Snow Stake FAQs

Measuring snowfall at Big Sky Resort is particularly challenging due to the massive size of skiable terrain and dynamic weather conditions. Snow quality and depth often vary from one zone of the mountain to another on the same day with the many microclimates and varying aspects throughout the 300 degrees of skiing off of Lone Peak. As a result, Big Sky Ski Patrol and Snow Reporters use a variety of resources to report the most accurate depiction of snowfall at the Resort on any given day.

  • Big Sky has two snow stakes that are used to collect and report on snowfall across our large and dynamic terrain:

    • Headwaters (official snow stake)
    • Andesite 

    To give the best information in our morning snow reports, we also might reference other snow measurement sites and weather stations located around the resort. Weather and snow information can be found for the following from the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center at

  • Headwaters, the official Big Sky Resort snowstake is located near the base of the Headwaters 2 Chair, at 9,000 feet above sea level.

  • Snow stake placement is determined by a number of factors. Big Sky Resort's Headwaters snowstake is located mid- to upper-mountain, on a north-facing aspect. The snowstake is located in a clearing in the forest to protect from wind erosion and other environmental factors. 

  • 24-hour snow stakes are cleared every day at 4 PM, when the resort closes. Our snow reporters check the snow stakes at 5 AM to calculate the overnight total. If it's snowing, any new accumulation gets added until 9 AM. After that, our "Since 9 AM" total is updated.

    Our 24-hour total is calculated from 5 AM - 5 AM. 48-hour, 72-hour, and 7-day totals are a summation of the 24-hour totals over the respective days.

  • Our storm total snow stakes are left to accumulate snow once it starts falling until 24 hours have passed with no new snowfall. Our 24-hour snow stakes are used to determine a daily 24-hour snowfall total.

  • Big Sky Resort covers lots of different kinds of terrain. Elevation, wind, sun, storm flow direction, and other weather variables affect different zones of the mountain in unique ways throughout each day. 

  • Season to date snowfall is the total measurement of freshly-fallen snow at the resort. Snow settles over time, so the season-to-date snowfall is an overestimate of the depth of snow on the mountain. Big Sky instead reports our base depth. This measurement is the height of the settled snow from the ground up and fluctuates with snowfall and temperature changes, but this provides a more accurate understanding of our skiable snowpack. The steep and high elevation terrain found on Lone Mountain causes great variability in snow depth, so we report our base depth at both of our snow stake locations to give more context about the conditions across the mountain.