Ski Season Update: A Slow Start, But No Need to Panic…Yet

6pm Friday…

Way back in late September, then more so in late October, there were hopes we might see an early ski season.  There was more snow on the ground in late October than right now!

That was due to a couple of very early season cold spells + snow.   This was my graphic on October 19th.


That all melted away, but then a huge Thanksgiving week storm dumped 1 to 2.5 snow up on the mountain.  Once again we’ve gone back to mild & mainly dry.  So we’re down to 1 to 1.5′ at Timberline and Meadows, and just a few inches down at Skibowl.  Timberline is hoping to have two lifts open tomorrow again, and Mt. Hood Meadows has some basic terrain open with a few lifts turning this weekend.

So when will real skiing begin?  That typically happens when a ski area has a solid 30″ base (or more).


  1. We are not in any sort of “crisis” right now. There have been LOTS of early seasons that don’t deliver; then suddenly in mid-late December the snow gods deliver the goods.
  2. There’s no need to freak-out/panic until we get to Christmas Vacation time…that’s the 20th this year.  Still a full two weeks away.
  3. Above 5,500′ there should be 4-8″ this weekend, but very little below that elevation.
  4. There are hints we may get some sort of a dumping late next week, maybe enough to get more runs open for NEXT weekend.  Maybe.

The reason for the lack of snow is obvious when looking at the upper-level height anomaly chart for the past 30 days.  A persistent area of high pressure over and just northwest of the Pacific Northwest.  This weakens approaching storms, splitting them as well.  Notice lower than normal “heights” in California; that explains wet and cool weather down there recently.


Now this weekend a weak system is moving onshore California and we’re getting southerly flow as it moves by.  This setup isn’t typically a big snow-producer in the Cascades and it tends to be quite mild as well.  In this case I think we could see up to 10″ WAY up high.  Like well above 6,000′.  But it’ll be tough to get any sticking snow below 5,500′.  Forget about snow at Government Camp

RPM Snow Accumulation Mt Hood Zoom In

Upper-level ridging wants to develop over the PACNW again Monday through Wednesday.  Notice the above-average heights on Wednesday…ridging


But the ridge flattens a bit Thursday/Friday, allowing a more typical wet/snowy system into the Pacific Northwest.  In fact the ECMWF shows a cool upper-level trough or two slipping through the region that following weekend (14th/15th).  This would be much better for Cascade snow.

Both the ECMWF and GFS ensemble forecasts say we’re done with ridging after that time.  Going out a full two weeks, they both forecast upper-level troughing right over us.  Back to chilly weather like we saw Thanksgiving

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Yet the GEM (Canadian) builds the big ridge right over us again at the same time…hmmm.


We’ll see how this plays out, but for now it appears we’ll get at least a bit more Cascade snow late NEXT week.   Our forecast for Government Camp temps plus ski area snow & snow levels around Mt. Hood

7 Day Forecast GOVT CAMP

By the way, there’s absolutely no sign of lowland snow/cold in the next 7-10 days.  The ECMWF ensembles for snowfall (51 separate runs from this morning’s data) say forget about it:


Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

29 Responses to Ski Season Update: A Slow Start, But No Need to Panic…Yet

  1. Tanis Leach says:

    More coincidences: The day I get the information of my health being good, not good enough to run yet, but good enough to ski and cycle, is the day we shift into a wet pattern. Hmmmmmmmmm

  2. runrain says:

    On the 12th day of Christmas, the weather gave to me,
    12 models bustin’
    11 warm winds blowin’
    10 fogs a-layin’
    9 nights of warmin’
    8 days of drizzle
    7 east winds dyin’
    6 cold fronts fizzlin’
    5 blogging trolls
    4 occluded fronts
    3 warm days
    2 pile of leaves
    And a new Davis weather station

  3. Jason Hougak says:

    This slow weather sure makes it easy to be a weatherman, 😆😆😆. Really it’s not funny, we need some action. The thick fog last night ended a few hundred feet in elevation below my house so enjoyed the clear sky and full moon. In Sandy it was so thick you could barely see a 100’ at times.

  4. Andrew says:

    models seem to be trending towards more active, “cool” weather in second half of month. i don’t see any immediate sign of snow in Portland but definitely plenty of snow for mountains and at least a couple stretches with snow levels down well below the passes. what i don’t see unfortunately is any sign of true arctic or even modified arctic air. we are so overdo for a true “arctic blast.” growing up, i feel like they were yearly occurrences and it’s been years since we had our last one. lots of time left but definitely seeming like our predominant patterns are preventing the arctic plunge. it was good to get some real rain yesterday at least.

  5. Roland Derksen says:

    I’m starting to wish for some more intresting weather. The last few days here have seen an abundance of clouds, but not much else(rain,sun, wind). I’m not expecting snow yet, but some would be welcome by the end of the month.

    • Tanis Leach says:

      What, an air stagnation advisory isn’t interesting?

      • Roland Derksen says:

        Not really- but actually the worst air stagnation I saw was back in December 1985. Lots of fog that month, especially around Christmas. Even Santa and his reindeer would have had trouble.

  6. Grizzly Bear says:

    Been cold here in Kamiah with snow still lingering in the shade from Nov. 29th when I got 2 inches. Big news here today is light rain. Weather news here is a juxtaposition to Portland where here snow is the norm in winter and rain is news! Happy Holidays to all the folks back in Oregon!

  7. WEATHERDAN says:

    The weather is crummy but the Ducks are going to the Rose Bowl, so I won’t complain. Peace.

  8. Mr Realist says:

    Let’s pray the GEM is right, bring that warm ridge back.

  9. Joshua Lake Oswego says:

    Should have taken the bet, W7.

    • Jake in Gresham says:

      Shocked at the rain total. I went to bed early and woke to the same rain intensity this morning:

      They’re saying up to 4ft of Snow in the Cali. mountain ranges and Rockies. Looks like the West finally see’s Winter after the intro. from the storm that hit previously.

      Oh, and Merry Christmas everyone!

  10. J Patrick Moore says:

    My wife was checking in for physical therapy this week, and there was a medical center volunteer there – probably about 80. He made a small-talk comment about the cold weather on the east coast, and I commented that I hadn’t really been following the weather there. He comes back with, “My favorite is listening to Mark Nelsen on Channel 12.” We both laughed – because you’re our favorite as well.

    • Paul D says:

      Mark is the best and his blogs are awesome. I listen to people at work talk about what their phone weather apps tell them and chuckle because I know they’re wrong most the time.

      • Tanis Leach says:

        At least phone apps are good for memes. Anyone remember Nov 2017 with “fake weather” (snow on Nov 4 according to apps).

  11. JERAT416 says:

    This weather is so boring, so anything else is fine with me. Maybe one day I’ll have my dream winter where timberline lodge is buried all winter long and ski bowl still has 6 feet on labor day. I don’t even care if we get snow here but cold snaps are nice.

  12. Matt in LO says:

    Looks like my new boards are gonna marinate in the closet a bit longer….sigh

  13. Lynn says:

    Nuts !!! This is a boring bunch of weather- where are the storms? Ho hum😐

  14. ocpaul says:

    Colder, better.

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