Will 4 Days of Warm Rain End An Early Ski Season?

November 19, 2017

9pm Sunday

November has been near to slightly below normal temperature-wise across much of the West.

Compare that with the blowtorch November last year across the entire USA!

Along with near normal rainfall that has given us a very nice mountain snowpack already.  At the Mt. Hood Test Site at the lower part of Timberline Ski Area, 34 inches of snow sit on the ground, containing 7.80″ snow water equivalent.  That means if you could melt it with a snap of your fingers, it would be just like 7.80″ of rain fell suddenly.  See how this compares to the past 8 Novembers at that site.

Pretty nice eh?  Quite a change from the past 3 mid-Novembers with very little snow on the ground at this moment.

That was the good news.  The bad news?  We have 4 days of warm rain (Monday-Thanksgiving Day) headed for all elevations in the Cascades.

The result will be substantial snowmelt.

But I do NOT believe this is the end of our early ski season.   There is no reason to panic when you hear many inches of rain are coming to your favorite ski resort.

It’ll be a setback, but this was an early bonus anyway.  A good part of the current snowpack will survive, in fact in the past 20 years we haven’t made it to 30″+ snow depth at this location followed by a complete melt down.  Sometimes it has dropped quite a bit (like the week ahead), but then more snow fell within a week or two.  If you are a skier or ski resort manager there’s no reason to freak out.

The pattern for the next 4 days looks like this…

a big ridge of high pressure with very warm temperatures overhead.  Lots of subtropical moisture will be streaming north around this ridge, pushing sticking snow levels up around 8-10,000′ on Mt. Hood.  We’ll be breaking out of the usual November inversion when we get a southerly wind so we can also expect a very warm Thanksgiving Week in the lowlands.  A record high is possible in Portland either Tuesday or Wednesday (records are 62 & 59 for those dates).

I expect lots of rain, but this isn’t generally a flooding rain pattern with the flow coming steeply from the southwest (instead of west).  Plus no one system seems to sit right over us for an extended period of rain.

There is one huge bonus…THANKSGIVING TRAVEL THROUGHOUT THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST SHOULD BE EXCELLENT.  There will be no snow over mountain passes anywhere in Oregon or most of Washington from tomorrow morning through Thanksgiving Day.  Even after that time through Sunday sticking snow levels seem to remain mainly above the Cascade Passes.

So enjoy the week ahead…at least you’ll save on your heating bills!

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen