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.
Timberline’s Palmer Express lift usually operates June 1st through Labor Day for summer turns on Oregon’s highest peak. (Timberline/Facebook)
Some skiers and riders just can’t get enough, and they aren’t satisfied with wind surfing, whitewater rafting or plain ol’ hiking in the summer. For them, there are options out there that require some travel, a bit of hiking and plenty of sunscreen.
When Rocky Mountain resorts have shut down for the season, there’s always been a summertime option for skiers and snowboarders: Beartooth Basin in northern Wyoming.
The snow gods smiled on the Pacific Northwest this season, with most mountain resorts getting at or slightly above normal snowfall – meaning they are pushing closing dates to the limit.
El Niño’s largesse has fallen mostly on Sierra and Pacific Northwest resorts this season, prompting several to extend their seasons and others just happy to make it to their usual closing date.
The northwest corner of the continent is set to have some of the best powder days in the nation this week – a far cry from last year but a welcome “return to normalcy” to the a region that typically measures snowfall in feet.
A phalanx of snow storms continues to course off the Pacific and dump double-digit depths on the Cascades and environs.
It’s no secret that last season was difficult for ski and snowboard operations in the Pacific Northwest, given a record low in snowfall and persistent above-freezing temperatures into midseason.
More than a hundred wildfires in the mountains of the moisture-starved Pacific Coast have yet to cause any damage to ski and snowboard resorts, although a small fire near Snow Summit and Bear Mountain forced temporary evacuations and closures around the Southern California slopes.
When the chairlifts no longer turn and bare ground shows up on the trails, it’s time for winter resorts to shift into summertime mode – specifically, golf.
Bits and pieces of winter will sprinkle across the country for the next week, with Front Range Colorado getting the bulk of new stuff while New England’s winter weather gods just don’t seem to want to let go.
A couple of weeks of serious storms brought 100 inches to Wolf Creek and a welcome three feet to the Tahoe area. But they are done with, and it appears that spring skiing will be the order of the day for the near future.
Many resorts along the West Coast are sweetening ticket and lodging deals to entice skiers and snowboarders into the mountains. The deals are prompted by a winter season that hasn’t come close to even delivering an average snowfall.
It looks like the whatever good stuff from this latest storm has all fallen, and forecasters say it’ll be warmer and drier across the West into the last week of January.
The small print on the back of a ski lift ticket is now in the legal spotlight, following a decision by the highest court in Oregon that such waivers are “unenforceable” and a snowboarder injured at Mt. Bachelor’s terrain park can sue the resort for damages.