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Mt. Baker Ski Area will open Thursday, Nov. 19

Patrol Director Sam Llobett installs rope lines at Mt. Baker Ski Area on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. The ski area plans to open for the season Thursday, Nov. 19.
Patrol Director Sam Llobett installs rope lines at Mt. Baker Ski Area on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015. The ski area plans to open for the season Thursday, Nov. 19. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

El Nino is dishing up big helpings of snow and giving skiers and snowboarders an early Thanksgiving present as Mt. Baker Ski Area readies to open for the season Thursday, Nov. 19.

“We’re all super excited to see the snow,” said Gwyn Howat, vice president of operations for the ski area. “Anyone who owns a pair of skis or snowboards is ready to see nice white fresh snow.”

Howat said the goal is to have as much of the ski area operating on opening day as possible.

Moisture being pulled into the area coupled with cold temps dipping down from the north caused the snow, and plenty of it.

The snow base was 36 inches at Heather Meadows and 64 inches on top of Pan Dome, the ski area said Monday, Nov. 16, in its snow report at mtbaker.us.

Another 1 to 2 feet of new snow was expected to fall in the Cascades in Whatcom and Skagit counties by late Monday night, according to the the National Weather Service.

Nov. 19Opening day for Mt. Baker Ski Area in 2015

Dec. 20 Opening day for ski area in 2014

Temperatures will warm up Tuesday, according to the weather service forecast, but it will snow again in the mountains starting Tuesday night into Wednesday and Thursday.

The ski area usually opens when there’s 21 to 24 inches at Heather Meadows, depending on the condition of the snow.

Mt. Baker started later than normal last season, opening Dec. 20. It went into full operation Dec. 24, and had good conditions through Christmas.

It closed April 19, after a dismal season. The ski area wasn’t alone in being dogged by warm temperatures and moisture that fell as rain instead of snow.

Other Washington state ski areas also had a tough time in a season where the state’s average snowpack was far below normal, prompting many, like Mt. Baker Ski Area, to offer discounts to season pass holders.

Washington state slipped into a drought caused, in part, by that lack of a snowpack.

No snow forced the organizers of Ski to Sea to alter the first part of the relay race in May. They scrambled to replace the cross-country and downhill ski legs — the first two links in the relay — with an alpine run to start the race and a mountain bike leg to end the competition.

This season’s snowpack is expected to be much better, although there were questions about the impact of this strong El Nino.

Mt. Baker Ski Area officials have been consulting atmospheric scientists and forecasters in the state and poring through their records to gauge the possible impact.

Those records show the ski area has had huge months, in terms of snow, in November and December.

“We’re going to have some good days,” Howat said. “Then you kind of ride it out and see what materializes.”

Find Mt. Baker Ski Area’s snow report online at mtbaker.us.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

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