March is spring ski season in Jackson as the days get longer and the temperatures warmer. This is a wonderful time to enjoy snow-filled activities without the frigid temperatures of mid-winter.
And skiers don’t need to fear, as new snowfall and powder days still happen in March as well.
If you’re flexible and willing to take what the conditions give you, then March could be a great time for you to visit.
Snowpack is at its deepest
The snowpack has had an entire winter to build up, and snow depths typically reach their maximum values during the month of March.
The average settled snow depth (base) at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort’s upper mountain ranges from 93 inches on March 1 to 98 inches on March 16 to 103 inches on March 31!
This does vary from year to year, of course. From 2000 to 2019, the snow depth on March 15 ranged from a low of 64 inches in 2007 to a high of 147 inches of 2011. So even in down years, there is still plenty of snow to ski and recreate on.
In the Jackson Hole Valley, the winter snowpack starts to decrease in March after peaking in February. The average snow depth at the Moose Visitor Center in the Grand Teton National Park drops from 34 inches on March 1 to 23 inches on March 31.
At the Moran Weather Station near Jackson Lake, the decrease is more gradual. Average snow depth drops from 40 inches on March 1 to 33 inches on March 31.
Transition from winter snowpack to spring snowpack
Generally speaking, the snowpack starts to take on different characteristics in March as the stronger sun and warmer temperatures exert their influence.
The colder and drier snowpack of mid-winter becomes more variable in early spring as freeze-thaw cycles become more common.
New snow and powder days are still common in March, but snow tends to not hold up for long after storms. If you’re a skier, then you’ll want to ski fresh snow during or immediately after a storm before the sun works it over.
Fortunately, for backcountry skiers, mid to high elevation north-facing and shaded aspects can often hold settled powder time for extended periods of time after a storm, even during the warmer and sunnier days of March.
All other aspects can develop a variety of crusts, and during dry “spring skiing” type days at the ski resorts, it’s often better to let the sun soften up the snowpack rather than to ski first thing in the morning. You’ll hear plenty of names to describe various types sun-affected spring snow: “mashed potatoes”, “cream cheese”, and the more coveted “corn snow”.
Avalanche danger tends to be lower in March than all other months as the winter snowpack has undergone significant settling. However, warm and sunny days can increase avalanche danger (often this is a diurnal cycle), especially right after a storm, and wet avalanches can happen during warm spells as well.
Heavy snowfall can still occur
Jackson Hole Mountain Resort receives an average of 65 inches of snowfall on its upper mountain in March, making it the fourth snowiest month on average behind December (91 inches), January (84 inches), and February (70 inches).
For the Jackson Hole Valley, March is the fifth snowiest month on average, trailing November as well. Average March snowfall for valley locations ranges from 9.9 inches in the town of Jackson to 20.3 inches in Moose.
Occasionally, the Tetons can get into very snowy March patterns. The record for March snowfall at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort was 154 inches in 2001.
More recently, March of 2018 was also very snowy when 112 inches fell at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, but 2019 was much quieter when only 39 inches were recorded.
Noticeably warmer temperatures and longer days
Another big draw (or downside, depending on your perspective) is that March features more daylight and warmer temperatures. From a comfort and sunshine-loving perspective, this wonderful, but powder seekers will find it more difficult to find consistently good snow to ski compared to January and February.
The average high temperature in the town of Jackson is 38 degrees on March 1 but rises to 49 degrees on March 31, with a monthly average high of 44 degrees.
The average low temperature rises from 12 degrees on March 1 to 23 degrees on March 31, with a monthly average low of 19 degrees.
Temperatures can occasionally fall below zero in March, usually during the first half of the month, but severe cold snaps are rare. During the coldest days of March, temperatures will fall into the single digits below zero in Jackson, while on the warmest days in March, temperatures can rise well into the 50s.
Across the higher elevations of the Tetons, the average March high temperature at the summit of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (elevation 10,400 feet) is 25 degrees and the average low is 13 degrees, not factoring in the wind chill — and yes, it can get windy up top.
Ski resort crowds start to decrease
I don’t have any factual evidence to back this up, but in my personal experience during recent years, March tends to see a decrease in skier traffic at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort compared to January and especially February.
Yes, spring break vacationers do visit Jackson Hole to ski, but these crowds always seem to be much lower compared to the mid-winter vacationing skiers.
While snow conditions are more variable in March, if you’re looking for a less crowded experience, then this is a good time to visit. Plus, on warmer days in March, it is always nice to sit outside at the end of a ski day and drink beer!
Nordic trail grooming becomes more limited
Jackson Hole and the surrounding region offer excellent opportunities for nordic skiing, including numerous groomed tracks. However, most areas stop grooming at some point during March as spring takes hold across the valley.
For example, Turpin Meadows usually closes for the season after the first or second weekend of March, and Grand Teton National Park typically stops grooming the inter-loop road around mid-March, at which point they begin to plow the road in preparation for the summer season.
The excellent website JHNordic offers comprehensive information on nordic skiing around Jackson Hole, including grooming reports and information on when grooming operations end for the season.
Winter recreation shuts down in most of Yellowstone
Snowmobile and snow coach access to Yellowstone National Park typically shuts down for the season in early March, as the park prepares to plow and clear roads for the summer season.
The northern park road between Mammoth Hot Springs and the northeast entrance is the one road that remains open to auto traffic, offering opportunities for cross country skiing/snowshoeing as well as wildlife viewing (think wolves).
Additionally, the highway that heads north from West Yellowstone toward Big Sky, Montana borders the northwest border of Yellowstone, where there are several trailheads offering access to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.