Mother Nature has slammed the brakes on several ski resorts’ plans to open Thanksgiving Day. Last week’s heavy snowfall fizzled out by the weekend. And in some places, the snow was followed by rain.
“We’re going to need 30 inches to open, and we just don’t have it right now,” Michael DeGraw, public relations manager for Schweitzer Mountain Resort, said Tuesday afternoon. “If we had enough snow, we would’ve opened Thanksgiving, but it just wasn’t enough.”
Lookout Pass is the only local ski area that will be open Thursday. The small ski area on the Montana-Idaho border delighted skiers by opening last weekend.
Schweitzer, Silver Mountain, 49 Degrees North and Mount Spokane hope to open Saturday, but still are waiting for more snow.
Schweitzer had 25 inches at the top and 15 in its village on Tuesday afternoon, DeGraw said, adding that the resort will decide on Friday when to open.
The 15 inches of snow that fell on Mount Spokane last Tuesday was followed by rain on Sunday, said General Manager Kirk Duncan.
Tuesday’s snowfall brought the snowpack back up to about 15 inches, substantially short of the 36 inches the resort needs to open, Duncan said.
“I don’t think we’ll get our 20 inches out of this storm,” Duncan said Tuesday. “If we get 4 inches, I’ll be happy.”
Duncan said Mount Spokane will decide at noon the day before it plans to open. Friday isn’t likely, he said, but he’s pinning hopes on Saturday.
That sentiment was shared at Silver Mountain in Kellogg and 49 Degrees North in Chewelah.
“Thanksgiving looks like it’s out,” said David Kilmer, Silver’s spokesman. “We need a couple of good feet of snow. We’re at the 21- to 22-inches mark right now, and it’s not enough to even think about opening.”
“It won’t be Thanksgiving, and I would be willing to say it won’t be Friday,” said Eric Bakken, 49 Degrees North’s mountain manager. “Saturday and Sunday are looking really good.”
When the mountain does open, Bakken said, only half the terrain will be available until snow coverage improves. As of Tuesday afternoon, 49 Degrees North had 17 inches on top and about 8 inches at the lodge.
That leaves Lookout in the enviable position of being the sole provider in a market eager to ski.
About 20 percent more people, a total of 1,200 skiers and snowboarders, visited the mountain last weekend compared to last year’s opening weekend.
“We must have been a little bit more blessed,” said General Manger Dean Cooper.
Cross country and snowmobile trails are fairing only slightly better than area ski resorts. The Washington State Parks Department reports that some trails on Mount Spokane have enough snow for cross country skiing and snowmobiling.
However, Hill’s Resort in Priest River, Idaho, which boasts 400 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and seven miles of cross country trails, is out of luck so far.
“We only have one inch,” said one Hill’s staff member late Tuesday. “We don’t have enough snow for anything.”
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: SNOW DEPTH As of Tuesday, area ski resorts reported the following amounts of snow: Schweitzer Mountain Resort - 25 inches Mt. Spokane Ski Area - 15 inches Silver Mountain - 22 inches 49 Degrees North - 17 inches Lookout Pass Ski Area - 26 inches