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Mt. Baker Ski Area’s slow start to season could improve with snow forecast

Staff has been moving 'farming' snow to keep runs skier-friendly

Skiers and boarders form a line at Chair 1 at Mt. Baker Ski Area on opening day
Skiers and boarders form a line at Chair 1 at Mt. Baker Ski Area on opening day
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

The ski and snowboard season at Mt. Baker Ski Area has been off to a slow start, but weather forecasts bring hope for snow.

Mike Trowbridge, the ski area’s general manager, said the late Dec. 13 opening date, and subsequent sparse snowfall, were disappointing. Other Northwest ski areas have suffered through similarly poor early season conditions. 

But forecasts point to the potential of snowfall in the next 10 days.

“I’m pretty hopeful about this next forecast coming up, with the snow starting Thursday night [Jan. 4] and running through Friday [Jan. 5],” Trowbridge said. “We’re looking at 20-plus inches of snow between that Thursday night, Friday, Saturday morning stretch.” 

The National Weather Service is predicting between 12 and 24 inches of snow in the area from Thursday night through Saturday.

Trowbridge added there could be another push next week, spanning Jan. 9–12.

As of Wednesday, Jan. 3, the mountain has received 133 inches of snow, including preseason snow, which is the lowest total the ski area has seen through December since the 2019–20 season’s 125 inches. 

But during that same season, a whopping 294 inches of snow fell in January 2020 — the most the mountain has seen in one month since the ski area began tracking month-to-month snowfall in 2010.

In the meantime, the staff at Mt. Baker Ski Area has been employing several tactics to keep runs snow-covered because the ski area has no snowmaking equipment.

This includes moving snow from the Heather Meadows base area to the lower White Salmon base area via dump trucks, and “farming” snow from the parking lots for both areas. The lower-elevation White Salmon base area is now closed due to lack of snow.

“We have big pieces of heavy equipment, big loaders … and we use those loaders to push both the snow in the Heather Meadows parking lot and the highway,” Trowbridge said. “We either push it onto the hill, or we push it up in a pile and then spread it out where we need it. The same is true for White Salmon.”

The farming technique will also be used after upcoming storms to get as much snow on the runs as possible. 

That could allow Chairlifts 7 and 8, which are out of the White Salmon base area, to open after being closed most of the season. Chairlifts 1–6 out of Heather Meadows are currently open.

Trowbridge said crews have worked hard to be clear with the public about current conditions on the mountain, particularly with the updated snow report

He appreciates how the community has responded, with many offering suggestions to improve the slopes.

“There’s an awful lot of facets that go into successfully operating a ski area,” Trowbridge added. “A lot of stuff that’s considered isn’t immediately obvious to people. But the feeling of community ownership is just awesome.”

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