Resorts’ early snowpack lays it on thick
Unusual levels of snowfall beat record at Schweitzer, benefit skiers, snowboarders across region
December snowfall at Schweitzer Mountain Resort is the heaviest in nearly 30 years, the Sandpoint-area ski resort reported Wednesday.
The ski hill has recorded 180 inches of new snow this month, leading to a thick blanket both at the ski village and summit areas.
Snowpack near the lodges stood at 77 inches on Wednesday with 109 inches on top of the mountain.
“To see 180 inches this early in the season is extraordinary,” said Dave Kulis, director of marketing and sales at Schweitzer.
Daily snow reports have been kept since the 1976-’77 season, but running snow depths were not kept until the 1983-’84 season, according to a news release. This year is the highest total since then.
Schweitzer isn’t alone in seeing heavy snow early in the season. The Inland Northwest has some of the best skiing and snowboarding conditions in the country.
Chewelah Peak has 94 inches on top at the 49 Degrees North ski area. Lookout Pass ski area is reporting 94 inches as well.
Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has 77 inches at the summit and Silver Mountain Resort has 58 inches of snow pack.
Automated snow sensors have been keeping track of snowpack for at least 10 years. Records show that 2001 and 2004 also had good early snowpacks, according to National Weather Service forecaster Jeff Cote.
Quartz Peak near Mt. Spokane resort had a snow depth of 42 inches as of Wednesday, compared with 50 inches by this time last year.
Snowpack data shows that the heaviest mountain accumulations are found in the North Cascades and the mountains of Northeast Washington and the northern reaches of North Idaho. The Schweitzer Basin snowpack is at 165 percent of normal while the area east of Stevens Pass is at 235 percent of normal.
Mountains to the south are below normal for this time of year, although it’s early in the season, Cote said.
The National Weather Service is calling for a break this week in the Inland Northwest in the parade of storms off the Pacific Ocean.
The forecast calls for a 20 percent chance of snow today and then mostly cloudy skies with a risk of fog overnight and early in the mornings tonight and Friday. Highs should get into the 30s with lows in the middle 20s. A slight chance of rain or snow returns on Saturday, but Sunday should be calm.
Heavy snow on the east side of the Cascades forced closure of U.S. Highway 2 from Leavenworth to Stevens Pass from Saturday through Monday. Two motorists were killed and several others were injured when snow-laden trees crashed onto their vehicles.