Mountain Snow Ahead; Enough to Open Ski Areas?

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

21 Responses to Mountain Snow Ahead; Enough to Open Ski Areas?

  1. JERAT416 says:

    I remember early December 2002, the mountains were so bare. The season started late. I don’t know how to share a picture here but I hope that doesn’t happen again.

  2. WEATHERDAN says:

    3.46 inches of rain in Salem since April 17th. Reminds me of 76-77. Very little mtn snow but lots of fake cold. It was also El Nino. Peace.

  3. cgavic says:

    47° in troutdale, 65° in Sandy. Windows rolled down and soaking in the sun!

  4. Jake in Gresham says:

    What about what’s going on in the North East guys? I hear that a lot of truckers were caught by surprise in Ohio at the severity of the Nor’easter last week. Early start to bigger snow totals there where usually there’s just a dusting or two.

    I was looking at the latest GFS (12Z) and it wants to give not one but two Nor’easters. Check out the lows developing over the Great Lakes:

    Slide 45:

    Slide 162:

    Looking at this overall it does seem to also indicate a Westerly flow into the PNW. So I do think the split flow is done. You generally cannot have such activity in the North East without a strong jet stream. So I’m excited here. Even if it means we have to wait a bit longer.

  5. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I was just looking at the 12Z GFS. I think the GFS is a little aggressive with a High pressure starting around the 25th and going to almost the 29th. The reason why I say that is because I looked at the 00Z Euro. For some of those days the Euro shows a good storm system that comes in with a lot of rain. Until the Euro changes to the GFS, I’m going with the Euro.

    Just my thoughts 🙂

  6. W7ENK says:

    I’m curious about Siskiyou Summit and the Shasta Valley, headed down that way late Wednesday. Don’t really need to run into snowy roads. Wondering what the best route to Redding will be, if we should avoid I-5 and jump over to 97, or just stick with the freeway.

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I think you should be fine when you go down there on Wednesday but it could be a different story when coming back though. I believe the Siskiyou Summit will be snow covered. You may want to take a different route coming back.

  7. Jason Hougak says:

    I’d rather have a slow start with an epic finish.

  8. Ken in Wood Village says:

    I was just looking at the 00Z GDPS. It shows the low Thursday night into Friday but it doesn’t show a lot of wind. What I did find interesting was it gives us rain almost non-stop from the 25th through the 29th. Also, It shows a strong low late Wednesday (28th) into Thursday (29th). On the 29th the pressure was 976. It was going from South to North along the Oregon Coast. I would think that would be a major wind storm. But it’s the Canadian model and it’s also a long ways out.

  9. Jake in Gresham says:

    Mun, the GFS took after the Euro. Dat, is bad. I was really hoping it wouldn’t. Shesh.

    Unless the next Euro really pulls a magic trick we’ve got nothing to see here. Back to homework.

    • K says:

      Wait, the GFS pulled the storm south, not north. Unless that’s a bad thing?

      • Jake in Gresham says:

        K, not really no. I mean it stayed relatively in place. I was hoping the GFS would’ve contradicted the Euro. But it’s not varied much. I was hoping it was taking it South. Sorry, I’m still hoping the Euro flips and puts this system square into the mid coast of Oregon. I want snow. That’s a long shot but I’m really hoping the Euro was the outlier and contradicts itself in that manner.

        The GFS doesn’t prove to be showing any variability which is bad. The system also hasn’t strengthened. We’re looking at a rainstorm with 990mb of pressure. Which isn’t going to bring much in my opinion. Still a lot of game left though.

        I guess we can all celebrate that the weather pattern has indeed shifted. That’s the good news I’m seeing. Mountain snow for sure as Mr. Nelson has mentioned. Really hoping things move forward quickly. I cannot say I’m not hoping for a 2008 repeat here. But who isn’t on this blog!

    • Ken in Wood Village says:

      I think the reason why there isn’t much of a wind storm is because the isobars are not that close together. Maybe things can change between now and then. Let’s hope so.

      One thing I am seeing with the models are the fact the jet stream is getting consolidated and becoming stronger. This should bring in storms now. I see at the very end of the run I see another strong storm. If only it would get closer, maybe another wind storm…lol. It’s so far out there though…lol.

  10. K says:

    Nervous for the 00Z run….

  11. Paul Sorensen says:

    • “There have only been 3 times the “first snow” has been this late in the season.” In the insignificant 150 years of recorded weather, It is just ‘weather’.

  12. Ken in Wood Village says:

    Thank you for the update Mark. I was wondering what your thoughts are about the possibility of some windy conditions on Thursday?

    Let’s hope for a good start to the sky season. I don’t sky but I know we need the snow.

    First 🙂

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