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The snow in the mountains should be here to stay this winter, meteorologists say

click to enlarge The conditions Dec. 4 on Silver Mountain.
  • The conditions Dec. 4 on Silver Mountain.

Don't stress, skiers and snowboarders. If you bought a season lift pass to a local resort, you shouldn't have any trouble using it this winter.

Snow levels in the mountains are already much higher than at the same time last year, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Kalin. Even before the recent snow that hit the lowlands of the Inland Northwest last weekend, the base amount at Mount Spokane and Silver Mountain ski resorts were six inches higher than this time last year. At Lookout Pass, it was nearly 20 inches more than this time last year.

That's a trend that should continue through the rest of the season, Kalin says.

"There will probably be more snow than we've seen in the last couple seasons, or at least two years ago when we didn't have much of anything," he says.

Ski resorts have generally opened earlier this year than last. Last year, temperatures were above normal and precipitation was below normal because it was an El Niño event. Mount Spokane, for example, opened up a week earlier this year than last, says Brenda McQuarrie, guest services manager.

"It was a typical El Niño year," she says. "It started with a big bang, and we closed the road because there was so much snow in the trees. Then in spring, [the snow] petered off."

McQuarrie hopes this year will be more consistent. And according to Kalin, it should be.

This year is a La Niña event, meaning the Pacific Ocean near the equator cools, bringing cooler temperatures and more precipitation to the Inland Northwest. The last La Niña event was in the winter of 2011-12.

The area typically sees above normal snowfall during La Niña, but Kalin calls it a "weak" La Niña event, so there's some uncertainty about the amount of snowfall.

But one thing seems certain: The snow already on the mountains should be there to stay.

"We're confident there will be below normal temperatures, which will keep the snow on the ground [in the mountains]," Kalin says. ♦

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