Will There Be Skiing for Thanksgiving?

November 20, 2014

So far this November has not been kind to the ski areas.  First we had some warm/wet systems, then we turned cold and dry.  Here we are on November 20th and the Mt. Hood ski areas have 6-10″ on the ground at the base.  That’s leftover from the snowfall we had during the metro snow/ice freak out over a week ago.

To do a “full opening”, let’s say 50% of the runs open, the ski areas generally need 2-3 feet of snow on the ground.  Once we get up to a 50″ base, it seems that most runs are open.  That’s generally not too tough to do in late November since the atmosphere is cooling quickly on its way to winter.

You may remember last year was just terrible through January because we had dry conditions…there were just very few storms.

So far this snow season has not been very encouraging; it’s pretty obvious this November is not one of those when the ski season suddenly starts up before Thanksgiving.  Government Camp (on average) gets 32″ of snow in November, so far 12.5″ has fallen in one storm.  I could see another 10″ at Govy this weekend, maybe a bit more if we get lucky.

What’s ahead weatherwise?

  • Mainly rain tomorrow should wash away a few of those 5-10″ on the ground
  • A bunch of snow falls Saturday & Sunday, possibly 12-18″ above 5,000‘, a bit less below.
  • Much warmer air arrives late Monday and whatever falls from that time through Thanksgiving Weekend should be mainly rain. Some models dump a bunch of rain on the mountains later Monday through Wednesday morning, others push the rain north, just leaving us with warm and dry weather for a couple of days.  Warm and humid air is the greatest enemy of the Cascade snowpack, not the weak “winter” sun.  40 degree rain melts a lot more snow than a 55 degree sunny day.  So we want it to stay dry during that time to preserve the snow.
  • There is no other “big Cascade snow pattern” on the maps in the 7-10 day period, in general some sort of ridging or split-flow seems to dominate our weather into early December.

What could this mean for an opening?

  • Mt. Bachelor has already announced an opening for Monday.  They have 18″ and should get another 12-18″ over the weekend.  Looks good for a solid 30-35″ on the ground.  After that most likely dry down there the rest of the week
  • Mt. Hood ski areas should be sitting on 15-20″ by Monday afternoon.
  • IF it stays dry late Monday-Wednesday, I could see at least two ski areas opening some runs for the Thanksgiving Weekend, mainly to claim that early opening but also to give YOU a chance to go experience the first real snow of the season.
  • IF we get a bunch of rain up there during that period, that’s a big problem and I think openings are unlikely.

Here’s the graphic I used on-air tonight:


Keep your fingers crossed!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen