Farewell, winter: 2016/2017 goes down as 10th snowiest season in Boise's history

Provided that it doesn't snow any more between now and the end of May, the 2016/2017 season will go down as Boise's 10th snowiest in history.

Boise is no stranger to making top 10 lists.

This year, Boise ranked second on the list of best capitol cities to live in, according to WalletHub. U.S. News called the city of trees the sixth best place to live in America in 2016, and we've also been touted as the eighth best city for recreation by Outdoor Magazine.

You get the idea: the list of accolades goes on. (It really does - you can read some of them here).

While our favorable weather may not be a factor worthy of a ranking in itself, it certainly proves to be a bonus...most of the time. This year, Boise cracked its way onto another top 10 list: the winter of 2016/2017 will go down in history as the 10th snowiest winter in Boise's history *(if it doesn't snow again this season).

How did this happen?

Spring has sprung, but the memories of the winter of 2016/2017 will last well into the summer (if not much longer). So how did we get to that No. 10 spot? And what other monster winters could have topped this one? Let's start with the first question.

A weak La Niña pattern set up in the Pacific Ocean, providing a storm door that funneled right through the Pacific Northwest and the state of Idaho. AKA: Mother Nature flipped on that 'winter' switch beginning in December, and a parade of storms continued to slam southwest Idaho (and much of the Pacific Northwest) through the month of January and into early February.

Even though we only picked up three inches of snow in February, December and January sealed the deal: we were in for a historic winter.

Winter 2016/2017: How does it stack up?

Combine 14" of snow in December, 21.5" in January, and a measly 3.3" in February, Boise collected 39" of snow (between November 1, 2016 and March 20, 2017). Technically, the 'season' begins on October 1 and lasts through May 31, so if we see any more snow between now and the end of May (knock on wood), that number could still change. But as we turn the page to spring, we're leaving behind the 10th snowiest winter on record.

That's right. So if you're new to town, and your family or friends told you "it usually doesn't snow like this," they're right. It doesn't.

But even with so much snow, we were about 20" shy of the snowiest winter on record. That happened back in the winter of 1916/1917.

#1: 1916/1917: 50.0"

#2: 1948/1949: 48.8"

#3: 1929/1930: 45.4"


#9: 1985/1986: 39.5" (We are just .5" shy of this).

#10: 2016/2017: 39.0"

(For the record, during the winter of 1983/1984 [another big one in recent memory], 37.4" of snow fell).

Breaking it down: What were some of the highlights?


The first notable storm of the season rolled through just in time to leave behind a white Christmas. Exactly 3" of snow fell on December 23, 2016, followed by another 4.7" on Christmas Eve. (Note: All snowfall totals used are from the Boise National Weather Service Office, located at the Boise Airport). This set new daily snowfall records for both days.

The average amount of snow for the month of December is 7". The 7.7" that fell leading up to Christmas (in addition to a little leftover from previous storms) equated to 9" on the ground, or the most snow on the ground at Christmas since 1983, and the most snow on the ground ever (by that point in the year) since 1996.

Then came January: The fourth snowiest on record

Cold air and a series of storms pushed January off to a fast, snowy start. During the first 10 days of the month, it snowed all but two days. Within that time frame, 15.6" of snow piled up in Boise.

On January 4, it snowed 6.5", the 15th highest daily snowfall total in the city's history, according to the National Weather Service . (Records go back to 1892 for snowfall). That means it has only snowed more in a single day 14 times in Boise since records began. According to NWS, 15.5" of snow fell on February 2, 1916, setting the all-time record in that category.

That number (6.5"on January 4) also beat out the old daily record of 3.2" of snow on that date, and by itself, topped Boise's average amount of snow for the month of January (which is 5.1"). After that day, there was 15" of snow on the ground in Boise, which was the most snow ever recorded on the ground at one time since 1940, when records for measured snow depth began. (There is a difference between snowfall and measured snow depth).

By January 23, Boise had seen 35.5" of snow on the season (since November 1), which officially broke the record for most snowfall-to-date in the city's history. Here is the record breakdown:

#1: 2016-2017: 35.5" of snow

#2: 1985-1986: 35.1" of snow

#3: 1983-1984: 32.7" of snow

In all, we had 21.5" of snow in January 2017, making it the fourth snowiest January on record. (The number one spot for that record belongs to January 1929, when 27" of snow fell). NWS says it was also the snowiest single month since Decmeber 1983, when 26.2" of snow fell.

What now? Spring 2017 Outlook

We've been on quite the ride this season! Maybe you'll go to bed tonight crossing your fingers that it doesn't snow again for a long time. Maybe you'll find yourself stashing away the winter coat (although I wouldn't advise it just yet), or maybe you're planning out when to spend that last day on the slopes before the end of the season. Whatever the case, know that the worst is behind us. However, flooding concerns are going to be a real thing this spring.

NOAA's spring outlook calls for an 'equal chance' of us having a 'warmer than average' or 'cooler than average spring.' Think: It's a coin toss as to whether this spring will be warmer or colder than usual. Same thing for precipitation: there's an equal chance southwest Idaho will experience a wet spring or a drier spring.