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December 19, 2013 at 4:44 PM

Snoqualmie skiers’, Rainier sliders’ hopes ride on storms

EXPECT THIS: Friday will be the big snow day in the Cascades, forecasters say. (archive photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times, 2012)

EXPECT THIS: Friday will be the big snow day in the Cascades, forecasters say. (archive photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times, 2012)

It’s not a record late-opening for the Summit at Snoqualmie ski area, which has yet to operate this season. But it’s getting close to a record. You can bet resort managers are doing serious snow dancing — with extra whooping and hollering — in hopes that this incoming storm packs a wallop.

Western Washington’s early-December bout of bitter cold with bright sunshine for day’s on end didn’t help the meager snow totals at many ski areas, include Summit West, whose website on Thursday was reporting an accumulation of only 7 inches so far. Even Crystal Mountain reported only 9 inches at its base.

Paradise, at Mount Rainier, is also feeling the pinch: There’s not enough white stuff yet to open the popular snow-play area for the start of school vacation this weekend, rangers said Wednesday.

Snow depth at Paradise was 59 percent of normal, with 38 inches of snow on the ground.  A minimum snow depth of five feet — 60 inches — is considered necessary to protect the historic Paradise meadows and cover hazards such as tree tops and rock outcroppings. Rangers promised to open as soon as enough snow drops.

Snoqualmie is still “two storms away” from having enough snow to open, Summit marketing director Guy Lawrence told Times reporter Mark Yuasa Thursday. (See Yuasa’s latest ski report here.) That could mean the Summit will miss opening for normally-lucrative Christmas week. Wondering about records? Lawrence recalled a long ago Jan. 1 opening.

The National Weather Service’s doubtful Thursday morning forecast put the likelihood of serious lowland snow in this storm “in the Holy Moly Zone of Uncertainty” because of mild temperatures and shifting winds. But mountain snows are more certain, with a Winter Storm Warning in effect from 4 a.m. through 6 p.m. Friday for as much as 10 to 15 inches of snow.

The bad news for Snoqualmie Pass ski buffs: The snow level is expected to rise to 5,500 feet by late Friday afternoon or early evening, well above the Summit at Snoqualmie.

0 Comments | More in Northwest, snow sports | Topics: mount rainier, paradise, snowstorm

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