Pacific Northwest resorts have suffered this winter with a less than normal snowfall. But this morning, that changed with a storm that dropped a foot or more across the region. Snow reporters at resorts in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon whooped up the good news of fresh snow.
The snowpack across Washington this winter has hung around 65 percent of normal. Skiers and riders who usually enjoy voluminous dumps from wet Pacific weather systems found their slopes with good coverage for skiing and riding, but little in the way of big new snows to freshen their thrills. The low snowfall even dogged the Olympics, with Cypress Mountain closing to the public weeks earlier than planned in order to preserve the snowpack for the Games.
But all that changed last night, when a wet storm slammed into the Pacific Northwest. Some ski resorts awoke this morning to with calf-deep new snow.
"It's amazing," Holly Lippert, spokesperson for the Summit at Snoqualmie, told OnTheSnow.com this morning. "We needed it. We've had snowy March weather in the past, and it delivered again." Snoqualmie reported 14 inches of light powder with roads clear for travel. Lippert said the snow is expected to continue today, adding up to 3 more inches.
Mt. Baker amassed 15 inches of new snow since yesterday. The resort, for the first time in weeks, called for a deep snow alert, reminding skiers and riders to go with a buddy, and drivers will need chains or four-wheel drives to reach the slopes.
Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island declared conditions "perfect" with 20 inches of snow that fell in the past 48 hours. The resort is celebrating a series of snowstorms that have propelled the management to add more weekends to the ski season. The resort now plans to run daily through April 11 and then re-open April 17, 18, and 24.
Several other resorts, including Grouse Mountain, Alpental, Stevens Pass, and Whistler Blackcomb, piled up 10-to-14 inches of snow, with more falling after snow reporters filed morning stats. The 2010 Paralympic Games launch today in Vancouver with opening ceremonies followed by downhill events scheduled tomorrow at Whistler.
Other Cascade Mountain resorts, including Crystal Mountain, White Pass, and Mt. Hood Meadows, celebrated 8-to-9 inches of new snow. Cypress even found 5 inches of light overnight powder that freshened up the 20 inches that fell in a series of storms earlier this week. The beleaguered resort, which re-opened to the public this week following the Olympics, needed the added boost after rains and course venue construction stripped the lower mountain snowpack.
High winds may affect lift operations at some resorts. Winds this morning across the summit at Crystal Mountain hit 55 mph.
The storm even tracked inland with 49 Degrees North seeing more than 10 new inches at the resort this morning. Interior B.C. resorts - such as Red Mountain, Whitewater, and Kicking Horse - proclaimed conditions "fantastic" with 8-9 inches of new snow.
Unfortunately, the new wind-driven snow piled on top of an old crust that knocked the avalanche hazard across the Pacific Northwest into the considerable-to-high range. Several slides have already occurred across the region. Conditions are expected to remain high through Saturday morning, and the Northwest Avalanche Center recommends against backcountry travel.