Early on, above-freezing temps kept snowfall down in the Pacific Northwest. But lately, the temps have dropped and the depths have risen. Pacific storms have stayed north, pummeling the Cascades and intermountain region with snowfall measured in feet.
Everyone knows what a rush it is to have a full day of skiing and riding, but often you still have the rhythm in your bones even after the lifts close. Enter the apres-ski music scene at mountain resorts.
SnoCountry scanned the West and came up with a sampling of apres-ski spots where the rockin’ goes on long past the final run of the day.
The options for skiing and riding in Oregon range from the one-lift town hill to the only year-round mountain in the United States – with all kinds of variety in between.
After an incredible November, more wintry conditions take us into December. We’ll kick it off with a cross-country storm system tracking low across the U.S.
The snow guns are firin’, the supply chain is hummin’ and everyone is primed for a new ski and snowboard season across the West.
The first snow storms of the 2018-2019 season have coursed across the Pacific Northwest, and a number of resorts are gearing up for November openings.
With the proliferation of Smartphones and digital cameras, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to capture the beauty of the West – especially in the mountains.
Summertime at ski and snowboard resorts in the Great Northwest packs in all manner of adventure, food and new perspectives.
Iconic mountain lodge has it all. (Timberline Lodge/Facebook)
Only one resort in North America spins its lifts in all four seasons. That’s Timberline Lodge Ski & Snowboard Area, hard on the slopes of Oregon’s Mount Hood and beneficiary of both high elevations and the largesse of the Northern Pacific storms.
Cutting a deep carve near base of Bachelor. (Mt. Bachelor/Facebook)
Looming into the skies in central Oregon, Mt. Bachelor sits on the east side of the Cascade divide – the dry side – but captures tons of Pacific moisture while still boasting up to 300 days of sun a year.
Finding some freshies above Sun Valley. (Sun Valley Trekking/Facebook)
Heading into the backcountry transports skiers and rider into a world of powder, mystery and quiet – especially if the trip includes a night or two out in the woods.
Ready to carve the first turns of the season at Timberline. (Timberline Lodge/Facebook)
The ski and snowboard season is officially underway as Timberline on the slopes of Mt. Baker will crank up a chairlift on weekends.
Hittin' the early jibs at Mount Bachelor. (Mt. Bachelor)
First-to-be-open honors for the 2017-2018 season may have to go to Mt. Bachelor, as the Oregon mountain dropped the ropes on a terrain park after a foot of early snowfall.
Hittin' the summer ski scene at Squaw. (Squaw Valley/Facebook)
After one of the best snow season in recent times, a quartet of Western mountains will keep the lifts turning well into what should be the season for sun-bathing and surfing.
Timberline's Palmer Snowfield in February. (Timberline)
Home to the Palmer Snowfield, Timberline has long been known as a summer training site for U.S. Olympic athletes.
“Timberline has a long and storied history as a summer training site for The United States Ski Team. From Tony Sailer, Billy Kidd, Steve and Phil Mahre to Ted Ligety; from Cindy Nelson and Picabo Street to Julia Mancuso and Mikaela Shiffrin ... All have trained at Timberline in the summer as well as virtually all other U.S. Olympic Alpine athletes," commends Timberline's president, Jeff Kohnstamm.
Olympic athletes in all disciplines, including alpine racing, snowboarding, freestyle and freeskiing, will participate in summer training at Timberline.
“This partnership really allows us to ramp up what we are dong there, training more extensively, across more teams,” USSA’s Luke Bodensteiner told SnoCountry.com.
The 2017 summer training season is especially important. The 2018 Winter Olympics, taking place in PeongChang, South Korea, are only a year away.
“Getting time on snow in really specialized venues like Timberline are make and break for our team. Creating that access, with priority to training space, bringing teams for pretty extensive periods of time, is going to make a real difference for us in the Olympics,” Bodensteiner told us.
Although it will not eliminate the need for international travel, the ease and accessibility of the Palmer snowfield will mean less time U.S. athletes will have to be traveling for summer training.
Timberline also offers a hard-to-find facility in the summer: a half pipe.
U.S. Snowboarding and U.S. Freeskiing will be training in High Cascade Snowboard Camp's and Windells Camp's terrain parks, where they’ll find a full 22-foot halfpipe, 22-foot pipe with airbag, large jump to airbag, and every type of freestyle feature found in today's top terrain parks. That coupled with camp-specific handle tows will allow team members to access parks without lapping Palmer chair.
Jumpin' at White Pass. (White Pass/Facebook)
The Snow Gods have been spreading the wealth around the country this season, and now is the time for the Pacific Northwest to count its blessings.
After a decent start to the season – though nothing historic -- the ski and snowboard resorts in Washington and Oregon gathered steam in late January and early February. OpenSnow.com reports that the jet stream that dumps on Lake Tahoe, Utah and Southern Rockies has slipped northward – good news from the resorts of the Cascades and beyond – but Pacific storms may soon take a break.
Always critical in the ocean-sensitive Northwest is the rain-snow elevation, but skiers and riders from the region know how to adjust to widely varying conditions.
“Heavy snow, spotty freezing rain, a rain/snow mix (above 5,500 ft.) – then back to snow,” reports OpenSnow’s Larry Schick. “A low with a warm front is moving in from the Southwest. This system is the causing of the variety of precipitation and this wild weather transition.”
The first weekend of February brought double-digit snowfalls to many resorts, including Summit at Snoqualmie, Stevens Pass and White Pass with at least three feet. But, again, the threat of thaw has been ever present. At Crystal Mountain, some 250 inches have fallen but the settled base is 77-88 inches.
In Oregon, a few dumps came early but resorts have had to make do with intermittent snowfall throughout the first two months of the season – and fluctuating temperatures around freezing. For example, Mount Hood SkiBowl reports 209 inches of snowfall this season, settling to about 80 inches of base.
The long-term forecast doesn’t have any major dumps on the horizon, but OpenSnow predicts colder temps and modest snowfall that to keep base depths on the mountain longer.
“Between February 13-17, the western U.S. and most of Canada will experience high pressure, sunshine, and mostly dry weather,” said OpenSnow’s Joel Gratz.
More powder to carve up at Bachelor with new chair lift. (Mount Bachelor/Facebook)
The new chairlift at Mount Bachelor will bring skiers and snowboarders into gladed steeps that previously required a long hike out.
The high-speed quad named Cloudcatcher opens up what is known as Low East – a below-treeline area of 635 acres on the volcano’s southeast side. The four-seat detachable lift will rise some 1,400 vertical feet and carry up to 2,400 an hour, and provide lift-access to some six miles of trails and assorted glades on that side of the mountain.
Cloudcatcher’s top terminal will be high enough so that folks can ski or ride over to the Rainbow or Sunrise Express – or get to the Summit Express loading area. It will also eliminate the 15-20 minute hike out of Low East.
Also this summer, crews shortened the Rainbow triple chair to keep its top terminal below treeline.
“The new lift and shorter Rainbow lift will alleviate capacity on the Sunrise Express and spread people over the mountain more quickly,” Mount Bachelor’s Stirling Cobb told SnoCountry.com, noting that a busy day at Bachelor can bring 8,000 skiers and riders onto the slopes. “The new lift also is protected more from the prevailing (northwest) winds that sometimes force us to close the northwest side of the mountain.”
Mount Bachelor is scheduled to open Nov. 25, weather and snow permitting, Cobb told us.
Previously, the last lift to go up on the Oregon mountain was a replacement for the Pine Marten chair; before that, the Northwest Express debuted in 1996.
Elsewhere in Oregon, there will be new conveyor lifts at Mount Hood Meadows and Mount Hood Skibowl. At Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, the second phase of an interior remodel is done in the Wy’East Day Lodge.
Plenty to buy at deep, deep discounts at the Northwest's biggest pre-winter expo. (Portland SkiFever/Facebook)
The anticipation of a new ski and snowboard season in the Northwest is ramping up – and the 2016-2017 Portland SkiFever & Snowboard Show fits squarely in the middle of the excitement.