Mountain Snow Ahead; Enough to Open Ski Areas?

November 18, 2018

7pm Sunday…

What a fantastic weekend eh?  I can’t remember a November in which we saw two consecutive sunny weekends!  Sure the east wind was cranking yesterday across most of the metro area but today it has been confined much closer to the Gorge.  It’ll stay that way through Wednesday.  Gusts 35-45 mph far east metro and 60-75 mph in the western Gorge.  Strongest wind is likely Tuesday.


Snow has been almost a “no-show” so far this fall up in the Cascades.  We’ve had a few light snowfalls up above 5,000′ but that’s it.  Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Areas looked pretty much bare this afternoon at 5,400 & 6,000′

It is NOT unusual to see ski areas closed until after Thanksgiving, but it IS unusual that we haven’t seen snow yet at Government Camp (4,000′) yet this season.  Assuming no snow falls through tomorrow (pretty confident about that!)…

Government Camp hasn’t seen 0.5″ yet this season

  • That hasn’t happened this late since November 2002
  • There have only been 3 times the “first snow” has been this late in the season. 
  • The three latest “first snow” dates are: November 25th, 1967, December 9th, 1976, & December 11th, 2002.

But I think there is a decent chance we get at least some sort of “preview” skiing in by Saturday or Sunday at a resort or two.

That’s because we have a (at least temporary) pattern change ahead for later this week.  The big ridge of high pressure wants to disappear for awhile beginning Wednesday. We’ll get a very wet system moving inland Thanksgiving Day, then lots of cold showers (snow!) Thursday night through Friday night.

Check out the Cascade snow level forecast; you see the big dip late Wednesday and further cooling Thursday night & Friday with those cold showers.

Snow level based on 850mb temps

Check out the ECMWF snowfall forecast, pretty good isn’t it?  A solid 15″ plus above pass elevations around Mt. Hood and quite a bit more for Mt. Bachelor.  

Here’s my 7 Day forecast for Government Camp

Now in the Cascades you generally need 24-36″ on the ground to get a general ski area opening.  That’s because we don’t have smooth lawn-ish slopes.  We have boulders, rocks, and creeks to ski over. But recently some ski areas have been experimenting with doing a “preview” or partial opening.  That way you get at least SOME time on the slopes even in an early season like this.  That makes me think one of those ski resorts may try for some skiing Saturday or Sunday.  I remember Mt. Hood Meadows “opening” with 8″ of snow on the ground recently.  It’s not like you’re going to be carving up some deep powder of course, but slopes are all white and padded by some parking lot snow shifted onto the runs.  A little bit of fun while we wait for the real season to kick into gear.  By the way, that has been the trend recently.  Snow depth on November 19th at the bottom of Pucci Lift at Timberline.  Last year started out with a bang, but then a huge meltdown with record warm Thanksgiving Week weather delayed ski area openings.  We’ll see how this year goes.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen