Above: Mount Baker Highway
The Pacific Northwest has been hammered in the past week with feet and feet of freshies. This all started with an atmospheric river from the Hawaiian islands pumping a continuous flow of moisture into the Northwest. Cold air late and early this week has made for the most epic conditions of the season! Whistler nabbed a 65 cm (25 inches) overnight dump last Sunday.
Overnight snow at Whistler Sunday morning.
Mount Washington on Vancouver Island BC remained closed on Sunday with 110 cm that morning. I chased this storm from Utah and ended up in the first tracks line at the Whistler gondola by 5:45 AM. There were already 50-75 folks in line! The crowd grew rapidly in anticipation of an early tracks opening, only to get the bad news: “The mountain is closed this morning until further notice.” 150 km wind gusts had Whistler- Blackcomb on virtual standstill. There was a sudden awe of silence. The line grew to thousands who waited patiently for lifts to start spinning by 10AM (limited terrain).
The perils of chasing powder include severe let downs. Weather, mechanicals, and sometimes the powder skunk hit you, only to awaken to no new snow. You know the feeling when your stomach sinks. None of the steeps on either Blackcomb or Whistler opened that day. They opened on Monday when I chased to Mount Baker for an incredible 20 inches of freshies (10 overnight and 10 during the day). While Baker was epic that Monday, I missed out on the upper mountain openings at Whistler — perhaps the best in recent years, according to folks that were up there. I wish I could simply push a button and get beamed up to any ski resort at any given moment!
I added up snow totals at Mount Baker, per the Northwest Avalanche Center snow telemetry, calculating a whomping 133 inches in 8 days.
Your daily pow for the week would would have included 12, 17, 15, 14, 10, 22, 15, 28. 8 consecutive deep days.
That amount will continue to build somewhat through early this weekend. You could have essentially ridden double digit powder from January 19 through the 26th, with the exception of Wednesday, when a few hours of rain impacted operations at Mount Baker. Stevens rode amazingly that day, with easterly winds and slightly cooler temperatures. I was in the right place at the right time.
To make matters worse, my rental car windows got smashed out Tuesday evening in Seattle, where a dirt bag thief stole all my clothes, ski jacket, suitcases and personal items. If you see a street bum wearing a red Marmot Ski Jacket it may be mine! Feel free to donate to my powder fund at www.powderchasers.com.
It was dumping at Stevens Pass that night and my heart sank to the floor. The first thing I thought of was missing another double digit powder day. Oh wait, the dirt bag was kind enough to leave my Never Summer snowboard, Salomon Boots, and brand new Scott googles. Those were my only items not stolen! He even left my helmet and Black Diamond mitts. I was still wearing my ski clothes from that afternoon. I rushed my windowless car to the Seattle rental center for a quick swap at 11 PM. With just 3 hours of sleep still in my snowboard gear, I landed first chair at Stevens Pass with double digits on Wednesday. Thanks to Stevens ski area marketing for loaning me a coat.
For me, the story gets worse when I had to rush to Denver on Thursday for an emergency root canal (tooth pain sucks). Checking Google Flights, I scored a return ticket to Seattle for just $125 only to find myself back at Baker at 7AM Friday morning. I ran from the dentist’s chair back to the airport. The chase must go on! Here is a pic of the early morning hike at Baker this morning to line up for the mountain opening. The snow report had 17 inches from that night! Patrol limited chair 6 and 1 to patrons with full Avalanche gear. It was certainly locals appreciation day with 25 new by 11 AM this morning (Friday).
The parking lot pretty much sums it up below with a full burial at Mount Baker today.
The weekend brings additional moderate or heavy snow to the southern and central Cascades Saturday, before rain and warming finishes out the week on Sunday. Crystal is favored in this pattern. A return of colder temps and moisture may arrive in the Northwest by Tuesday. Baker will continue to see snowfall early this weekend with another foot likely to fall through Saturday afternoon. Sunday may feature rain at most elevations.
See you on the chase!
Powderchaser Steve @powderchasersteve. @powderchasers