Washington, Oregon Resorts To Bulk Up Lift Systems This Summer

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After four new lifts debuted last season in Washington and Oregon, crews will put up three more this summer at Summit at Snoqualmie and Mt. Ashland.

Boyne Resorts, owners of Summit at Snoqualmie, is in the second year of a five-year push to upgrade an aging lift system all across the Summit's four mountains. Focus has been on reducing lift lines and moving skiers and riders more efficiently around the terrain.

At Summit West, the prime learning area on Snoqualmie Pass, the 60-year-old Wildside triple will be taken down and replaced with a modern, new fixed-grip quad. With the loading terminal swung over next to the base area, the new Wildside will be much easier to ride next season.

At Alpental (823 a., 2,280 vert.), the outlier of the Summit complex, a major overhaul of its lift system is underway. Last year, crews added another chair to make the Armstrong Express a four-pack, and replaced the 56-year-old Sessel double chair with a fixed-grip triple. Running 1,790 feet up the same footprint, the new chair got more folks out of base more quickly. And, Sessel had its top terminal moved higher to intersect with a new chair going up this summer.

That new chair on a new line will be the new triple International chair that will climb from mid-mountain up to the backcountry boundary for the Back Bowls -- right in the midst of Alpental's renowned cliffs, chutes and bowls.

Previously, it took a ride up Armstrong high-speed, another much slower ride on the fixed-grip Edelweiss double along the upper ridge, and a hairy dead-drop down Upper International.

Ownership has plans in place to replace the ridge-running Edelweiss -- one of the originals when Alpental opened in 1967 -- with a triple that would be ready for the 2025-2026 season.

Down at the Oregon-California sits Mt. Ashland (240 a., 1,190 vert.), a non-profit locals' hill where crews are putting up a new chair that has old roots.

Mt. Ashland has always had a cozy yet clunky learning area behind the main lodge. First by a rope tow, then a platter and now the Sonnet double, the learning center gets the new Lithia chair -- named in honor of the nearby hot springs -- that will run the same line as a former platter that was taken out in 1987. Skiers and riders will no longer have to hike out if they take old Poma run, further streamlining a learning center that is modernizing.

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Washington State Resorts Bring Modest Upgrades To New Season

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Late to the party, Pacific storms have finally unleashed their wintertime largess on the Pacific Northwest this season -- and Washington's skiers and riders can't wait.

When they head up to the mountains, they will find couple of new chairlifts, a few more eating spots, streamlined ticketing and a bit more parking.

At Alpental -- the big brother of four-mountain Summit at Snoqualmie complex -- a replacement triple goes in on the beginner hill. It upgrades the Sessel chair, one of the older double chairs (1967) in the state. While it's expected to have minimal effect this season, plans call for a new lift to link the top of Sessel to the upper mountain.

Trying to unclog weekend and holiday lift lines, Alpental also added chairs to the workhorse Armstrong high-speed quad. All are part of a master plan to freshen up an aging lift system. Elsewhere at Snoqualmie, the magic carpet at the base of Summit Central got an upgrade, as did night lighting.

Over at Stevens Pass, another old double is out. The 63-year-old Kehr's chair has been replaced by a new fixed-grip quad to make it easier to connect to the Double Diamond chair and Big Chief Bowl. Also at the Seattle-area favorite are dedicated carpool parking in two lots.

The state's largest hill, Crystal Mountain has put in a mid-mountain yurt at the base of the Rainier Express -- the second on-hill eatery on Crystal's 2,600-acre expanse. RFID ticket access has been expanded on the mountain. And down below, management keeps trying to mitigate crowding with new lot shuttles, more RV overnight slots, and expanded bus service from Enumclaw.

About halfway between Seattle and Spokane sits Mission Ridge, a top-rated learning mountain on the eastern slope of Cascades. This season, Lift 4 got a mechanical upgrades, as did night lighting. These modest improvements are the beginning of what is planned to be a major expansion at Mission Ridge.

In other upgrade news, White Pass now required RFID ticketing for all. And, Mt. Spokane now has a rustic taphouse at the top of the hill.

And good news from the Olympic Peninsula: local hill Hurricane Ridge will reopen this season after a fire destroyed its base lodge two seasons ago. It's basic-basic for visitors to the hill withing the Olympic National Park: Temporary bathrooms and "contact station," use cars for warming and pack food. No potable water, food, or rentals right now.

 

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Washington's Cascades Draw Snow, Crowds But Plenty Others To Try Out

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In the state of Washington, skiing and snowboarding choices divide up neatly east and west, with some of the nation's largest and smallest areas spinning lifts each season.

The Cascade Range hovers over the Tacoma-Seattle-Bellingham corridor, with some of the tallest peaks in the Northwest. They push Pacific storms skyward, whereby dumping lots of the heaviest snow on the slopes, and produce clouds and fog much of the season.

Along its crest, you'll find five of the state's best. As standard-bearers of Northwest resorts, they are also the most popular because they sit within three hours' drive of the greater Seattle-Tacoma metroplex and its four million people.

Northernmost Mt. Baker gets the most snow -- average 600-plus inches a season -- but only 1,000 skiable acres. Crystal Mountain is the biggest at 2,600 acres, and the only one with on-site lodging. New parking lot and local bus service aimed to ease endemic crowding.

Fatboy haven Summit at Snoqualmie (2,000 total acres) is four mountains in one. "Shaggy soul" Stevens Pass (1,125 a.) lays out bowls, chutes and trees, and local-focused White Pass (1,400 a.) gives lower mountain to novices with deep discount tickets. At all, expect weekend crowds, overcast skies, and tons of untracked heavy powder.

Up in Olympic National Park, Hurricane Ridge (220 acres, 800 vertical) is funky-local: Upside-down access, main lift poma snakes up the hill, open Saturdays and Sundays, limit 175 vehicles.

Over on the eastern front of the Cascades -- the Inland Northwest -- snowfall declines because of the "snow shadow" for a cluster of lesser-known mountains, big and small. Mission Ridge -- 2,000 acres, 2,280 vertical drop -- is by far the largest; a new high-speed has spruced up a clunky, limited lift system. Loup Loup Ski Bowl (550 acres), with decent drop at 1,240 feet, opens Wednesdays and weekends. And, Sitzmark Ski Mountain's 80 acres and 650 vertical sits near the Canadian border.

A group of tiny local hills round out the eastern roster: Badger Mountain (50 acres), Echo Valley (20 a.), and Leavenworth Ski Hill (15 a.) --  with a hand-drawn trail map online.

The Rockies poke into Washington's far northeastern border. There you'll find somewhat drier snow and a trio of Spokane-centric mountains. 49 Degrees North looms over all, with an astounding 2,350 skiable acres, 1,851 feet of vertical, a very efficient lift system and family amenities.

An hour from its eponymous city, Mt. Spokane's 1,700 acres crunch up for 1,800 vertical drop. Open Wednesday-Sunday, expect lots of snowboarders. And, in the secluded southeast corner is local-secret Bluewood, with 400 acres underfoot and 1,125 feet of drop to slide down.

 

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Four Pacific Northwest Mountains Go For Replacement Chairlifts

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For those who head the resorts of Oregon and Washington this summer, some will see the footings, towers, haulropes and chairs of new lifts going up on four ski and snowboard mountains.

All of them address the crowding that comes with the popularity of skiing and riding over the past couple of seasons by adding uphill capacity and making it easier to move around the hill.

At Mt. Bachelor, the workhorse four-pack Skyliner Express that loads next to the second parking lot goes into retirement, to be replaced by a new six-seat high-speed chair. The Skyliner has done the heavy lifting on that busy side of the mountain since 1989.

Now, it will fit six on each chair as it rises 1,300 feet in a mile to treeline -- like most Mt. Bachelor chairs. The dome of the resort's namesake peak looms above.

For Summit at Snoqualmie, the Alpental area gets the first of three planned lift replacements underway by with a new Sessel chair -- now, a three-seater. Like the original Sessel, it will run up into the wide-open meadows just above the base area.

Summit at Snoqualmie has committed to build another two chairlifts by the 2024-2025: A third seat on a new ridgetop Edelweiss fixed-grip, and a triple up a brand-new line from mid-mountain into the gnarly cliffs of Upper International.

This summer, Mt. Hood Meadows goes for more uphill capacity with the installation of a new Mount Hood Express. By adding two seats to each chair, the new high-speed six-pack will put a third more folks on the hill than before -- giving more help to the oldest lift on the front side, the fixed-grip Blue double.

Stevens Pass will take down Kehr's, a double fixed-grip that was one of the oldest chairs on the mountain (1964). In its place will go a fixed-grip quad, doubling the capacity on the Big Chief side of the hill.

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SnoCast: Top Season Snow Total Round-Up

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How is it already time for the final SnoCast of the season?! What a wild winter it’s been. From record snow out West, to the slow onset and sweet finish out East. From capturing those final buttery, spring turns, to pushing back closing dates. This winter will be one to remember. 

In this week's SnoCast, we’ll look back on the winter season recapping some of the highest ski area snow totals and best storms of the season. Here’s the final SnoCast of the 2022-23 winter season!

 

 

Winter Summary

This winter was third consecutive season to be influenced by La Niña, which often brings a colder and stormier pattern across the northern tier of the U.S. and parts of Canada. But this season, the typical pattern was shifted a hair, with the storm track shifted slightly farther west and south from what we would expect.

Thus, we saw a cold and snowy pattern across most of the Southwest U.S., cold but near average precipitation in the Northwest, a mild Midwest with localized lake-effect booms, a warm and wetter than average Northeast and Southeast. In the ultimate "how it started>how it's going" comparison, the images below summarize how the winter was forecast to be by NOAA, versus how it actually panned out. You can read the full NOAA winter forecast verification blog with more details. 

Top Snow Amounts

Since this winter pattern favored a super-charged storm pattern and cold across the southwest U.S., this is where we saw some of the highest totals.  California and Utah won’t soon forget this season, with numerous all-time season snow records set at ski areas. 

While not a comprehensive (nor final) list with ski season and new snow still ongoing, here's a summary of some top snow reports from this season as of April 5, 2023.   

Mammoth Mountain, CA: 704” mid lodge, peak 882” (a new record, picture (right). For perspective, the mountain averages ~400" each season)

Brighton, UT: 848” (new record)

Alta, UT: 874” (new record)

Snowbird, UT: 808”(new record)

Solitude, UT: 779” (new record)

Sugar Bowl, CA: 768” (not a record, but still a lot. Even more impressive, the base depth in early April is over 20 feet on parts of the mountain)

Many of these ski areas have had too much snow at times, causing a halt in operations to dig out or conduct avalanche mitigation. Such is the case in Utah right now, but thankfully, you can still take advantage of the snow soon. Check out our story about extended closing date for many Utah mountains, thanks to abundant snow.   

Stormy West

Beyond the record setters, we saw a colder than average winter for much of the West, helping boost snow totals. While not a comprehensive list, here are some runner-ups on impressive amounts. You can take a look at your nearest ski area or region on the SnoCountry conditions tab from the homepage.

Timberline, OR: 608” (top in Oregon)

Jackson Hole, WY: 591" (top in WY)

Summit at Snoqualmie Alpental, WA: 520”

Wolf Creek, CO: 490” (top in Colorado)

Powder King, BC: 477” (top in British Columbia)

Lookout Pass, ID: 448”

Mt Bachelor, OR: 438”

Arizona Snowbowl, AZ: 398" (still with a 10-foot base depth in April!)

Purgatory, CO: 374”

These totals really helped out the water basins with impressive snow-water equivalent tallies. Parts of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and California are running more than 150% of normal...GREAT news to put a dent in the ongoing drought.   

 

East

Okay, okay. We get it. The West had a banner year. The West is a lot higher in elevation and has a drier climate, so naturally there's more snow than the lower and more humid East, but that doesn't mean there wasn't some great skiing this season. You just had to know where to look!

Pockets of the Great Lakes region and New England had some incredible days. While the majority of winter was warmer than average, we saw one-off snow storms and lake effect influence to boost totals and bring huge powder days. In all, the East did have a below average snow season up until January, but turned around late in the season boosting snow cover in February and March. 

Here were some top totals of remaining open ski areas by state across the Northeast:

Jay Peak, VT: 349" (top tally in the East. Photo on the right from the March 14 powder day)

Mt. Bohemia, MI: 232"

Sugarloaf, ME: 171"

Bretton Woods, NH: 148"

See who's still open in the Northeast, Midwest (yes, there are a few!), and Quebec.

And while we don't want to leave out the Southeast, we've definitely had stronger seasons. Warm and wet weather dominated this year, causing much below average snow amounts. But like the rest of the East, we found some sweet times.

The season lasted a total of 138 days (38% of the year!) from start to finish: Sugar Mountain Resort and Cataloochee Ski Area (both in North Carolina) opened on November 14, 2022 and Snowshoe Mountain Resort closed it all up on Sunday, April 2.  The top ski area total went to Canaan Valley, WV with a total of 62.4", which fell short of the annual average of roughly 150". 

The Real Apres-Ski

With that, it's "apres-ski time" for me and SnoCast. I hope you have loved reading my weekly forecast updates and took advantage of new snow and amazing conditions on the slopes. 'Til next season, enjoy what's left out there, and have an amazing off season. Hope to see you again next fall when the flakes start flying again. 

-Meteorologist Kerrin Jeromin

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Late Snow, Early Snowmaking Prompt Slew Of Season Extensions

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Used to be that the first week of April was the traditional time to hang up the skis, store away the boots, and dust off the summer recreation equipment. Not so much nowadays.

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SnoCast: Who’s Getting Lucky on the Slopes?

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Don't get too excited...we're talking about the weather forecast. This St. Patrick’s Day, many ski areas will feel extra lucky with new snow for some, and soft, buttery spring-like turns for others. Here’s the outlook in this week’s SnoCast.

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Ikon Pass Pairing: Steeps And Deeps Near Seattle

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Ikon Pass holders should head to Seattle and cash in two very different ski and snowboard mountains in the Cascades -- each catching tons of snow out of northern Pacific storms.

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Go Big, Go Deep On Ikon's Mountains In Pacific Northwest

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A trio of ski and snowboard resorts of the Pacific Northwest take the Ikon Pass, and each offers something different for those venturing into the Cascades.

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SnoCast: New Snow for the Turn Into Spring

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Can you believe it? The final days of winter have come. As spring officially arrives Saturday, we’ll enjoy mild turns in the East, while winter refuses to let go in the West. Forecast details in this week’s SnoCast.

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SnoCast: Cold, Snow Ahead for the Slopes

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A large pool of bitter cold air seeps into the US from Canada this week, affecting the weather from coast to coast. Here’s what to expect on the slopes.

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All Over The Northwest, The Lights Go On For Night Skiing And Riding

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For Pacific Northwest skiers and riding seeking a different look, feel, and sound -- and fewer crowds -- to their experience, check out night skiing.

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SnoCast: Northwest Favored, with Spurts of Snow in the Southeast

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While the northwest peaks remain most active this week, cold air in the East and two systems bring new snow to the southern Appalachians. Here’s where to find best conditions this week.

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SnoCast: Parade of Storms Will Kick Off 2021

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2021 already looks good with storm after storm lining up in the West, and a turn to a more active pattern for the East. Here’s where to find great ski conditions through the first week of January.

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SnoCast: Active Pattern with Multiple Storms Ahead for the West

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This week, snow activity really begins to pick up. As more and more ski areas open, we'll have multiple storms out West and fast movers in the East to build up the bases.

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Credits Toward Next Season, Opt-out Options For Season Pass Holders

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The first deadline for savings on season pass prices for the 2020-2021 season is coming, and skiers and snowboarders will have to decide whether the low cost or the uncertainty of COVID-19 virus carries more weight.

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The 2020-2021 Ikon Pass Fires Up Season Pass Competition

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The multi-resort season pass gauntlet has been thrown down: The Ikon Pass goes on sale March 5 with a new four-day boutique "session pass" and additional East resorts coming into the fold.

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SnoCountry SnoCast: Active West & Bluebird Skies in the East

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Plenty of sunshine to go around both east and west this week, but the west will see the most snow days. This week's SnoCast outlines the best conditions and best bets to hit the slopes through the weekend.

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SnoCast: Busy Forecast Keeps Snow in the Cards

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We’re turning into mid-January with a busy and changeable weather pattern across North America. Two fast-moving (albeit mild) storms graze the East, while cold and snowy conditions persist for the West.

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Powder Stashes Abound In Northwest, But Heavier Than Most

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In most seasons, the Pacific Northwest can claim the most snow in the country -- and the heaviest powder. So, skiers and riders who head up to the Cascades know they have to work a bit harder to carve up the freshies.

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