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As the final days of 2006 ticked into oblivion, Washingtons Crystal Mountain found itself digging out of yet another December snowstorm, one that brought its early season snowfall to 225 inches, already 65% of its total annual average. Did we mention that there are still at least four months of cold fronts to come?
On Thursday December 28, the clouds parted for a rare, day-long glimpse of the orange orb in the sky that Pacific Northwesterners are still trying to identify. They think its the sun. Clear skies on the heels of a three-day dump brought a strong easterly flow that saw wind gusts of up to 50 mph on the summit ridges, causing most riders to cower in fear and head for the trees and lower slopes, where plenty of fresh awaited beyond the groomers.
As often happens in the PNW, where dreary, cloudy skies reign for the darker half of the year, everyone--and I mean EVERYONE--decided that skiing on Thursday was a good idea. The fair weather combined with the holiday work week made for capacity-crowd conditions as competition for parking and lift lines was fierce. (Fierce being a relatively tame word in the Seattle area, but you get the idea.) It was a good reminder that the best resort turns around here come when the sky is spitting copious precipitation.
As of Jan. 3, most western Washington areas were reporting conditions similar to Crystal Mountain. Stevens Pass: 192 cumulative inches. Snoqualmie Pass: 212 cumulative inches. White Pass and Mt. Baker hadnt published cumulative snowfall totals, but each was reporting alpine base depths of 101 inches and 147 inches, respectively.
Though the Wasatch, the Sierra, and other ranges across the U.S. are finally starting to get their overdue doses of winter, the last few months have shown once again that for skiers, life is good in the Pacific Northwest.