Stevens Pass doesn't usually open to skiers and snowboarders until it has 36 inches of snow at its base. This year, 24 was good enough. Workers hauled snow from other sections...
Stevens Pass doesn’t usually open to skiers and snowboarders until it has 36 inches of snow at its base.
This year, 24 was good enough.
Workers hauled snow from other sections of the resort to cover rocks, and the resort opened Tuesday with four lifts operating — its latest opening since the winter of 1989-90, when it opened Jan. 3. Stevens had 600 people working, compared to 900 at full capacity.
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“After the long wait, people are just happy to be skiing,” said spokeswoman Lori Vandenbrink.
It’s been a subpar year for Washington state ski resorts — including Mount Baker, east of Bellingham, which has been open longer than any other. Runs served by chairlift at Crystal Mountain near Mount Rainier remained about 65 percent open Tuesday, though its backcountry remained completely closed, and Mission Ridge near Wenatchee reported that business was beginning to pick up after its Christmas Day opening.
Mount Spokane had 12 runs open Tuesday, with 10 inches of snow at the lodge and 30 at the summit. The Summit at Snoqualmie had a foot of snow, needing 6 more inches compacted to begin operations at Summit West. (It was snowing lightly Wednesday.)
“We’re looking at the weather and hoping it comes sometime soon,” said Snoqualmie spokesman Jon Pretty. “In 1989-90, we didn’t open until mid-January, but once we did it snowed for 70 consecutive days. We can still have a great year, we just need to get open.”
Mount Baker opened Nov. 21 for a few days, but then closed for five. It reopened Nov. 28, and has been fully operational since the beginning of this month, spokeswoman Gwyn Howat said.
Things got even better when a storm dumped 20 inches at Baker on Christmas.
“We feel extremely fortunate,” Howat said. “Unfortunately, a lot of other areas haven’t been able to open, but we’ve had a gangbusters Christmas holiday. In general though, we’re still playing catch-up in a major way for not having been able to be open in November.”
Even though conditions have been good at Baker, many skiers haven’t realized it, she said. They hear about other resorts being closed and they figure “the mountains aren’t happening.”
“It’s definitely better for the industry if everyone is open,” she said.
Other snow-dependent businesses have also been hurting, from rental shops to restaurants. Even outdoor-gear giant Recreational Equipment Inc. said sales had been down 5 percent at its Northwest stores this month, though things have improved lately, spokesman Mike Foley said.
“The weather is the biggest factor for us at this time of year,” Foley said. “When it’s snowing and it’s the holidays, things are great. When it’s warm and balmy, folks just aren’t gearing up as much.”