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Snow Predictions for Seattle-area skiing

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

This will be my fourth season skiing at Crystal Mountain Washington this year. First two seasons were outstanding (2010-11, 2011-12), last year was "challenging".


What is everyone's predictions for snow this year? I just heard on Cliff Mass that there is a large amount of warm water in the ocean that may increase temperature, and a heightened chance of El Nino, so that isn't sounding terribly great. I'm a bit concerned.

 

For those of you that are long time Seattle skiers, do you have any suggestions about how to still have a good ski year even if snow conditions are less than optimal? Does your skiing differ at all between good years and bad years?

Appreciate any commentary that you might have.

post #2 of 12

From Tony Crocker's www.bestsnow.net:

Quote:

Pacific Northwest: The early storm caused Crystal and Stevens to open for one day each in early October. November snowfall was below average and there was about 2 feet in early December. There was average only a foot the rest of the month, so the region had a poor holiday season. A solid base was finally established with 4+ feet during the second week of January, though surfaces were variable with a fluctuating rain/snow line. Early February storms dumped 7 feet in Oregon, 5 feet in Washington but less than 3 feet at Whistler. Later February and early March storms dumped 10 feet at Whistler and in Washington and 7 feet in Oregon. There were 3-4 feet more snow in March, but conditions varied with fluctuating snow levels. April base depths were 7-12 feet with average snowfall at higher elevations, and the late spring season extended well into May at several areas.

Area

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

Total

Pct. of Normal

Alyeska

36

49

68

51

74

14

292

56%

Whistler Alpine

44

29

48

94

106

35

356

85%

Crystal Mt.

45

31

39

115

78

46

475

89%

Mt. Hood

18

19

65.5

146

96

37

381.5

84%

Mt. Bachelor

34

30

47

139

92

58

400

104%

 

 

If you can't manage with 475", I can't help you.

post #3 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by St Bear View Post
 

If you can't manage with 475", I can't help you.

Not that simple, just going by total snowfall tells you nothing.

 

Same for Hood, likely all of the PNW, snow and then rain making it unskiable for much of the season.  The warmer weather taking its toll.

 

Late in the year storms salvaged the season that saw Jan and most of February lost to skiing.  Offset season with skiing into May.

 

To the original posters question, all you can do is pick your shots and hit it when you get the skiing "windows".  Know that on a lot of days it's going to be groomers only.

post #4 of 12

No predictions from me.  No point, as they're just as likely to be wrong as right.

 

If this winter does end up being warmer than usual, we'll get more freeze thaw cycles which is obviously bad for the snow conditions.  If that happens, how to have fun?  Keep going anyway and make the most of it.  I've had some really fun days in really iffy conditions because I had zero expectations and just wanted to get out and try to have some fun.

 

If that's not fun for you, I guess you pick and choose your days and only go when you think it's good enough.  You'll end up skiing less, but if you don't have fun in marginal conditions, it's probably the right call for you.  Not really sure what other options there are.

post #5 of 12
That's right j. It's an outdoor sport. Plus less skiers during so called poor conditions. Nothing like a clear cold calm day on ice. There was a week or so where you couldn't go off the groom last season.
post #6 of 12
We had a lot of Snoqualmie and Crystal skiers coming to Stevens in the first few weeks of January. Stevens had pretty good coverage by Xmas, plus they were more proactive with moving snow around to fill on creek holes than I've ever seen.

PNW is usually more reliable with early season snow, even in an El Niño year. Some years I'm skiing by November 15 at Crystal, usually open by Thanksgiving at the latest. In any event I'm not making any predictions.
post #7 of 12

No predictions because even Cliff Mass has said there's not a definite correlation between El Nino and lack of snowfall. Some of our snowiest years have been El Nino years (he has a blog post about this). 

 

You have a lot of drive-to or short flight options that get different snowfall patterns. Sun Peaks to the north, Schweitzer to the east are doable for the weekend. Bachelor, Sun Valley and Whitefish are easy short flights, again doable for the weekend. If you like little mom and pop areas there are plenty more--Ski Anthony Lakes had great snow last year. Of course there is no guarantee these areas will be good when Crystal isn't, but it's something to keep an eye on.

 

It's like anywhere when there's a bad season--you either make the best of it, ski all you can on the great days, or travel to where it's great.

 

Quote:
 Same for Hood, likely all of the PNW, snow and then rain making it unskiable for much of the season.  

 

Crystal was disappointing early season, into January, but it wasn't nearly that bad. It don't remember skipping many weekends once it started snowing in January, and I am fairly picky about conditions. 

post #8 of 12

To be a Cascade skier you really need to take the long view.  Always buy a pass, then go when the going is good, and sometimes when it isn't and you'll put together some OK years, some great years, and some unbelievable years. 

 

If you're new to the area and don't plan to stay long, therefore the short view, all I can say is good luck.  Anything could happen.  However the long view tells us that the odds are pretty good that there will be snow in the mountains and ski areas will open.  There will be enough snow depth to sustain a season past April, but how it comes down and what it's like while it lays there on the ground is anyone's guess.

post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post
 

To be a Cascade skier you really need to take the long view.  Always buy a pass, then go when the going is good, and sometimes when it isn't and you'll put together some OK years, some great years, and some unbelievable years. 

 

If you're new to the area and don't plan to stay long, therefore the short view, all I can say is good luck.  Anything could happen.  However the long view tells us that the odds are pretty good that there will be snow in the mountains and ski areas will open.  There will be enough snow depth to sustain a season past April, but how it comes down and what it's like while it lays there on the ground is anyone's

 

That was very well said, almost elegant.  Best way I've ever seen someone say snowfall prediction is a total crap shoot.

post #10 of 12

My summary made it clear that skiing was good from February onwards but not before that.  The Nov-Jan snowfall totals may not look that terrible, but for a region with steep terrain, rain incidence and not that much snowmaking, it was clearly inadequate. 

 

The PNW is on average the most reliable ski region in North America for natural snow in December/January.  When those months are bad, it hits skier visits significantly and generates a widespread perception of a bad year even when it gets better later. 

post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

The PNW is on average the most reliable ski region in North America for natural snow in December/January.  When those months are bad, it hits skier visits significantly and generates a widespread perception of a bad year even when it gets better later. 

 

^^^This was definitely the narrative from last season around here.  Not a great start to the season, Snoqualmie was atrocious through January so most casual skiers declared it a terrible year, gave up on the season and that was that.  And the retailers got killed because pre-holiday conditions were sub-par and it continued into January even after ski schools had started up.

 

But the reality is that conditions were better than people made it out to be.  I am sure that folks in Tahoe, for example, would have been happy to trade.  Not the most epic season on record, but still tons of good days lasting through April.  As for early season, some of it is understanding the mountain and the conditions.  Upper mountain of Crystal, particularly where it is north facing, skied pretty well in December and early January because it stayed cold up there.  That said, the lower mountain (mid-forest queen to the base) went through multiple thaw/refreeze cycles and was generally awful until the mid-January storm - nearly as bad as Snoqualmie.  So the environment was brutal for intermediates without a ton of local knowledge at a mountain that generally lacks vast amounts of intermediate groomer terrain to begin with.

 

Like anything, it all depends on your perspective.  And in my book, mediocre skiing is better than none.

post #12 of 12
Hard to call it an off year (for Stevens at least) when they reported a new record in skier visits, 406,000-something.

Late November and early December was a little sketchy; between Xmas and New Years' they did some extensive grooming and pushing snow around to fill the last few creek holes. By the first of January the whole mountain was open with the exception of terrain on Double Diamond. It was very very very very busy with ski school registrations, due in large measure to Snoqualmie not being open yet. There were also racing teams from Snoqualmie and Crystal; I have never seen so much spandex cruising the groomers in the 9-10am hour. This lasted 2-3 more weeks.

I also remember full parking lots in the week after Presdent's Day. We had big dumps of snow almost every day that week, and a lot of school districts were on mid winter break. I've never seen so much midweek traffic. I was in between jobs at the time and it almost wasn't worth it to ski mid-week. One or two Saturdays I got to the pass and said "F#*k it" and kept driving another hour and a half to get to Mission Ridge. Which BTW was fun smile.gif
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