Could Be The Worst Ski Season in 40+ Years, But Alpine Slide Will Open in March!

March 5, 2015

Mt. Hood Skibowl says they are now planning to open up much of their summer adventure park by Oregon’s Spring Break, just two weeks away.  Probably a good choice since we don’t see any sort of snowy weather pattern ahead (note previous post) and their slopes look like this:


This ski season is about to enter into uncharted territory; conditions are developing that we have not seen at least since I was born (1969).  Am I being a bit dramatic?  I don’t think so…let me explain.

First, the current situation:


80-90% of the typical snowpack we see on the ground this time of the year doesn’t exist in the Cascades!


There is no snow on the ground below the 5,000′ elevation and Willamette Pass has announced they are finished for the season on their website.

In NUMEROUS past seasons we have seen a terrible start to the ski season turn into either average or great conditions.  Remember last year was terrible until the first week of February and then great powder conditions for several weeks.  In ALMOST ALL OTHER SEASONS we have seen the turnaround to cool/wet by the 1st of March.

In our area, the (publicly available) snow depth observations for Mt. Hood only go back to the early 1970s at Timberline Lodge so I can only see back to that point.  Right now there is 49″ of snow on the ground at that 6,000′ location.

There are only three REALLY BAD years, where snow depth was still under 50″ on March 1st.  Older ski bums remember these years.  2004-2005, 1980-1981, 1976-77.  Thanks the Ski Mountaineering site for the chart.


In 1976-77 the pattern changed in early March and the snow accumulated quickly.  So we know this year will be worse than ’76-77 with no recovery in at least the first half of March.  We also know that the entire 2nd half of March 2004-05 saw a ton of snow with the best skiing of winter over Spring Break.  So most likely we’ll be worse off than that year.  In 1980-81 the 2nd half of the month saw the depth go from around 35″ to 60″.  That still looks unlikely, but possible.

To wrap it up, in less than two weeks we’ll likely be experiencing the worst or 2nd worst snow season in the Cascades in the past 45+ years!

By the way, this evening’s fresh new GFS model has either warm and dry, or warm and wet in the mountains for the next 16 days.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

ECMWF Says Ridging Continues Through March

March 5, 2015

4pm Thursday…

The Euro model says spring is already here and we’re jumping right into typical April conditions over the next few weeks.

The last time we saw a warmer/drier than average March was 8 years ago…in 2007.  I suppose we are due.

An interesting ECMWF monthly run last night.  It implies that we might see our warmest March in years.

There is one map for each of the next 4 weeks, showing 500 millibar height from all the ensemble members and the anomaly (colored areas).  Warm colors mean higher than normal heights and cold the opposite.

Week 1:  We already know what’s happening over the next week or so.  Strong ridging now continues through Tuesday, then a system to our southwest kicks out over the top of us as ANOTHER ridge pops back up over us late next week.


Week 2:  This takes us into the first part of Oregon’s Spring Break.  Look at the ridging over Alaska and extending down into the western USA.


Week 3:  The rest of Spring Break.  Looks like ridging still hanging in tight, although slightly farther west and north.  Maybe a bit cooler, but still drier than normal.


Week 4:  Through the first week of April.  Same pattern.


By the way, the GEM and GFS both agree through 15 days out…the farthest we can see on those models.  They show the same ridging on Friday, the 20th of the month

gem_fri_20 gfs_fri_20

More on the ski season a bit later…

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen