Dec. 10 targeted for ski area opening

The Mt. Ashland Association always hopes to open the ski resort for Thanksgiving, but Dec. 10 is the more likely target date, said Marketing Director Rick Saul.

The mountain has about four inches of snow, but Saul said there's no magic snowfall number needed before they open. Temperature and snow moisture content also affect when the resort would be open.

"Sometimes preseason storms can produce large amounts of snow, but if the temperature is cold during the storms the snow will have low moisture content," Saul said. "As these cold snowflakes fall they trap a lot of air in the blanket of snow."

Saul said in this situation, it's common that 18 inches of snow pack could be compacted to 6 or 7 inches after using their grooming machine. He said it's best in the early season to receive warmer storms that produce wet, heavy snow that packs down well. Ski area managers usually open the mountain with snow depth that ranges from 28 to 36 inches.

Almost two feet of snow fell on Mount Hood over the weekend, allowing the Timberline ski area to open for business Tuesday. Other ski areas haven't fared as well. The weekend storm left 6 inches at Mount Bachelor, but only dusted or completely missed resorts in Western Washington. "We were just on the southern edge of that weekend storm," said Saul.

Mount Bachelor received continued snow Tuesday and expects to open on Thanksgiving day, according to its Web site.

Closer to home, Mount Shasta Board Ski Park had bare ground at the lodge. Cross-country skiers at Crater Lake have enough snow if they are willing to stay on paved roads; but it is not deep enough to avoid the hazards on the trails through the trees.

Saul said the earliest Mount Ashland opened for skiing was on Nov. 16, in 1995. The latest was in 1977 when the resort wasn't able to open until Feb. 17.

"The nation was experiencing a drought in the mid '70s, which affected nearly all ski resorts," he said.

Saul said weather patterns change constantly.

"Last year we had 130 inches of snowfall, and that's pretty decent. But we did receive 70 inches of snow in ten days between Feb. 21 and March 3. Getting 18 to 20 inches of snow from a storm during that time of year is not that unusual. But 70 inches in ten days is extremely unusual," he said.

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