Share story

The Cascade ski slopes continue to see a dramatic increase of snowfall, ensuring a ski season that will extend into spring, but it comes with an immediate note of caution due to winter storms and a high avalanche hazard in the backcountry.

Close to three feet of new snow is expected through the weekend at Mount Baker and Stevens Pass ski areas.

An initial weak frontal system crossed the Pacific Northwest on Thursday, and the western facing mountains picked up 6 to 12 inches of snow, with Mount Baker receiving 20 inches in a 24-hour period ending Friday morning. Ski areas to the south, including Crystal Mountain and White Pass, received a little less.

Look for a series of low-pressure systems brewing off the coast to cause an increase of precipitation Friday that will likely bring stormy alpine winds and moderate to heavy rain or snow in the Olympics and Cascades.

Pro patroller Andy Sahlfeld measures snow depth at the top of Chair 1 at the Mount Baker Ski Area.
Pro patroller Andy Sahlfeld measures snow depth at the top of Chair 1 at the Mount Baker Ski Area.

This will change quickly as the low-pressure system drops south, and by this weekend look for much colder temperatures and light to moderate snow showers. The freezing level will bounce around between 500 to 4,000 feet, and then drop to sea level by late Saturday.

An avalanche warning has been issued for the northwest Cascades, with storm and wind-slab avalanches becoming very likely due to more snowfall coupled with a warming trend and strong southwest winds. This will create unstable snow layers so travel in the backcountry is not recommended in that region. The warning doesn’t apply to ski areas where avalanche-prevention operations are in place.

With snow dumping heavily in the mountains, some skiers and riders will venture to the backcountry in search of untouched powder that brings the potential of avalanches and other hazards.

The avalanche conditions were listed as “high” on the Northwest Avalanche Center’s website. A group of skiers at Washington Pass near the highway hairpin on the east side of the pass Tuesday afternoon was hit by a natural cornice-released avalanche from a group above them. Four skiers were caught and carried up to 1,000 feet downslope. There were some injuries, but no fatalities. The release occurred on a very steep slope at the top of a northeast facing bowl at about 7,500 feet.

When traveling in the backcountry it is important to ski or ride with a partner(s), and stay in visual contact with each other; let others know of your travel plans; avoid tree wells and keep a safe distance from trees; stay on groomed runs; and avoid unmarked areas in off-boundary areas of ski resorts. For more information, go to www.deepsnowsafety.org or http://www.nwac.us/avalanche-forecast/current/.

John Westhoff takes in the view of Mt. Rainier from the Ben Jones Loop of the Mount Tahoma Trails System outside of Ashford, Wash. This snowshoeing/backcountry skiing/cross country skiing trail starts at the Mount Tahoma Trails System’s High Hut. ( Photo by Kevin Fujii / The Seattle Times ).
John Westhoff takes in the view of Mt. Rainier from the Ben Jones Loop of the Mount Tahoma Trails System outside of Ashford, Wash. This snowshoeing/backcountry skiing/cross country skiing trail starts at the Mount Tahoma Trails System’s High Hut. ( Photo by Kevin Fujii / The Seattle Times ).

Expected snowfall totals through Monday are: 18 to 35 inches of snow will fall at the Mount Baker Ski Area; 16 to 33 at Stevens Pass Resort; 8 to 18 at Alpental at The Summit at Snoqualmie; 14 to 30 at Crystal Mountain Resort; and 15 to 28 at White Pass Ski Area.

The total snowfall this season is 534-plus inches at Mount Baker Ski Area (big snow periods were 115 inches in November, 207 in December, and 133 in January). The average season total is 659 inches. The record was 1,140 inches in the 1998-99 season, and the runner-up was 857 inches in the 2010-11 season.

Other total snowfall this season are 283 inches at the Summit at Snoqualmie; 333 inches at Stevens Pass Resort; 313 inches at Crystal Mountain Resort; 333 to 367 inches at White Pass Ski Area; and 332 inches at Whistler-Blackcomb Resort in British Columbia.

The Loup Loup Ski Bowl – located between Twisp and Okanogan on Highway 20 – is open Wednesday, and Friday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. with a 42-inch base. The Hurricane Ridge Ski and Snowboard Area in Olympic National Park is open Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., weather conditions permitting.

Many cross-country ski trails have been groomed and await weekend visitors at Lake Wenatchee State Park; Scottish Lakes High Camp; Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park; Mazama; Echo Ridge; Methow Trails; Leavenworth Winter Sports Club; White Pass; Stevens Pass; and Cabin Creek, east of Snoqualmie off I-90.

Christy Elton picks up her son Ty Anders, 2, to position him during his first time on skis near a magic-carpet learning area at Crystal Mountain.  (Lindsey Wasson/The Seattle Times)
Christy Elton picks up her son Ty Anders, 2, to position him during his first time on skis near a magic-carpet learning area at Crystal Mountain. (Lindsey Wasson/The Seattle Times)

In Montana, Whitefish Resort is open daily with a 123-inch base (9 inches new snow), and has 101 trails and 10 lifts open with night skiing offered Friday and Saturday. Big Sky Resort is open daily with a 52- to 78-inch base.

Open daily in British Columbia are Cypress (138-inch base); Whistler-Blackcomb (109); Mount Seymour (120-148); Grouse (98-126); Whitewater (116); Mount Washington (70-87); Revelstoke (94); Hudson Bay (42-63); Big White (87); Sun Peaks (60-74); Silver Star (57-83); Kicking Horse (34-71); Fernie (53-111); Panorama (32-54); and Red (28-94).

Open daily in Idaho are Lookout Pass (106-120); Schweitzer (69-111); Tamarack (54-98); Sun Valley (61-123); Brundage Mountain (72-100); Bogus Basin (88-93); Silver (70-82); and Pomerelle (152-163).

Open daily in Oregon are Mount Hood Meadows (119-188); Mount Bachelor (120-145); Mount Ashland (119-185); Willamette Pass (75-112); Hoodoo (105); Timberline (156); and Mount Hood Ski Bowl (78-91).

Holly Sato of Seattle is all smiles after finding fresh powder at Stevens Pass Resort. Photo courtesy of Jameson Florence.
Holly Sato of Seattle is all smiles after finding fresh powder at Stevens Pass Resort. Photo courtesy of Jameson Florence.

Upcoming slope-side events

The Bring on the NEON! Event is 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday at Summit East – previous known as Hyak – at The Summit at Snoqualmie. Look in your closet for the brightest item as the ski area is hosting a throwback to the 1980’s. Activities include an apres ski party at the Milwaukee Lodge; radical neon hot dogging; Polaroid moment at 11 a.m. on top of East Peak; and a costume contest. Details: http://www.summitatsnoqualmie.com/calendar.

Come celebrate the KOMO TV Kids Program at the KOMO Kids Carnival Days this Saturday and Sunday at the Mount Baker Ski Area. Fun activities include a BBQ, prizes, tug-of-war, races and much more. Details: http://www.mtbaker.us.

The IFSA Junior National Freeride competition is this weekend as the nations top competitors hit the steeps at Crystal Mountain Resort. Also be sure the check out the Marmot Crystal Ball on Saturday under the big top in the base area with a chance to win prizes and get some swag, plus live music on the patio Saturday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. The next Military Appreciation Day is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 10 and April 9. Have a valid Military or Department of Defense ID card and enjoy a half-price lift ticket. Details: https://crystalmountainresort.com/.

The SAS Ladies Day is Saturday at Stevens Pass Resort. The event is open for women of all ages and abilities both ski and board with a focus to encourage, empower and increase participation in action sports. The free Majesty Ski Demo is Sunday at the base area. Must be at least an intermediate skier level and sign a liability to demo gear. Details: https://www.stevenspass.com.

Join the fun at the White Pass Winter Carnival this Saturday and Sunday. This family oriented event features a snow castle, live music, fireworks, kids’ carnival, spaghetti or prime rib dinner, snow sports competitions and poker run for kids and adults. Details: http://www.skiwhitepass.com/the-mountain/calendar-of-events.aspx.

Families sled in Leavenworth under the colorful lighted trees.
Families sled in Leavenworth under the colorful lighted trees.

The Avalanche Terrain Observation Workshop is Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. at the Patrol First Aid Room. Activities include a companion rescue skills course, avalanche terrain recognition skills, safe travel decisions, WAC avalanche hazard discussion and an avalanche rescue drill. Details: https://www.missionridge.com/operating-schedule.

The Winter Special Olympics is Saturday and Sunday in Wenatchee with the Opening Ceremonies at the Town Toyota Center at 8 p.m. on March 3. All events are free to the public to attend. Athletes will compete at Wenatchee, Mission Ridge Ski & Board Resort and Leavenworth in alpine skiing, cross country skiing, figure skating, snowboarding and basketball. Details: https://www.skileavenworth.com/events/special-olympics-2.

The 2017 Bakke Cup is Saturday at the Leavenworth Winter Sports Club Ski Hill. This is a three-way youth race consisting of an alpine giant slalom race, ski jumping and Nordic race. The Nissebakken Telemark Slalom Race and Potluck is 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, and the theme is “The Best in Hollywood Costume!” Details: https://www.skileavenworth.com/.

The Winthrop Hot Air Balloon Festival is Saturday and Sunday where visitors can see dozens of hot air balloons fly over the old-western town of Winthrop and the snow-capped mountains of the North Cascades. Details: http://winthropwashington.com/event/winthrop-balloon-festival.

The free Whistler-Blackcomb Resort’s Ice Show is 7 p.m., and held every Sunday through March 26 at the Whistler Resort Village. Come see performers celebrate the winter with music, dance, a fireworks show and where world-class athletes flip and twist through a burning ring of fire. Details: https://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/.

Latest snow and lift reports:

Which ski areas are open and closed:


Resort

Hours

Base


Summit West, Snoqualmie Open: 4pm-10pm Friday; 9am-5pm Saturday and Sunday, and March 11-12; closed Monday to March 10 (2 to 10 inches new snow) 90 inches

Summit Central, Snoqualmie Open: 9am-10pm Friday and Saturday, and Monday to March 11; 9am-5pm Sunday, and March 12 (2 to 10 inches new snow) 90 inches

Summit East, Snoqualmie Open: Closed Friday, and Monday to March 10; 9am-4pm Saturday and Sunday, and March 11-12 (2 to 10 inches new snow) 90 inches

Nordic Center, Snoqualmie Open: 9am-4pm Friday to Sunday, and March 11-12; closed Monday to March 10; (2 to 10 inches new snow) 90 inches

Alpental, Snoqualmie Open: 9am-10pm Friday and Saturday, and Tuesday to March 10; 9am-4pm Sunday, and March 11-12; closed Monday (1 to 5 inches new snow) 105-1561 inches

Mount Baker Ski Area Open daily: 9am-3:30pm (11 to 20 inches new snow) 146-191 inches

Crystal Mountain Open daily: 9am-4pm (1-inch new snow) 72-97 inches

Stevens Pass Open daily: 9am-4pm; night skiing until 10 pm Friday to Sunday, and March 10-11; cross-country trails are open Friday to Sunday (2 to 6 inches new snow) 95-111 inches

White Pass Open daily: 8:45am-4pm; night skiing until 9pm this Saturday only (3 to 4 inches new snow) 88-108 inches

Mission Ridge Ski & Board Open: 9am-4pm Friday to Sunday and Thursday to March 12; closed Monday to Wednesday (trace to 1-inch new snow) 48-51 inches

49° North Mountain Open: 9am-4pm Friday to Sunday and March 10-12; closed Wednesday and March 9 (1 to 6 inches new snow) 109-172 inches

Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Open: 9am-9:30pm Friday to Saturday; 9am-4pm Sunday; closed Monday to Thursday (3.5 inches new snow) 69-90 inches

Ski Bluewood Open: 9am-4pm Thursday to Sunday; closed Monday to Wednesday (no new snow) 86-98 inches

Whistler-Blackcomb Open daily: 9am-5pm (10 to 11 inches new snow) 109 inches

Mt. Bachelor Open daily: 9am-4pm (no new snow) 120-145 inches

Leavenworth Winter Sports Club Open: Nordic trails are open daily; ski hill open Wednesday and Friday, and Saturday and Sunday (no new snow)
 25 inches

Methow Trails Open daily: All nordic trails open at Sun Mountain, Rendezvous, Winthrop and Mazama (no new snow) 28 inches