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Lack of snow hurting early ski season in Washington

Conditions are bleak at the base of Alpental, where the wait is on for at least one good snowfall to get the area open. (Summit at Snoqualmie webcam)

From wild dances to burning their old boards, local skiers are doing whatever ritual they can to get badly needed snow to fall on the Cascade Mountains.

Conditions have been disappointingly dry and warm since an early snow allowed Crystal Mountain, Stevens Pass and several others to open. And when we got that blast of arctic air, skies stayed mostly clear.

The Summit at Snoqualmie areas have yet to open, and it's not looking likely they'll get enough snow to fire up the lifts for at least the next 10 days to two weeks, says KING 5 meteorologist Rich Marriott.

"We don't really see a whole lot of snow out there," he says. "We're basically staying in a pretty mild pattern with snow levels bouncing around 4-5,000 feet."

While there's 47 inches of snow at the top of Alpental, the base areas at Alpental, Summit West and the other Snoqualmie resorts are at about 3,000 feet, where there's just a few inches of snow right now after rain and warmer temperatures melted what fell earlier in the fall.

"Boy, if we could just get one decent storm, it would probably get Summit West open," says Summit at Snoqualmie marketing director Guy Lawrence. "We are looking pretty nice further up, but we need the snow to get people up there."

Lawrence says parent company Boyne and the resort's management are always prepared for the unpredictability of the early season, but they feel bad for customers and employees alike.

"We're optimistic; we know we'll open soon. You have to roll with it a little bit, but the turns will come," he says hopefully.

In the meantime, the Summit has partnered with sister resort Crystal Mountain to offer free or discounted lift tickets at Crystal for pass holders until December 23.

The situation is much better, but far from optimal at Crystal, Stevens and Mount Baker, which all have adequate coverage up top but limited snow down below. It makes for some rocky riding and skiing.

Stevens Pass is reporting 25 inches at the base, 42 inches up top. Crystal Mountain reports 40 inches up top and just 9 inches at the base. But skiers can take the gondola to the top and back down to avoid wrecking their rides.

Marriott says while there's not a big dump in the forecast, things can turn around quickly with just a slight shift in the jet stream and a good band of moisture. In the meantime, he'll be joining everyone else doing their snow dances and powder prayers.

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About the Author

Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He covers everything from May Day riots in Seattle to the latest Boeing news.


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