Cascades, Sierras Pull In Bounty of Early Snowfall
Nothing gets winter season off with a bigger bang than a bunch of snow in December. That's what happened in the Cascades and Sierras.
The early-season storms stayed north for most of the month, dropping more than 10 feet in some areas and setting up a base that should endure throughout the season. A couple of storms later in the month brought resorts in the northern and southern Rockies into play for the holiday season.
So far, the big winner has been Schweitzer Mountain Resort in northern Idaho. As of the end of 2012, more than 180 inches had fallen – so much so that Schweitzer opened the entire area earlier than ever and the snowpack is already two-thirds of a full-season amount.
“When you can’t count the number of powder days you’ve had in December, you know it’s been a good season,” said Ski Patrol Director Arlene Cook.
Another beneficiary of heavy northern Pacific storms has been Crystal Mountain. Resort officials report more than 17 feet fell in December – more than eight feet in one week period – and the Northway lift got buried and had to be dug out.
Pacific storms were also friendly to Oregon resorts in the Cascades. Mount Ashland, Timberline Lodge and Mt. Bachelor all reported more than 100 inches of base by the time the calendar turned over to 2013.
After a depressing 2011-2012 season, the weather around Lake Tahoe turned for the best in December. Heavenly Mountain reported 11 feet of snowfall in December – its most on record. Squaw Valley has built up a 121-inch base, and Mount Rose has inches underfoot.
Farther south, Mammoth Mountain recovered from a subpar season last year to pick up 12 feet of snowfall in December – the fifth heaviest on record. Sugar Bowl already has 150 inches of base and Boreal, which opened early but closed for lack of snow, returned with a vengeance: 132 inches of base reported Jan. 2.
Most other resorts in the West have picked up enough to satisfy holiday crowds, although slopes and trails in southern California, Utah, southern Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona still await that Big Dump that will solidify 2012-2013 as a snowy, successful season.
Photo: Crystal Mountain Facebook