Research Shows Black Hills Are Truly a Winter Wonderland & It Snows in Lead | Black Hills Travel Blog
  • Research Shows Black Hills Are Truly a Winter Wonderland & It Snows in Lead

The Black Hills look good in white, they wear it well and good thing too. Some places in the Black Hills are documented as being some of the snowiest in the nation. Photo by Chad Coppess, South Dakota Tourism

Snow, we cherish it here in the Black Hills (okay, I'll give in that maybe not all, this may need to be a statement we back with a scientific Facebook poll). We call it white gold, champagne powder, the good stuff. We find ways to enjoy our winter wonderland because typically we get a lot of snow and far, far less cold then our neighbors (which will be supported in a later, scientifically-backed post).

What might not be known by most (even locals or myself prior to this posting) is that the Lead/Deadwood region in the northern Black Hills are one of the top five snowiest places in America according to scientifically-gathered, historical data. Thirty-year annual snowfall totals collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Climatic Data Center show average yearly snow totals for Lead of 201.4 inches. Surprisingly, Lead's 30-year avg. snow total is only 14.4 inches shy of famed Crested Butte, CO!

The Black Hills have 350 miles of well-marked trails that make it a hugely popular snowmobiling destination. Photo by Chad Coppess, South Dakota Tourism

Here we've been claiming 150 inches annually but hey, who knew. I certainly didn't. This post was started to say the 350-mile Black Hills Snowmobile Trail System opened Sunday with early conditions that have everyone optimistic for the season, not "holy-wow we get how much snow!?".

Speaking of the trails, a recent report from KOTA News in Rapid City, Tom Doton, president of the local Black Hills Boondockers snowmobile club, says that the trails were better than the past couple of years for the opening day of 2013. A similar story from KEVN talked with some of the area business who echoed the same.

With a the early October Storm "Atlas" dropping feet upon feet of the white stuff and a recent storm at the beginning month adding a few more inches, what's currently being reported by the BH Trail supervisor and by SNOTEL data collected by the National Weather Service is a base in most of the Black Hills of about 16 inches of snow. On the highest trails, north of Trailshead Lodge and near Lead, officials have reported up to three feet of snow. The Black Hills Trail System covers mostly the western Black Hills; from north up just outside Spearfish, south to Deerfield Lake near Hill City and west to Four Corners, WY on the way to Newcastle.

Historical snow depth totals in January typically average six to 12 inches over December totals according to the NRCS National Water and Climate Center so an even two foot base is certainly not out of the question. All that's needed is a snowfall in the next couple of weeks (which, according to the averages, is about 59% likely for the area around Christmas time).

Data shows from now through March it is goin' snow, goin' snow, goin' snow. What is yet to be known is how we'll all feel about that (scientific Facebook polling data to come). Based on the sheer number of people who visit the Black Hills for all its wintertime fun though, I'm guessing the results will be positive.

About the Author

Mike, by accident he ended up in sales and marketing; Mike's education and background is in journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism.

Having spent most of his life in various South Dakota towns on the east-side of the Missouri River – like Huron, Vermillion, Brookings and Pierre – Mike followed a girl west to Spearfish.  He has thoroughly enjoyed the past thirteen years there.

What Mike loves most is time spent around the Hills with his family, whether it's in Spearfish Canyon, at a Black Hills attraction or at Spearfish City Park and the DC Booth National Historic Fish Hatchery. He also loves dusting off his camera every now and then for a shoot, making a good meal and washing it down with a great beer.

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