We’re turning into mid-January with a busy and changeable weather pattern across North America. Two fast-moving (albeit mild) storms graze the East, while cold and snowy conditions persist for the West.
In most seasons, the Pacific Northwest can claim the most snow in the country -- and the heaviest powder. So, skiers and riders who head up to the Cascades know they have to work a bit harder to carve up the freshies.
Record-setting snowfall in February blanketed the West, gave powderhounds all that they could ask for in a ski and snowboard season, and kept resort owners smiling from ear to ear.
The latest round of storms off the Pacific Ocean have rivaled any in recent years, so much so that a number of resorts closed temporarily and others had to cut back on skiable terrain.
Boyne Mountain, credited with many industry firsts for lift innovations and snowmaking, first opened in January 1949. They had the first chairlift in the Midwest, and can also lay claim to pioneering the four season resort concept now popular throughout the country when they started adding golf to the activity list.
With 2018 quickly coming to a close, several areas across the U.S. and Canada will get final bursts of snow and cold for the year. Here’s the breakdown…
Boyne Resorts takes on ownership of Loon. (Loon/Facebook)
Boyne Resorts has announced an agreement with Ski Resort Holdings, LLC, an affiliate of Oz Real Estate, to acquire six mountain resorts and a scenic chairlift attraction currently leased by the resort company.
Cruisin' at Snoqualmie. (Summit at Snoqualmie/Facebook)
Everyone else seems to be doing it, so why not joint season pass programs for the ski and snowboard resorts in the Pacific Northwest?
With an unrestricted season pass in hand from one of the three Washington state resorts for 2017-2018, skiers and snowboarders can add on three days at each of the two other mountains for $199 – if purchased before May 31 – or $33 a day.
Each resort is within a couple hours’ drive of the Seattle area, so the goal of the program, according to officials at the three mountains, is to “give skiers and snowboarders living in the Puget Sound more reason to stay local.”
Resorts across the Northwest are ramping up discounts on 2017-18 passes. At Stevens Pass, the first layer of discounts has begun. A renewal costs $549, a new pass $599 for a limited amount. When the “first tier” of passes is sold out at Stevens Pass, the price goes up.
Crystal Mountain and Snoqualmie have yet to put next season’s passes on sale. Three resorts in the Northwest link into the Colorado-based M.A.X. Pass, which offers five days of skiing and riding at 44 resorts around the country. Included are Mt. Bachelor, Crystal Mountain and Snoqualmie.
Cruisin' at Snoqualmie (Summit at Snoqualmie/Facebook)
Cascadia Pass works at Stevens Pass. (Stevens Pass/Facebook)
More pow' days at Crystal. (Crystal Mountain/Facebook)
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.
Speeding down the track in a tube at Keystone. (Keystone/Facebook)
Ski and snowboard resorts across the country continue to up the ante for activities beyond hitting the slopes – and tubing is a growing staple at many of them.
Tubing centers typically sprout up near the base area and utilizing beginner lifts like conveyors – though there’s a few up on the hill.
Most have height and age minimums, charge per session (two hours typical), offer group rates, and sometimes require viewing ticket. Often there’s a warming hut with food and drink nearby; lighted, after-dark tubing common.
Keystone puts tubing hill at top of gondola with top-of-the-continent views. Park has six lanes, conveyor lift, and is open after dark during evening ski-snowboard hours.
Tubing at Soda Springs Mountain Resort ramps up to 20 lanes and a 400-ft surface lift. The curious but not brave can buy a pedestrian ticket to watch.
Highlight at Mount Hood SkiBowl’s tubing park is Cosmic Tubing with lane lighting, laser shows and music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting at 5 p.m. on lift-served kiddie and hike-up extreme hills.
At Summit at Snoqualmie, tubers’ best option is to buy two-hour tickets in advance online and show up early. Eight-lane tubing hill is 550 feet long with 40-foot drop, located across from Summit Central.
Upstate New York’s Hunter Mountain boasts biggest park – 20 chutes 1,000 feet long served by conveyor. Overlapping two-hour sessions up capacity on weekends.
Another with after-dark tubing is Killington, which runs Fridays and Saturdays (plus holidays) until 7 p.m.
Night owls will love Boston Mills-Brandywine in northeast Ohio. The Polar Blast goes till midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
For Wisconsin’s largest, head to Sunburst Ski Area in Wisconsin, with its 40 lanes and two conveyors.
Uphiller nears summit of Sunlight (photo Sunlight Mountain Resort)
Be it to stay fit, save money or get some quiet time in the out-of-doors, ”uphill skiing” has become a staple at many U.S. resorts – requiring mountain managers to adopt rules for the activity.
A phalanx of snow storms continues to course off the Pacific and dump double-digit depths on the Cascades and environs.
You could hear the audible sigh of relief from skiers and snowboarders in the Great Northwest this last week who finally can hit the slopes after a way-too-warm December.
No need to hang ‘em up quite yet, but the list is indeed getting shorter. There’s skiing and riding in six states. Several resorts have stayed open continuously, while some others have closed during the week, but plan to re-open for the weekend. Here’s the rundown:
Late-season storms have buoyed conditions at many Western resorts, but this recent largesse doesn’t appear to be enough to keep slopes open beyond announced closing dates.
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.