In the short term, there is good news. First, the storm last weekend left several inches to a foot at higher elevations. Here is the MODIS satellite image from yesterday, followed by one from Sept 30th. Big difference. (Note there are some clouds in each of them). Snow in terrain has a dendritic pattern. On Sept 30, there was basically no snow, just glacial ice. Not so yesterday, with extensive snow found at elevations about 4000 ft.
Sept 30thStevens and Crystal both have around a foot at some of their higher runs (see pics)
10 inches measured at Crystal
And there is going to be plenty of snow during the next week, particularly the end of the week. The pattern that is setting up (see upper level map below) shows the jet stream slipping south of us and our region in cool northwesterly flow with an embedded trough. Snow lovers know this is a good pattern.
The UW WRF model snow accumulation forecast for the 72 h ending Wednesday at 4 PM shows massive snow in the north Cascades and in SW British Columbia: several feet, with the Olympics and southern Cascades receiving substantial amounts. Even the Sierra Nevada gets snow. We haven't seen model predictions like that for a LONG time.
We are seeing very different large scale weather patterns than last year and there is no reason, with the game-changing El Nino going on, to expect a complete snow bust like last year. The meteorological cards have been shuffled in a big way.
I suspect there will be enough snow for an early, limited opening at some of the higher elevation regional ski areas by the end of next week. Yes, some rocks and limited runs, but a start. El Nino warming tends to be most acute after the start of the new year and that tends to reduce the end of winter ski season. But the beginning of El Nino years can often provide good skiing opportunities.
Now I am NOT going to tell you whether you should purchase that annual ski pass. Be your own judge of that. Certainly, our ski industry needs your business. But if you want to learn more about snow and avalanches, you might go to the snow workshop on Sunday. Avalanche safety and knowing the ways of mountain weather are always valuable when you head into the mountains during winter.
The Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop is this weekend (November 8th). Lots of great talks and a big crowd of snow lovers. For more information on the meeting and how you can attend, go here.