Thursday, March 29, 2012

Heavy Mountain Snow

Thursday, March 29, 2012
10:33 A.M.

I've yet to go skiing this year (I know, it's pretty bad), but I'm honestly going to try to make an effort to go up this weekend. We are seeing some incredible amounts of snowfall in the mountains for late March. In fact, as of March 25, we were nearly at our average for the entire year, and we have already surpassed it with the snowfall we have seen since then. And if this snow continues to pile up in April, we will see even higher amounts.

I remember the 2007-2008 ski season well, as I skied nearly 30 days that year. That year was a phenomenal snow year, as Snoqualmie Pass nearly got 50 FEET of snow. It was awesome. Most of the snow that year occurred in December, January, and February, but the snowfall persisted long into the spring as well. Alpental   stayed open until Memorial Day weekend, and I was lucky enough to ski the backcountry on the last day it was open. It was so awesome... skiing over waterfalls with the softest corn snow you could imagine.

However, the 2010-2011 ski season was horrible for the traditionally snowy months of December and January. I remember going up to Alpental early in the season and making the mistake of trying to ski in a run that is better skied when there is a lot of snow, as the snow covers a creek bed that is full in the spring and summer. Long story short, I couldn't straight run the creek bed because it was too long, too steep, and too scary, so I tried to side-slip it. Of course, it was very narrow, and I got to a point where my skis were stuck between the edges of the bed. It took some slick maneuvering to get me out of that sticky predicament, and I decided to avoid that run for the rest of the day.

The ski season last year really took off in the spring. We were seeing a pattern very similar to what we are seeing now, with tons of springtime snowfall in the mountains. I should have gone up then, and given that creek bed another shot! It would have been a breeze.

This ski season is turning out to be very similar to last year's ski season. December and January were pretty bad months for snowfall, although the burst of snowfall here in the lowlands in January also brought a lot of snow to the mountains and helped give us a little breathing room. I honestly can't remember how February was in the mountains, but March has been incredible. And in the next couple days, we will pile up several more feet of snow in the mountains.

Let's take a look at the current watches, advisories, and warnings over our area.

There are winter storm warnings AND avalanche warnings in both the Cascades and Olympics (but when there are both, the map only shows the winter storm warnings). There is also a flood warning on the Skykomish River for minor flooding, but the main story here is the snow. One to two feet are forecast starting at 3 A.M. this morning and ending at 6 P.M. this afternoon. The NWS said that the snow level is likely to be at 3,500 feet and remain above Snoqualmie Pass, but Snoqualmie Pass is seeing snow now, so I'd say that the snow level is at around 3,100 feet. The snow isn't sticking to the pavement at Snoqualmie as much as it is at higher passes, like Stevens, though, so if you need to go through the Cascades, Snoqualmie Pass is your best bet.

Let's take a look at our ole' trusty WRF-GFS 24 hour snowfall map, starting at 5 A.M. this morning.

Valid 05:00 am PDT Fri, 30 Mar 2012 - 24hr Fcst - UW 4km 12z WRF-GFS 24-hour snowfall

One to two feet of snow in the Cascades, with less around Snoqualmie Pass. Snoqualmie Pass has still seen around 8 inches of new snow since this morning though since the snow level is a little bit lower than forecast.

We'll get an even better shot at mountain snow this coming weekend. Snow levels will be pretty low - around 1,500 feet - so Snoqualmie Pass will definitely see snow this time and travel will be affected over all the mountain passes. AND, the snow won't be too heavy for all you skiers out there. I'm telling ya, this weekend is gonna be epic.

Valid 05:00 am PDT Fri, 30 Mar 2012 - 24hr Fcst - UW 4km 12z WRF-GFS 24-hour snowfall

The extended forecast continues to look wetter and cooler than normal. So enjoy the rain, head up to the slopes. and take some Vitamin D tablets if you must.


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