One year after it did not have enough snow to open for the season, Mt. Baker Ski Area has the most snow in North America — and more is coming this week.
A winter storm warning was in effect until Friday morning, with as much as 3 feet of snow expected to fall in the North Cascades by the weekend. Nearly every mountain snowfall reporting location in the region could have 100 percent of its normal snowfall amount by the weekend, according to the National Weather Service.
As of Thursday morning, Dec. 17, Mount Baker had 80 inches of snow at Heather Meadows, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center. At this time last year, Mount Baker had only 6 inches of snow, the lowest on record dating back to 1926. The Mt. Baker Ski Area did not even open for business until Dec. 20 last season.
Brief snowfall reached into the lowlands of north Whatcom County on Thursday, with a light dusting reported in Blaine, Lynden and Everson, among other areas. But the weekend forecast for western Whatcom County is is for breezy, wet conditions, with up to half an inch of rain falling Thursday night and Friday and daytime temperatures near 40.
National Geographic Magazine named Glacier, Wash., one of its Best Secret Ski Towns in North America because of its “old-school, off-the-grid vibe.”
The serious snowfall was up in the mountains. According to its daily snow report, Mt. Baker Ski Area had an 80-inch base at Heather Meadows and 114 inches at Pan Dome on Thursday morning, with up to 22 inches more expected by Friday.
The snow level, which was at about 1,000 feet Thursday morning, was expected to rise to about 2,500 feet by Friday morning. Daytime temperatures at Mount Baker are forecast in the low to mid-20s, with winds up to 25 mph Friday.
1,140 inches Total accumulated snowfall at Mt. Baker Ski Area in the winter of 1998-99, believed to be a world record.
The good news for skiers and snowboarders also comes with a word of caution. The Northwest Avalanche Center reported dangerous avalanche conditions for late Thursday and Friday above the treeline — roughly 7,000 to 8,000 feet — in the North Cascades backcountry between the Canadian border and the Skagit River. More moderate conditions are expected near or below the treeline.
Highway back to two lanes
Skiers and snowboarders also should have an easier time getting to the fresh powder.
Crews working for the Washington Department of Transportation have finished emergency repairs on a stretch of Mount Baker Highway about six miles east of Glacier, restoring two-way traffic.
On Wednesday, Dec. 16, contractor crews finished paving work and re-installed a guardrail on the highway between mileposts 39 and 40. During a storm last month, the Nooksack River eroded a portion of its bank, undermining the roadway.
Drivers still should be prepared for intermittent single-lane closures as crews put the finishing touches on repairs, the agency said. Flaggers will control traffic through the work zone.
A portion of Mount Baker Highway east of Deming near milepost 16 is still reduced to one lane 24 hours a day. Crews continue to make emergency repairs to fix a broken culvert beneath the highway. The repairs should be completed in early January.