Snow in the Forecast

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I’m not one to obsess about the forecast¹. So when I just happened to check out the latest forecast discussion on NOAA, I was pleasantly surprised. I especially liked this part:

  A MUCH STRONGER SYSTEM WILL IMPACT THE REGION ON FRIDAY FOR 
  THE POTENTIAL FOR HEAVY SNOW IN THE MOUNTAINS AS WELL AS 
  COLDER WEATHER AND LOCALLY WINDY CONDITIONS.
Winter Forecast

7 Day Forecast for Crystal Mountain

Friday looks like our best chance for snow, with the forecast calling for 6-10" up high and about 4-6" down low. With strong west winds, we could pick up a little more than that in places like Green Valley Bowl. Saturday will bring some leftovers and orographic showers with Sunday now offering cold enough temperatures to add a little man made snow to the mix.

Already we have a 8-12" base on the upper mountain, but need quite a bit more to open. It rained lightly yesterday, but not enough to melt what's already in place. However, the rain hopefully helped to rid the growing snowpack of early season facets that could cause avalanche problems down the road.

24 Hour precipitation amounts ending Saturday

24 Hour precipitation amounts ending Saturday

People always ask John, "how much snow do you need to open?" The answer is always, "it depends."

We always welcome a big November storm that deposits two feet of wet snow that compacts into a nice, smooth base. (Miles Clark over a snowbrains.com put out a nice post this week about why the PNW gets so much snow. The pattern mentioned in the article would be very welcome right about now.)

But this year we've had an accumulation of smaller amounts of snow that could add up to enough. Some of the long-term models are showing a low in the Gulf of Alaska, which could usher in those classic November storms we all like to see.

With "summer grooming" and strategic rock picking at Crystal, we try to set ourselves up for needing the least amount of snow possible to open. This could be one of those years where we get enough to open Green Valley, but have to wait for more snow to open the rest of the mountain. Only time will tell.

So start doing your snow dances and rubbing your Ullr pendants. Book that non-refundable trip to Mexico for Thanksgiving and stop washing your socks. We could use all the help we can get up here.

¹ Actually this is a complete lie.

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6 responses »

  1. “People always ask John, “how much snow do you need to open?” The answer is always, “it depends.”” When I first saw the post, I was thinking I’d ask that same question, but you beat me to the punch. Maybe in case this whole ski operations/extreme blogging/author thing doesn’t work out, you’ve got a future in lottery prognostication?

    But seriously, I’d be interested in a blog post where you discuss the “it depends” decision from a ski patroller and resort operations perspective. What do you consider, and how does the business aspect work out with regards to ‘too early’ where you might drive away repeat customers and never get a good base for the mountain versus ‘too late’ where you’re turning away income that goes to another mountain? Have there ever been years where you’ve regretted either opening or not opening when you did? Is there an informal discussion between mountains regarding when you’ll open?

    I know I’m full of questions, so thanks in advance for any reply.

    • Great questions Matt. And thanks for the blog post idea. But to answer a few: No. We’ve never regretted opening too early. Even if you have to close down again. Skier compaction is always a good thing. I’ve regretted opening terrain too soon however. I remember one time before we had the Northway chair we decided to open “short north” thinking that everyone would be mellow across the still-rocky scree field that you have to traverse across to get back to the base. But they weren’t mellow, and some skiers came ripping through there like it was deep spring snowpack and barely made it through without splattering in the rocks. They had checked their brains at the gates and ignored the “rocky condition at the bottom” signs. But still. You can’t hold a huge bowl of candy in front of kids and not expect them to eat it.
      Mainly we open as soon as we can. If this storm, for example, brings over a foot of snow I wouldn’t be surprised if we opened up right away. (You heard it here first!).

      • It seems the “Valley only” scenario would be pretty unlikely, no? Wouldn’t the mountain prefer to have a skiable route to the bottom? Coverage gets pretty thin on Gap Road and Frontside gets hammered so fast…

        • Not necessarily. Even if we could just get the valley open, getting tracks in it would help keep it around if (and when, let’s face it) we get rain. Yes, being open top to bottom would be the best case scenario. But “valley only” was a big factor in getting the gondola in the first place. It allows us the flexibility when we get a marginal opening.

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