Just when conditions were looking bleak for holiday skiing in Washington and Oregon, Santa delivered the needed goods. Many resorts that had tweaked open a lift or two in a lackluster start to the season saw a turnaround by Christmas Eve. Snow arrived by the foot, rather than inches, and lifts cranked into action.
In Oregon, Mt. Hood Meadows took aim at the lagging arrival of snow. Blaming a Pineapple Express, a lingering pattern of unseasonable warm wet weather, the resort held a pineapple-chucking contest on Dec. 20 during their annual brewfest just to make a statement to the weather gods. The stunt apparently worked.
Mt. Hood Meadows held a pineapple toss at mid-December warm, wet weather.
Copyright: Mt. Hood Meadows
By Christmas Eve, weather patterns shifted, bringing much needed snow to the Pacific Northwest. Multiple resorts ramped up lift operations Christmas Day with the weekend delivering the goods by the foot-full. By Dec. 29, colder temperatures brought powder with many of resort snow reporters labeling the groomed and off-piste conditions as “epic.”
“We are ecstatic about this timely storm that delivered over two-and-a-half feet for this holiday week,” said Dave Tragethon for Mt. Hood Meadows. “The upper mountain was already open, but it allowed us to open the Hood River Express and the lower mountain terrain. The majority of the mountain is now covered.” The weekend dump of snow fed the whoops of powder hounds, and night skiing launched for the season. A cold air mass descending before New Years preserved the powdery snow pack and yielded bluebird skies.
Mt. Hood Meadows revels in powder followed by blue skies this week.
Copyright: Mt. Hood Meadows
Tiana Anderson from Crystal Mountain Resort in Washington echoed the same sentiments. “We really lucked out. The week before Christmas we weren't sure we'd be open during the holidays,” she said. “Then we got the storm we needed just in time.” By Christmas, all 11 lifts were running, including the new Quicksilver and Chair 6. Another two feet of snow punched the area to 100 percent open with clear skies giving big views of neighboring Mt. Rainier.
Powdery corduroy on Queens Run at Crystal Mountain Resort on Dec. 26, 2014.
Copyright: Kim Kircher
The message is clear across both states: You can plan that trip to the slopes now. So what are conditions looking like at other Washington and Oregon resorts?
In Washington, Mt. Baker started amassing snowfall with more than 5 feet of base burying the ground at the bottom of Pan Dome. All lifts cranked into action, and even the canyon opened. Stevens Pass welcomed powder skiing on Christmas day and added night skiing by Dec. 27 to be at its full 9 a.m.-10 p.m. schedule. Seventh Heaven and Jupiter Express chairs followed shortly, expanding the terrain. Bluewood, Mission Ridge, White Pass, 49 Degrees North, Mt. Spokane and the Summit at Snoqualmie also have been able to start opening lifts.
In Oregon, Mt. Bachelor has been open since Thanksgiving, but the holiday snowfall took the mid-mountain snow depth up past 6.5 feet and bumped open more terrain. At Mt. Hood, the storms enabled Timberline Lodge to start running the Jeff Flood Express this week and Mt. Hood Skibowl to open lifts from 9 a.m.-10 p.m. For the lower elevation Skibowl, the opening of the ski lifts is one month earlier than last year. Mt. Ashland and Anthony Lakes also started up operations, and Hoodoo plans to open New Years Eve.
Mt. Hood Meadows celebrates New Year's Eve with fireworks.
Copyright: Randy Boverman
Many Washington and Oregon ski resorts will celebrate the opening week for the season and New Year's Eve with torchlight parades and fireworks on Dec. 31. But if you want to hit the slopes with the big parties and late night skiing, head to Mt. Hood. At Mt. Hood Meadows, the lifts run until midnight as do the parties, toasts, dining and music. At Mt. Hood Skibowl, two fireworks shows will light up the sky while cosmic tubing runs until 1 a.m. and ski lifts operate until 2 a.m.