Snow in Northwest Mountains
Early November dusting at the Summit at Snoqualmie. Source:

Do you still have last year’s ski pass to one of the local mountains? Is it still in the envelop it came in? The big question for resorts and skiers alike as fall turns to winter is whether there will be snow in northwest mountains this season. Last year was a disastrous season for northwest skiing, even our friendly neighbors in B.C. suffered. Is global warming threatening to turn our mountains into year-round mountain biking trails or is the building El Niño in the Pacific Ocean going to deliver a white ski season. Weather models suggest that you may need to buy a plane ticket before you buy a lift ticket.

The current El Niño is warming temperatures in the Pacific and could challenge the ’97-‘98 event as the strongest on record. This warming trend is expected to peak in mid-winter bringing a string of tropical cyclones across the Pacific. These weather patterns are notoriously fickle, but improved computer models have increased the accuracy of forecasts. And what do these forecasts say for the Pacific Northwest?

Snow in Northwest Mountains
The artificial slope may be your best bet for skiing in the northwest this season. Source: Ski Dazzle.

Forecasts predict a year similar to last year, but with slightly more snow. The models show that the region will get plenty of precipitation, but warmer than usual temperatures will keep that precipitation as rain and not turn it into powdered white gold. Models are anticipating a better ski season than last year, but that is only because last year was so terrible. California and the northern Rockies are not anticipated to fare much better. Plenty of rain, but warmer temperatures will hold the snow to the higher elevations above most ski resorts. However, the southern Rockies are predicted to get higher than normal snowfall as temperatures are anticipated to be colder than usual in that region.

Current Snow Conditions

  • Stevens Pass 6” at base
  • Summit at Snoqualmie has a dusting of snow at base
  • Crystal Mountain 3” at base

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