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Updated Friday, December 7, 2012 at 09:53 AM

Cascade ski areas rush toward weekend openings as storms dump powder

By Mark Yuasa
Seattle Times staff reporter

Cascade Mountain ski and snowboard areas are reaping the benefits of recent storms dumping plenty of powdery snow.

White Pass is scheduled to open Friday, the Summit at Snoqualmie expects to open soon and Mount Baker's ski season is shifting into high gear.

"The density of the snow is fantastic, and these are the big, floaty, dry snowflakes coming down," said Gwyn Howat, the Mount Baker Ski Area operations manager. "It is just gorgeous, and reminds of a classic Christmas Day with no wind and all the trees are perfectly covered with snow."

Mount Baker has more snow this week than any other ski resort in North America.

Baker received 14 inches of snow in a six-hour period through 3 p.m. Thursday, giving it 117 inches at Pan Dome base and 99 inches at Heather Meadows. That's the most deepest base for any December at Baker since 1998-99 when it was 123 inches, and far more than runner-up Whistler-Blackcomb Resort in British Columbia's 69-inch base as of Thursday morning. Baker has had 27 inches of new snow in a 24-hour period and 80 inches in seven days.

"A few weeks ago we had nothing, and then got hit with enough to open Nov. 21," Howatt said. "Soon after it switched over to rain, and by Saturday it was a steady snowfall that hasn't let up."

A winter-storm warning is in effect for Mount Baker, Stevens Pass, Snoqualmie Pass, Paradise and White Pass areas with snow accumulations of 1 ½ to 3 feet possible by Friday morning. More snow is expected through the weekend.

The Summit at Snoqualmie hopes to open this weekend.

"It's the perfect kind of snow coming down," said Guy Lawrence, director of marketing for The Summit at Snoqualmie, who added that the decision should come Friday morning.

The Summit received 4 inches of new snow overnight with a base of 15 inches. More than 80 inches is on top of Alpental.

White Pass will begin winter operations at 8:45 a.m. Friday, with all lifts opening, and 80 percent of terrain accessible. Snow depth is 20 inches at the base and 47 inches on the summit.

In Eastern Washington, Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park north of Spokane will open at 9 a.m. on Friday.

The snow continues to pile up on other areas like Crystal Mountain Resort, which has 98 inches so far.

Crystal is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with the Gondola, Rainier Express, Forest Queen, Chinook Express, Green Valley, High Campbell and Northway lifts in operation. Discovery lift will open Friday, offering beginner terrain. The base has 25 inches, and the summit 50.

Mission Ridge will reopen Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It received 6 inches of snow Thursday night, and has a 23-inch base and 31 inches on the summit.

Stevens Pass Resort is open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It plans to expand operations to six lifts by Friday and be in full operation by Saturday. It received 2 inches of new snow overnight with a 43-inch base and 47 on the summit.

49 Degrees North is open 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Fridays to Tuesdays, and Ski Bluewood could open soon.

Some other Pacific Northwest areas are also opening their doors for winter operations.

Mount Ashland in Southern Oregon opened Thursday with all four chairlifts operating daily at 9 a.m. Ashland has a base of 27 inches and 55 on the summit.

The Lookout Pass Ski Resort on the Idaho/Montana border opened Thursday, and will operate at 9 a.m. Thursdays to Mondays. It has a base of 18 inches, with 41 on the summit. The Huckleberry Jam terrain park will also be open.

The Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana will open Saturday. Through Tuesday, it had 42 inches on the summit. Other resorts now open are Mount Bachelor, Mount Hood Meadows and Timberline in Oregon; and Schweitzer Mountain, Silver Mountain and Sun Valley in Idaho.

Events and deals

• Get a photo taken with Santa Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Mount Baker's White Salmon Lodge. Cost is $5.

The Summit at Snoqualmie has partnered with Mission Ridge to offer free midweek lift tickets by showing their 2012-13 Big S Pass at the ticket window through April 7. Special is not valid Dec. 26-Jan. 2. Summit pass holders are also eligible for one complimentary ticket at Mission Ridge on Sunday when they purchase a full-price ticket Saturday.

Crystal Mountain will begin their First Tracks Breakfast on Saturday, and the on-mountain Arbor Snowboard Demo will also be happening that day. On Dec. 15, Crystal hosts its Golden Anniversary Celebration birthday bash.

• All Summit at Snoqualmie, Stevens Pass and White Pass season-pass holders are eligible for $20 tickets at Crystal through Friday by showing a current season pass at the ticket window.

• Mount Spokane has a new 1,200-square foot addition to the main lodge with seating for 100, a new wraparound deck and four big screen TVs.

Whitefish Mountain, recently ranked 11th by a SKI Magazine reader survey, has a 20 percent discount for Amtrak overnight rides for Washington skiers and snowboarders. Details: www.amtrak.com.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com


DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Skiers at White Pass will find all lifts open Friday and 80 percent of terrain accessible. Snow depth is 20 inches at the base and 47 on the summit.




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