+2 2 votes

Snow Depths - 2014

Photo: Snow depth near Stevens Pass on a more normal year. It's about 70 percent this deep in the same place this year.

It's not just perception that we're suffering from a snow shortage this winter. This data from regional snow measurement sites and compiled by the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center confirms it. Take a look at this table to see how this year's snow accumulations stack up compared to the average year snowpack. As of January 15, Stevens Pass was 70 percent of average while Mission Ridge was 56 percent of average. These figures are updated bi-weekly and the picture today is considerable better than 2 weeks ago when Stevens was at 52 percent or average, Mission 39 percent of average.

While this is significant information and says a lot about this ski season, it doesn't tell the whole story. For example, while the snowpack is lower than normal at Stevens Pass, the coverage is plump enough that all the lifts are running and all the in-bound named runs are open to skiers.

Meanwhile, while it seemed abnormally warm in Wenatchee last weekend, Mission Ridge was receiving snow that really improved the coverage and the consistency of the coverage. Even more importantly the strong winds transported truckloads from slopes south of Mission Ridge and deposited snow on the north-facing slopes of the ski area. Runs on the upper mountain in the lee of Windy Ridge (Lemolos, Maggies, Alah and even Tumwater) had far more snow coverage and much better snow quality than would be expected because of all the wind transport.

Don't get lulled into using snow totals as your only benchmark to gauge the quality of skiing. Get out there and sample the snow -- often the conditions are better than you expected. And if they're worse than expected you'll have opportunity to work on skiing ice, or edging delicately through rocks... or trees. Check what skiers are saying at the WenatcheeOutdoorsForum as well. It's a cheap way of monitoring what snow conditions you're likely to find out there.