Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Northwest Ski Disaster

Even if the pattern shifts and starts producing heavy snowfall, the winter of 2014-2015 will probably go down as one of the worst if not the worst snow years in Pacific Northwest history.

The ski season has been an unmitigated disaster.  Snoqualmie Pass is home to four ski areas, all with base elevations near 3,000 feet.  Here's what it looked like at the Summit Central ski area this morning.

How bad is this year?  Data collected by the Washington Department of Transportation shows that Snoqualmie Pass averaged 400" of snow the past five winters.  The average accumulation by February 10th was 205".  This year they've had 79" and obviously a lot of that snow has melted.

If you have a season's pass for the Snoqualmie Pass ski areas, Crystal Mountain will let you ride for free, but if you go there, here's what you'll find.
Yup, no snow at the base.  What's open?  The upper mountain Green Valley Express chair, with access provided by the Mt. Rainier Gondola.  The upper mountain doesn't look half bad, but the photo above looks more like late May than mid February.

Paradise Ranger Station on Mt. Rainier is one of the snowiest places in the world, but not this year.  SNOTEL data from Paradise shows that they've had plenty of precipitation (compare black and grey lines) and are actually a bit above average since the start of the water year on October 1st.  However, much of that precipitation has fallen in the form of rain and the amount of water retained in the snowpack is well below average (compare blue and red lines).

Source: NRCS
There is actually a remarkably long record of snowfall kept by the National Park Service at Paradise Ranger Station.  The record low snowfall is 313" in 1939–40.

Source: NPS
I haven't been able to quickly find their snowfall for this year (i.e., since July 1st like the data above) and am wondering if there is some potential to break that record.  I would guess that they might be near 200".  Please add a comment if you hunt it down.

A lot of snow can fall in a hurry in the Cascades if the pattern shifts, but if this death ridge continues it's grip on the west, this will be one of the most dismal Pacific Northwest ski seasons on record.


  1. Went fishing instead of skiing today, Jermy ranch, round valley, and mountain dell are snow free. I guess we should stop with the moaning and enjoy the pack we have in the high Wasatch.

  2. The birds are back. Winter is over.

  3. Just rode the pipeline in my long underwear and shorts, saw a lot of smiles.

    1. Stop it. It's not bike season, it's ski season. (How does Rattlesnake look right now?)

    2. Stop it. It's not bike season, it's ski season. (How does Rattlesnake look right now?)

  4. Sad to hear guys, even the German Black Forest slopes look snowier this year:
    Greetings from Germany

  5. Mt. Baker's long term average is similar to Mt. Rainier Paradise. Mt. Baker stands at 169 inches snowfall so far this season. Paradise is about 1,000 feet higher than where Baker measures, so it's possible Paradise has had more snow.