Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Where the Snowpack is Fat

There is a tendency when it comes to SNOTEL observations to focus on the percent of average or median.  That can be useful, but more important for skiing is often the snowpack water equivalent (SWE), as that is what tells you how fat the snowpack is.  

A look at the SWE values for yesterday shows a dismal situation across much of California, Nevada, and Utah, with only a few sites still reporting some snowpack SWE.  

Source: NRCS

If you squint, you can see one of these is Snowbird, which sits at 15.7 inches, about half of the late April peak, 38% of median for the date, and in the bottom 1/5 for the date.  

Source: NRCS

For snow, there are options to our east (Colorado) and north (western Wyoming and Montana), but to the northwest, the snowpack in the Washington Cascades is fat and healthy.  Many sites report SWE in excess of 35 inches.  Here's one for you...Easy Pass at 5270 feet in the North Cascades east of Mount Baker.  Current SWE is 94.2 inches, which incredibly is just a bit above median for the date.  

Source: NRCS

Even Rainy Pass further east and despite the name in the comparatively dry eastern Cascades, sits at a near-median 27.2 inches, plenty of snow for the accessible skiing from the North Cascades Highway.  

Source: NRCS

Similarly, many sites in the southern Washington Cascades sit near median and look to be in good shape.  Paradise Ranger Station on Mt. Rainier has an 84.5" SWE, which is 126% of median (not shown).  

And here's the forecast:

Source: NWS

Should be some good spring skiing up there over the next few weeks.  

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