Monday, January 30, 2012

The Illusive Snow Line

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 10:52 AM

click to enlarge whitefish_1.jpg

This was the situation for me last season.  On a one year hiatus from the Inland Northwest, my adventures for last season took me to Stevens Pass.  I was there for many reasons, none of which seem important to me today.  Early season snowfall in large proportions and busy bartending shifts made the daily commute from the small town of Leavenworth tolerable.  I made it through the busy holiday season grinning ear to ear.  Then came the hangover.  January brought weeks upon weeks of rain.  The totals that are imprinted in my brain are; 17" of rain for the month, 13" of which fell over Martin Luther King weekend and not one measurable inch of snow the entire month.  It was all worth it as I had the best ski day of my life the following month where 14" - bottomless of 6% moisture content snow fell overnight with no wind which made me a believer that SPKA (Stevens Pass Kicks Ass).

I do remember the day it all turned around.  I was making my daily 35 mile commute to the Pass after 31 days of seeing no snow line when all of a sudden, I drove around one of the last bends on Hwy 2 before reaching the Stevens Pass summit and there it was, the illusive snow line.  Over the course of the next month, with moisture in the forecast the snow line was never an issue.  We had our winter back.

This season, the snow line has been fluctuating in 1000 foot increments on a regular basis.  When I see that swing, it has the same effect on my heart.  Last week, while on a birthday trip to Whitefish Mountain Resort, we opted to stay on the lake at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.  I receive about 10 email ski reports, none of which were from Whitefish (I do now).  I religiously open the Schweitzer report first as it is my home mountain.  I was saddened to see that they had received 4 inches followed by rain.  With this information, I was a little skeptical about the conditions at Whitefish.  I immediately went from surfing email reports to surfing the web for the local conditions.  The snow reporter mentioned "the snow line" being at Ptarmigan Village (about half way up to the resort).  He also mentioned the 8" of fresh snow that had fallen overnight.  As we exited the lodge to load up the truck I glanced up at the mountain formerly known as Big Mountain and to locals as "the Big", I noticed and exhaled in a sigh of relief noting the snow line well below the village at Whitefish.  

I love the beauty of the snow line. 

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