Ski and Ride Season Near the End in Washington

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Publish Date

03/11/2005

SAM Magazine--Seattle, Wash., Mar. 11, 2005--The ski and ride season is winding down in Washington state this weekend. Today, only Mission Ridge and Mt. Baker are operating, and both plan to close at least for the midweek period following the weekend. With little prospect for a change in the warm, dry weather that has plagued the Northwest since late January, though, even these two stalwarts may be unable to reopen. Mt. Baker has been moving snow by helicopter for two weeks, trying to keep the lower slopes covered, and Mission Ridge has just an eight-inch base on the lower mountain.

Earlier this week, several other resorts threw in the towel: Stevens Pass, White Pass, the Summit at Snoqualmie, and Crystal Mountain among them. While some of the shuttered areas would reopen if snow arrives, none are optimistic.

How bad has it been? "It's been the lowest snow year that we've seen in 54 years," said John Gifford, Stevens Pass general manager. The area has received about 130 inches of snow, less than a third of the 450-inch average, and has had no significant snow since early February. Stevens's season lasted just 45 days, compared to a 110- to 120-day average.

It would take a huge snowfall to rev up the areas, Crystal's Stacy Schuster said, because the ground temperatures are so warm, any minor snowfall would melt fast. Temperatures have been above freezing for several days at lower-elevation areas. The six- to ten-day forecast includes no major snowstorms, and few areas expect to reopen again this season.

Some lower-elevation areas in Idaho, Oregon, and Montana are also closed or are closing this weekend. For example, today is the last day for Hoodoo Ski Bowl; Montana Snowbowl closes on Sunday. And Schweitzer Basin, Ida., shut down for the season earlier this week.

The lack of snow and warm temperatures, along with general awareness of the widespread area closures, is also blamed for reduced visits at those areas that are open. Ski Anthony Lakes is closing for six midweek days this month, despite a four-foot snowpack, because skiers and riders aren't showing up. The area has not shut down at all this winter due to lack of snow or adverse weather conditions.

Meanwhile, larger areas to the north and south remain open and operating with ample terrain. In Oregon, Timberline and Mt. Bachelor are operating, though with below-normal snowpack. And Whistler has remained open throughout the warm, dry spell, though it, too, has endured a low-snow year.

Comments

Natural Patterns

This years low snow year is nothing out of the ordinary or due to global warming. It seems as though it is a 30 year cycle. The '76-77' season was also a very low snow year. I have been in the Ski Industy for 10 years and can expect that I will see another year like this one when retirement draws near.

sHORT SEASON IN wASHINGTON

Sounds like a typical season in New England! Maybe not this year, although most are no different. How do they stay in operation? SNOWMAKING!

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