Ski Season Update: New Openings Unlikely For Christmas Break

December 20, 2013

This is turning into the worst start to the ski season in a long time.

Many years we see a sudden turnaround with a bunch of snow sometime after mid-December.  But this winter there is no sign of improvement on the horizon.  That would be about 10 days out right now.  In patterns like this (stable with a strong upper level ridge), we can look out farther with a bit more confidence than when the jet stream is flipping around all over the place.  As a result, it’s unlikely ski areas that haven’t opened yet (Willamette Pass, Hoodoo, Skibowl, Cooper Spur, & Summit) will be able to open during the Christmas Break.  I don’t remember the last time we’ve seen that happen.

Ski area operators depend on the two-week Christmas Break for a good chunk of their income each year; that’s because kids are out of school and many families take time to go stay up in the beautiful Cascades.  The good news for YOU is that it’s still beautiful up there of course.  If I had reservations for a mountain resort I sure wouldn’t change them!  There is still snow up there, just not the quality and terrain you would normally see.  And I see some discounted lift tickets too.

Here is our 7 Day outlook for Mt. Hood Ski Areas:


Not good eh?  This weekend is a bit iffy because the snow level remains quite high.  Normally I would think “rain-out”.  But the precipitation looks quite light, and specifically Mt. Hood Meadows is on the SE-E side of the mountain.  So sometimes in this westerly flow they can stay out of some of the precip.  We’ll see.  Hopefully nothing falls Sunday because it’ll be well above freezing up there.  And we definitely don’t want a bunch of rain with such a thin base.

We get a cold front later Monday for some fresh stuff, but not much.  Then it’s on to ridging through the end of the week.  Models have a very weak system about 7 days from now (Friday/Saturday), then another round of ridging for a few days.

I’ll be on vacation for a couple days so no posts through early next week.   I will probably post-Christmas evening when I work again.  You won’t be missing anything since the weather looks real slow for about a week.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

Mainly “Conversational Snow” This Morning

December 20, 2013


The light precipitation has arrived, and it’s doing just about what we expected.  Flakes or ice pellets in the air, sticking lightly in some spots, but not in others.  As I mentioned in the first couple sentences of last night’s post, it may end up being just a “talker” as we say in the business.  I first saw the term “conversational snow” a few months ago and I’ve decided it’s a perfect weather phrase.  It means enough snow for folks to notice and admire, but not enough to have a significant effect on roads or your life.  Just enough to blare the Christmas music in your car as the flurries zip by at 65 mph while you spread butter on the bagel, fix your hair, and sip your coffee.

I have white ground here at home, that’s just since 7am.  Many areas in the main part of the metro area have seen nothing sticking to the ground though.  There has been less than expected up in Clark county.  Looks like 1/2″ at best so far north of Vancouver.  I still think the Battle Ground to Amboy areas have the best chance of getting 1″ or so before it’s over.  Also watch out for freezing rain in a few protected valleys in the Coast Range or Cascade foothills.  It’s real straightforward; if your road is wet, it’s not going to freeze now.  But if it is snow-covered a layer of ice may form over the top of that before 10am if your local temperature is below freezing.

Models have clearly shown a back edge to the solid precipitation and that may be what’s coming over the Coast Range right now.

Big Picture:  As expected, we escaped a significant snowfall and by 9am the upper atmosphere will warm too much to support snow anyway.  Then it’s on to gusty southwest wind this afternoon.  Probably the strongest southerly wind we’ve seen in about 3 weeks.  Maybe 30-35 mph gusts.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen