During most years in January, ski resorts in Western Washington are measuring the snowfall in feet. This year, most are making do with mere inches.
And the next few days won’t bring any help. A high-pressure ridge has once again moved into the area, making for clear, sunny days this weekend — and no fresh snow for the slopes.
Crystal, Stevens, Mount Baker, White Pass and Mission Ridge are all open for skiing, although some lower slopes are thinly covered, and not all lifts are open at all resorts.
The exception is the Summit at Snoqualmie, which remains closed. Bare ground shows through patches of snow at the base of the ski lifts, and operators say they need another foot before they can open for business.
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On Thursday night and Friday morning, the Cascades recorded modest to medium snowfall amounts. Crystal Mountain recorded 4 inches of fresh snow, and White Pass picked up 6.
“This is the best day of the season so far, for sure,” said Kathleen Goyette, spokeswoman for White Pass.
Stevens Pass recorded 8 inches of snow. ”We are 100 percent open right now — we’ve fared pretty well, considering the snow we’ve not gotten,” said Nate Escalon, marketing manager for the resort.
Mount Baker recorded a foot of new snow. On the resort’s website, operators called it “a good old-fashioned Mount Baker snowstorm.”
But Snoqualmie picked up only a few inches.
That’s why Guy Lawrence, the marketing director for Summit at Snoqualmie, spent his Friday skiing at Crystal Mountain. Both resorts are managed by the same company.
Lawrence said Snoqualmie needs another foot of snow before it can start opening any runs. “Two feet would be even better, but a foot we would put to use,” he said. The resort did open a few of its tubing runs this week.
“We have full faith we’re going to be open in the next week to two weeks,” he added.
Snoqualmie season-pass holders are not completely out of luck. Skiers who hold the most expensive, gold-level pass at Snoqualmie can ski for free at Crystal right now, said Tiana Enger, marketing director at Crystal. Those who hold basic passes can ski for $25.
And some other resorts are also offering Snoqualmie season-pass holders a bit of a deal, so it’s worth taking your pass and seeing what you can get, Lawrence said. “Everyone’s trying to help out.”
Even resorts that have gotten a fair amount of snow aren’t seeing the kind of business volume they usually see at this time of year.
“The powder hounds are waiting,” Enger said. At Crystal, the snowpack is 40 percent below average for this time of year, and runs on the lower third of the mountain aren’t fully covered — there’s some brush poking through the snow.
“We’ve been getting snow by the inch, a couple inches here or there,” she said. “I think people are waiting for the big storms.”
White Pass didn’t open until the second weekend of December, and then had to close briefly before opening for the season. “It’s been a rough holiday period for all of us,” said Goyette, adding, “We’re not complaining.”
The forecast becomes slightly more favorable for snow on Monday night and into the early part of the week, when clouds move in and there’s a chance of rain in the lowlands and snow in the higher elevations, said National Weather Service meteorologist Johnny Burg. But no major snowfall is expected.
Still, ski operators say they believe next week is the beginning of the end of the snow drought.
“The weather is definitely looking slightly more favorable, I think,” Lawrence said.
Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @katherinelong.