After finally receiving snow last weekend, the Mt. Baker Ski Area is hopeful that it can reopen operations on Friday, March 20, in time to host its annual showcase event, the Legendary Banked Slalom over the weekend.
The Banked Slalom remains in a holding pattern less than four days before its rescheduled start due to a lack of snow this season, which forced the ski area to suspend operations earlier this month.
The good news, according to the ski area’s website, is that the weekend storm systems that brought rain to lower elevations of Northwest Washington on Saturday and Sunday, March 14-15, dropped 8-10 inches of fresh snow at Heather Meadows and 20 inches at the top of Pan Dome.
That snow, along with forecasts for snow levels dipping to 3,000 feet above sea level on Saturday, March 21, and expectations of 5 to 7 inches of new snow from another system, have the ski area hopeful that it can reopen operations on Friday, March 20, and host the Banked Slalom on Saturday and Sunday, March 21-22.
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“NWAC (the Northwest Avalanche Center) is forecasting a short warmup midweek, so we are waiting to see how that pans out,” Mt. Baker marketing director Amy Trowbridge said in a release at lbs.mtbaker.com. “If we come out of that unscathed, we should be able to reopen on Friday and therefore run the 291/2 Banked Slalom on Friday and Saturday.”
The four-day 30th Legendary Banked Slalom was originally scheduled to be held Feb. 19-22, but those plans were changed mid-February because of the unusually low snowpack this season, and the event was pushed back one month to see if conditions would improve. Planners decided to hold off on the 30th anniversary celebration until 2016 — currently scheduled for Feb. 18-21 — and instead run the 291/2th version of the event in a simplified format this weekend, if conditions allowed.
Mt. Baker has only had to cancel the Banked Slalom once in 2005 in a ski season that experienced similar low snowfall numbers to this year. That 2005 season saw 253 inches of snow fall in February, March and April until the end of the ski season.
As of 12:47 p.m. Monday, March 16, Mt. Baker listed a 25-inch base at Heather Meadows and 56 inches of snow at Pan Dome on its snow report. The snow report also stated that if the midweek warmup doesn’t have an adverse affect on the snowpack, plans are to open Heather Meadows and Chairs 1, 2 and 3 and the HM Handle Tow on Friday.
The ski area announced it would closing until more snow fell on March 8, and Mt. Baker didn’t officially open its season until Dec. 20.
Last week, Ski to Sea executive director Pete Coy announced that the annual Memorial Day weekend relay race, which starts with cross-country skiing and downhill skiing legs at Mt. Baker Ski Area, also is exploring contingency plans in case the snowpack conditions do not improve to the point that it can stage those two legs as usual.