Oh, that sound you hear? It’s the hopes of Oregon snow sports enthusiasts being raised.
Don’t look now, but it’s already snowing in the Cascades, leading a few local ski resorts to announce opening dates for the upcoming season that are on the historically early side (though still subject to change) and raising expectations for the state’s third La Niña season in as many years.
Timberline Lodge says it plans to open for the season on November 19, an ambitious, pre-Thanksgiving goal. Mt Hood Meadows has set its opening date for a week later, on November 25, though the resort says it is prepared to add “preview days” before Thanksgiving as conditions allow. Ski and snowboard areas that are at slightly lower elevations, including Ski Bowl, Cooper Spur and Summit, have yet to set target opening dates.
Typically, the La Niña weather pattern brings cooler and wetter weather to the Pacific Northwest, including above normal snowpack—good news not just for winter sports mavens, but also for next summer’s wildfire season and for farmers with an eye on persistent drought.
At the American Meteorological Society’s Oregon Chapter annual winter weather conference at OMSI this past weekend, meteorologist Kyle Kittmer projected that snowpack on Mount Hood should be “above normal” and that higher elevation resorts could top out at around 600 inches of seasonal snow. During an average season, seasonal snow tops out at around 430 inches.
Early season forecasts do look promising; Timberline got five inches of snow in just the last 24 hours, a respectable total for mid-February, let alone late October. Live ski cams there show near white-out conditions up at the Palmer lift and frost on the windows of the iconic Timberline Lodge.
Mt Hood Meadows reports five to six inches at the top of the Mount Hood Express lift and more on the way. And snow levels in the Central Cascades, including in the Santiam Pass on the way to the Hoodoo Ski Resort just east of Sisters, fell to pass level this past weekend, or about 4,000 feet.
It is currently snowing down to around 4000' in the Cascades this AM. Santiam & Willamette Passes will continue to experience the heaviest snow today into tonight. Be prepared for winter-like travel conditions if you plan to travel across the Cascades today. #pdxtst #orwx #wawx pic.twitter.com/EAEzY3wv1U— NWS Portland (@NWSPortland) October 22, 2022
Expect some other new features when the resorts do open this winter. Timberline is adding a magic carpet to the beginners’ area at Summit Pass just outside of Government Camp (farewell to years of blisters from the old rope tow) and there’s construction at the storied outdoor pool at Timberline Lodge, too.
Over at Meadows, the resort has hopped onto the combination ski pass bandwagon and joined the Indy Pass program. Passholders will get you two free days (and a discounted third day) at Meadows and at a host of other, independently owned, resorts. In Oregon, other Indy Pass members include Mt Ashland and the Hoodoo Ski Area.
Speaking of season passes, if you know you’ll be headed up to the mountain week in and week out this winter, it’s worth investing, and early bird pricing is only in place for a few more days. You can nab a season pass to both Timberline and SkiBowl for $899 (for an adult ticket) or Timberline only for $799; a Meadows all-access pass for adults ages 25-64 is $949. Each of the resorts has a variety of different ticket options depending on how often you’ll head up to the mountain and your skiing/boarding level, so it’s worth spending some time to figure out what’s right for you.