Ski areas feeling mixed effects - January 11, 2007

Ski areas feeling mixed effects - January 11, 2007

Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

January 11th, 2007, 6:35 pm #1

<STRONG><FONT size=5><SPAN class=cHeadline3>Ski areas feeling mixed effects from weekend's winds</SPAN>
<SPAN class=keydeck14>

The effect of last weekend's winds on Central Washington's ski areas went, in cinematic terms, something like this:

* Snoqualmie Summit got the shortened TV version.

* Stevens Pass experienced the feature film.

* Mission Ridge had to wade through the unrated, director's-cut, 25th-anniversary, collector's-edition DVD.

* And White Pass received only a brief preview of coming attractions.

"Considering what everybody else went through, obviously we were really fortunate," said White Pass spokeswoman Kathleen Goyette. "We ended up with literally a 10-minute late start -- or, actually, I think we were eight minutes late -- opening for one day."

White Pass's only schedule change was its minutes-late opening on Saturday, done for avalanche control and so the resort's Snowcats could clear enough of the new snowbanks created by the overnight winds.

The same early-Saturday winds knocked out power at Snoqualmie Summit sometime after 2 a.m., and although the bulk of the day's business was lost, power was restored before
3 p.m. and the ski area was able to open for night skiing.

For some gung-ho types, though, that simply meant the trip to the top would be less time-consuming. "There were a lot of people still hiking up the hill (to ski down) during the day," said spokeswoman Holly Lippert at Snoqualmie, which remains open in full operation.

Then came Sunday's winds, which were surprisingly light at White Pass; the lift operations there began on time, though the area ran most of the day on backup power.

"We're set up for that," Goyette said of the windy weekend and the resulting power outages in many parts of the central Cascades. "It's something that unfortunately happens in the mountains often. Lucky for us, it came out great.

"I was so surprised, especially what happened to Mission and Stevens, but it just shows that particular weather pattern was confined to that part of the state. We just didn't experience the same kind of sustained high winds."

The winds that began early Sunday battered the Wenatchee Valley and surrounding foothills, hammering at Mission Ridge -- the ski area overlooking Wenatchee -- with winds up to 100-120 mph from about 4 a.m. until 11 p.m., according to the National Weather and Avalanche Center. The ski area suspended operations for Sunday and Monday, and by Tuesday was doing cleanup and tuning up the lifts with plans to be back in time for its regular Thursday opening. (Except for the holidays, Mission Ridge is routinely closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.)

This was the second time in three weeks that Mission Ridge had been hit by destructive winds. On Dec. 15, 125 mph winds blasted out three of the four windows at the loading terminal atop the area's high-speed quad, the Liberator Express. Those windows were still boarded up with plywood when last weekend's winds blew out the fourth window.

"This is not typical," said the area's marketing director, Jerri Barkley. "Most of the people that have been here all their lives are saying the same thing -- they've never seen anything like this."

Those same ferocious Sunday winds knocked out power at Stevens Pass at about 3 p.m. that day, though it wasn't winds at the ski area itself.

"We actually didn't have that high a wind here at the pass," said Stevens Pass spokesman Chris Rudolph. "We really didn't have any damage to speak of whatsoever up here. We just lost power."

The resort ran on generator power the rest of Sunday and until 4 p.m. Monday, when the decision was made to close operations until electric power was restored. Running on generator power is fine short-term, but higher-risk for longer stretches "because a generator motor is more labor-intensive than power," Rudolph said.

With power restored on Tuesday, Stevens Pass reopened on Wednesday for day and night skiing.

The windstorm was bad enough in the Wenatchee Valley, knocking out power to more than 18,000 homes and businesses, that Chelan County commissioners declared a disaster and Wenatchee closed its city parks because of so many fallen trees.

Hyak Ski and Snowboard Adventure
On the World-Wide-Web since 1997