Community Sports

Mt. Baker Ski Area cancels Friday opening, Legendary Banked Slalom

Robin Foster, from Glacier, gets air after snowboarding under a bridge during the 2014 Legendary Banked Slalom at Mt. Baker Ski Area. The 2015 event has been cancelled due to a lack of adequate snow.
Robin Foster, from Glacier, gets air after snowboarding under a bridge during the 2014 Legendary Banked Slalom at Mt. Baker Ski Area. The 2015 event has been cancelled due to a lack of adequate snow. The Bellingham Herald

Mt. Baker Ski Area won’t re-open Friday, March 20, or hold the Legendary Banked Slalom this weekend after all because warm temperatures are eating away at the snowpack.

More of the same is expected in the coming days, according to the weather forecast for Wednesday, March 18.

“Today, we just kind of got a crushing forecast,” Gwyn Howat, the ski area’s vice president of operations, said Wednesday.

Ski area representatives had hoped to be able to open again Friday after weekend storms dropped 8 to10 inches of snow at Heather Meadows and 20 inches at the top of Pan Dome. That, along with earlier forecasts for snow levels to dip to 3,000 feet on Saturday, March 21, and expectations of 5 to 7 inches of more snow from another system, had the ski area saying maybe.

“Things were looking great. The forecast looked decent. The ski area looked nice,” Howat said.

But temperatures warmed more than expected and the base started to consolidate sooner than hoped this week, she said, adding that the revised forecast also called for warm weather in the coming days.

“Instead of shifting in our favor and going colder, it looks like it’s going the other way,” she said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the base was 17 inches at Heather Meadows and 45 inches at Pan Dome, according to the ski area’s snow report.

That was down from 25 inches and 56 inches respectively on Monday afternoon.

The 30th annual Legendary Banked Slalom was originally scheduled for Feb. 19-22, but those plans were changed mid-February because of the unusually low snowpack this season. The competition was pushed back one month to see if conditions would improve.

Meanwhile, the ski area decided to hold off on the 30th annual celebration until 2016 — currently scheduled for Feb. 18-21 — and instead run the 29 1/2 version of the event in a simplified format this weekend, had conditions allowed.

The ski area announced March 8 it would be closing until more snow fell. It didn’t open for the season until Dec. 20.

Mt. Baker has had to cancel the Banked Slalom only once, in 2005 during a ski season with similar low snowfall. But that was when 253 inches of snow fell in February, March and April until the end of the ski season.

As for this season, Howat said the ski area and its employees are on standby and looking to next week for better base-building weather.

“We’re taking it week by week here,” she said. “We need it to be cold and wet, not warm and wet. Next week, it looks like there’s a possibility in the forecast for that. We’ll see what happens as we get closer.”

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