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Resorts getting a big lift

Ski resort managers are dreaming of opening early following the first major snowfall of the season this week and the promise of more stormy weather on the way.

Storms in the mountains on Monday and Thursday nights dumped snow on ski areas from Western Washington to Montana. Red Resort, just over the border in Rossland, British Columbia, reported 2 feet of new snow this week.

Brad McQuarrie, manager of Mt. Spokane, said the most recent snowfall started on Friday about 1 a.m. and “it kicked on and ran until I got there in the morning.” The mountain north of Spokane has 8 inches of snow on top and about 5 inches at the base. “Everybody’s really excited and it looks like there’s more on the way,” he said.

The National Weather Service is predicting a storm beginning this afternoon or evening will dump another foot of snow on the region’s mountains and perhaps less than an inch on city streets. In addition, storm systems are lined up to hit the area every 24 to 36 hours through Friday, said Ron Miller, a meteorologist with the weather service.

“By Monday, we should have a foot of new snow in the mountains of the Panhandle,” Miller said, adding that Eastern Washington’s mountains will be hit as well, but probably not as hard. “The possibility is there for another foot of snow through the remainder of the week.”

Red Resort’s vice president of operations, Jim Greene, said the Farmer’s Almanac has predicted a potentially record-setting winter in the Pacific Northwest this year. Greene said if the current weather pattern persists, the resort will consider opening earlier than its scheduled Dec. 3 start date.

Lookout Mountain on the Montana-Idaho border is traditionally the first to open of the five resorts in the Inland Northwest. They include Silver Mountain, Schweitzer Mountain, 49 Degrees North and Mt. Spokane. Lookout’s owner, Phil Edholm, said 6 inches fell overnight, bringing the resort’s total to a foot on top and 6 inches at the base. Edholm said that, plus the weather forecast, has him thinking of opening by the end of next week.

“Give us another foot and we may make a go of it,” he said. “We will make that decision in the early part of next week. We’ll see what happens with (tonight’s) storm. If we get 20 inches of snow, we can do it.”

Opening by Thanksgiving or earlier is a bonus for ski resorts, which can capture lucrative holiday season visitor dollars. That would be a welcome season opener following last year’s disappointing snowfall which forced many resorts to close early.

“You’re hoping for a Thanksgiving opening. It’s certainly not a gimme, but if you can have great conditions by Christmas, you’re happy,” said Stephen Lane, spokesman for Silver Mountain in Kellogg, which reported 10 inches of snow on top with more falling Friday afternoon.

No one from 49 Degrees North in Chewelah returned phone calls, but the mountain’s Web site showed 14 inches of snow on top and 5 inches at the base. Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint reported 15 to 18 inches of snow on top and 6 inches in the village, said Ron Nova, the general manager.

“I’d love to get Thanksgiving, but we’ll see what the weather brings,” Nova said.


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