As a lifelong Northwest dweller, I’m stunned by Wednesday’s announcement that the Summit at Snoqualmie has shut down its four ski areas for the season unless late snowstorms arrive.
Stunned, because unlike previous low-snow years (the winter of 2004-2005, for example), weather experts say there’s little chance of a turnaround before spring.
Cliff Mass, professor of atmospheric sciences at the UW, wrote last weekend on his blog that winter is essentially over.
“Every long-range forecasting model suggests warmth will continue,” Mass wrote. He cited U.S. and Canadian models that “are 90-100% sure it will be warmer than normal. They don’t get any more certain than that.”
Some say our balmy winter is evidence of global warming, but Mass cautions against that. The current weather is a West Coast anomaly, he said, “not some kind of global warming where everyone experiences higher temperatures.”
The four Snoqualmie ski areas aren’t alone. Loup Loup and Mt. Spokane also have closed, and other Northwest areas offer limited operations. A friend at work returned last night from Sun Valley, where spring conditions prevail. He didn’t bother skiing until after lunch because it’s so icy in the mornings – the result of snow thawing during the day, then glazing over with a frozen crust at night.
The Summit’s Feb. 11 closure contrasts with typical years, when Summit West and Summit East stay open until mid-March, Summit Central until mid-April, and Alpental through Cinco de Mayo (May 5).
The lowest cumulative snowfall on record at Snoqualmie Summit was in 1977, when 191 inches fell altogether. The current total is just 74 inches.