Hills snow conditions in more than a decade.
Thanks to a snowy November and a big blizzard in early December, along with regular snow showers in January, the Northern Black Hills are buried beneath a thick blanket of snow. The December blizzard alone dumped 46 inches on Deadwood.
The federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, which measures snowpack in the Black Hills’ higher elevations each winter, found January snow depths not seen since 1996.
“It’s by far the best snow we’ve had in a dozen years. There’s four feet in the trees and a two- to three-foot base on the trails. It’s just unbelievable,” said Steve Olson, general manager of the Comfort Inn/Bodega in Deadwood and an avid snowmobiler.
Regular January snowfalls of 3 to 5 inches have kept the Black Hills’ 350 miles of groomed snowmobile trails in good shape, said Shannon Percy, Black Hills Trials Manager for the South Dakota Department of Game Fish & Parks.
“We’ve had lots of blowing and drifting, which keep the trails covered with fresh snow, and new accumulations,” Percy said. In fact, the biggest challenge for his grooming crews has been to keep up with the snowfall.
The Black Hills’ downhill ski area areas also report good snow conditions. Terry Peak Ski Area west of Deadwood has a base of 20 to 28 inches, and all of its ski runs are open, according to its Web site. Terry Peak has seen 111 inches of snowfall since Nov. 1. The nearby Mystic Miner Ski Resort at Deer Mountain reports up to 36 inches of snow on its trails.
The winter snowpack also bodes well for next summer’s fishing, boating and water sports. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation reports that Deerfield Reservoir is 93 percent full, Pactola Reservoir is 92 percent full and Orman Dam is 75 percent full. By spring, officials predict, all three should be at 100 percent.