Dec. 6, 2012 - Washington’s new marijuana law makes it legal as of today for anyone 21 or older to possess up to 1 ounce (28.5 grams) of marijuana, 16 ounces (0.45 kg) of solid marijuana-infused goods and up to 72 ounces (2.4 kg) of pot in liquid form for Recreational use. The same restrictions on alcohol use apply to pot. Growing or selling it without a license remains illegal (the licensing process is tbd). Also, it’s still illegal under federal law -so be careful not to bring any to national parks or forests or when you ski or ride at a resort operated on federal land. Crystal Mountain, Snoqualmie Pass, Stevens Pass, Mount Baker, White Pass, Mission Ridge, Ski Bluewood and 49 Degrees North are all on federal land.
With the current winter storm aimed squarely at Washington’s Cascade Mountains (again) and snow levels that are supposed to drop to about 2000 ft, we’re hoping the Summit at Snoqualmie’s lower slopes can finally start loading up. NOAA’s forecast below is expected to add up to 36″ by this Sat. at Snoqualmie Pass so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that this one will allow them to open soon.
White Pass, WA has confirmed it will open this Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 – first chair at 8:45 am. They plan to have 75-80% of their terrain open although the steepest runs might need more coverage. That said, it’s snowing again and there’s another winter storm warning which could bring up to another foot by the time they open. This afternoon (before the current storm), they were reporting 20″ at their base and 47″ at the summit.
PARADISE, located at an elevation of 5420′ in Mt. Rainier National Park, ranks #1 for snowfall with average annual snowfall of 671 inches or 1704 cm. Paradise’s title as the snowiest place in the U.S is based on the latest 30 year snowfall and snow depth data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for the 1981-2010 period. The ski resort that came out on top was ALTA, UT by averaging 546″ of snowfall annually during that period. Rounding out the top 5 snowfall leaders were Crater Lake in OR, Brighton, UT and Echo Summit, CA. Notably missing from the ranking is Mt. Baker, the official record holder for most snowfall ever measured in the U.S. in a single season: 1,140 inches during the 1998-99 snowfall season. NOAA states that this is also the world record (based on verifiable data). So, we suspect that this King of Snow (and perhaps others) didn’t make the list below due to insufficient data over the required 30 yr period. With an average snowfall of 701 inches (1781 cm) in recent years (>800″ last season and >850″ the season before), Mt. Baker and its Ski Area will surely be on the list next time around. By the way, the previous U.S. seasonal snowfall record was 1,122 inches, set during the 1971-1972 snowfall season by, you guessed it: Mt. Rainer’s Paradise station.
In prior periods, our own Snoqualmie Pass with average annual 504 inches from 1948 to 1972 and Stevens Pass with 493″ from 1950 to 1994 were among the top snowfall leaders. Check out our video below from last season’s deep day at Snoqualmie’s Alpental area to see what we get. And pretty often too since heavy snowfalls normally hit the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. NOAA explains it as the result of several factors: Winter is our wettest season, storms flow west-to-east hitting the Pacific Northwest every few days, moisture from the Pacific is forced to ascend the Cascade Range and drop abundant precipitation, freezing levels average about 4,000 ft in the winter, so near this altitude snowfall amounts increase very rapidly with just small increases in elevation. But I digress…Here are the snowfall leaders for the last 30 yr period:
Paradise also came in 1st for most days with fresh snow: 121.4 days to be exact, the highest average number of days/year with at least 0.1 inches (0.25 centimetres) of snowfall. Let’s not forget, that flanking Mt. Rainier on either side are the ski resorts Crystal Mountain and White Pass which are known for their consistent snowfall.
The above rankings are based on the nearly 6400 National Weather Service stations reporting snowfall and 5300 stations reporting snow depth in the U.S. NOAA uses that data to compute snowfall and snow depth “normals” – defined as the 30-year average. NOAA’s computation of climate Normals is in accordance with the recommendation of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), of which the U.S. is a member. The WMO mandates each member nation to compute 30-year averages of meteorological quantities at least every 30 years (1991 – 2020, etc.). To read the best analysis and summary of NOAA’s snowfall data set and see these tables in their original context, go to Liz Osborn’s story.
The current winter weather advisory is saying that White Pass and other local passes could get up to another 7″ of snow today above 3,000′ and more snow is on its way. It’s a great week to get out there. Crystal Mountain received 8″ at its base in the last 24 hrs and 10″ up top (12″ and 17″ respectively in the last 48 hrs). Its summit base depth is now at 50″ and there’s 26″ at their base. This week, it is again offering discounted mid-week tickets – JUST $20 – for valid 2012/2013 pass holders at White Pass, Summit at Snoqualmie and Stevens Pass. The discount is good for the gondola too but you have to go today through Friday, December 7th. Also, don’t forget to bring your pass to get the discount. If you have a Summit Big S Gold pass, Crystal is also temporarily suspending the ‘both resorts open’ clause so that you can use one of your 5 visits this week through Friday. Imo, better to save that for later and pay the $20 if you can. AND more good news for that zone: White Pass is scheduled to open this Friday, Dec. 7th or Saturday, Dec. 8th – they’ll make the final determination later this week. Have fun!
The National Weather Service’s Winter Advisory yesterday called for up to 6 ft of snow by Wed. at Paradise, located at an elevation of 5420 ft in Mt. Rainier National Park. That forecast has changed as of this writing but we’re still looking at a possible 29″ by Wed. evening. The Paradise area, known to be among the snowiest places on the planet (and on average, THE snowiest place in the nation), offers outstanding backcountry skiing and boarding throughout the year. If you’re looking to visit the park this winter, make sure you’re aware of their winter operating schedule and come prepared for winter travel. Here’s what you need to know:
- Highways 123 and 410, Stevens Canyon Road east of Paradise, and the White River, Sunrise, and Mowich Lake Roads are now closed to vehicles for the winter, but remain open to winter recreation.
- The gate at Longmire closes nightly through March.
- New this winter, the road between Longmire and Paradise will be closed every Tues. & Wed. – when, on average, fewer than 60 visitor vehicles come through on a typical day.
- On Thurs.-Mon., and every day during the Christmas holiday, the road from Longmire to Paradise will open as soon as the park’s snow plows can make it safe for travel. In good weather, the road may open as early as 7 AM, but in bad weather (or following heavy snowfall) the road might not open until late morning or, in some cases, not at all.
- All vehicles are required to carry chains when entering the park. Road conditions can deteriorate quickly and mandatory chain use may be required even for 4WDs.
- Paradise Inn is closed for the winter but the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise will be open weekends and holidays through March. There are also 24 hr restrooms and a pay phone (see map).
- The park is open for overnight winter camping 7 days/week (backcountry permits required), but the road will not be maintained from Longmire to Paradise when it’s closed Tues.-Wed. Therefore, if parked at Paradise when the road closes on Mon. evening, don’t expect to be able to drive back to Longmire until the road opens on Thurs. morning (and that’s weather permitting). Overnight parking is only permitted at Paradise, Longmire and Narada Falls in designated areas (see map). Camping in vehicles isn’t permitted.
- If you plan to winter camp in the backcountry, permits are available daily at the Longmire Museum. On weekends and holidays, permits are also available at the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise. Max group size is 12.
- Campsite locations need to be at least 300′ from plowed roads and parking areas (to avoid being buried by snowplows), marked routes, trails, buildings and at least 100′ from water. Be aware of avalanche zones (see winter map below). For the safety of others, collapse igloos and snow caves before leaving. Hard sided food storage containers are required in all Paradise area winter camping zones.
- Groups of 13-100 may only snow camp at Paradise in designated group camping areas and are required to use restrooms. Due to limited group sites in the winter, reservations can be made by calling 360-569-6575, 9 AM – 4 PM, M-F. Reserved group site permits can be picked up at the Longmire Museum by 4 PM on day of arrival.
- The Paradise snowplay/sledding area will open during the Christmas holiday.
- Down at Longmire, the visitor information center will move across the road from the Longmire Museum to the Administration Building (the Wilderness Information Center’s space). Park rangers are present daily 9 AM – 4:30 PM. Also, the historic National Park Inn at Longmire is open year round with dining, lodging and a gift shop. For reservations call 360-569-2275.
Needless to say, winter visitors should watch out for snow plows, check for up-to-the-minute updates on road conditions and restrictions by calling the park at 360-569-2211 for recorded information. In addition, backcountry travelers should get an update on current and projected snow, avalanche, and weather conditions and be prepared to survive winter conditions. Carry the ten essentials and know how to use them. Sign up for avalanche and ski tour education and training with Pro Guiding Services in North Bend (click their logo on the right). Check out the links below for Mt. Rainier ski videos and trip reports. Enjoy and Live to ski another day!
Andy Traslin and Mathew Koziell ski toured up to the iconic peak of Mt. Garibaldi in Squamish, British Columbia last week, Nov. 25, 2012. Andy got some nice POV video as they they skied some awesome 10 cm surface hoar powder. Andy tells us they first “did some test runs off of Brohm ridge with a test snow pit to assess the snow. The footage is from the Warren glacier in the shadow of Dalton Dome — Scoped out some sick lines for ski mountaineering.” This video was edited by Jasper Wesselman – enjoy.
The Winter Weather Advisory continues with heavy snow and accumulations of 9-18″ over the next 24 hrs for all of our local WA passes and Mt. Rainier. Snow levels are expected to fall to 3000ft tomorrow which means that Snoqualmie Pass is finally joining the party. And if the forecast below is right, the Summit at Snoqualmie could very well end up being the life of the party – yup, the numbers add up to 46″ by Wed. at Snoqualmie Pass and even more snow at higher elevations. Could that be enough for the Summit to open next weekend? We hope so! Stay tuned. It’s looking like the forecasts for all our WA passes, Mt. Baker and Crystal Mountain add up to more than 3 ft. by Wed. But get this: Paradise at Mt. Rainier is expected to see accumulations of up to 72″ – yes, that’s up to SIX FEET by Wed. (living up to its reputation of being the snowiest place on earth). Washingtonians, Let the partying begin!
The latest Pacific storm’s a beauty. Winter storm watches and warnings remain in effect for the higher elevations of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Western Montana, Western Wyoming and a winter weather advisory has been issued for Northeast Utah. Per NOAA, the moderate to heavy precipitation is expected to continue for much of the Pacific Northwest and the northern half of California through at least Sunday. Higher elevations of the Western U.S. could see snowfall totals of 1-3 feet with locally higher amounts. Some snowfall totals in inches (below) from this storm so far since Tuesday to this evening are making us giddy but places like Mt. Rose reported top wind gusts of 90mph so be sure to check lift status before you head out.
Jasper Wesselman, a senior at Issaquah H.S., will be joining The Snow Trooper team this year helping with the filming/editing throughout the season. This past Thanksgiving(Nov. 22nd) was spent for Jasper down on Mt. Bachelor on the other end of the lens. You will find Jasper hitting the big mountain terrain at Alpental, but will also catch him having a little fun in the park too… Just like day one at Bachelor.
Below is the opener vid shot by one of the Poor Boys Productions pros, Peter Alport.