Mountain Snow Forecast: March 1-2
Updated Friday, Feb 28 at 10:13 AM
No fresh snow recently? True, but that's about to change. Before we jump into the forecast, let me share an interesting statistic from the folks at Stevens Pass ski area. It received 160" of snow this month, making it the third snowiest February Stevens Pass has had in the last half century!. The base at Stevens doubled from February 10th to the 21st. In case you're interested, the snowiest February on record was in 1999; 226" fell that month at Stevens. Other ski areas have enjoyed similar...and dramatic...snowfall this past month.
THE SNOW MAP: Snow in the mountains in February isn't unusual...but near sea level...again? That's what we face this weekend. But our interest focuses on the mountains. Most of Saturday is likely to be dry. But a surge of intensely cold, modified (barely) Arctic air sliding east of the Rockies will push some of that air east of the Cascades-into the interior of British Columbia and also into eastern Washington. As that cold air is forced up the east slopes of the Cascades, it could produce a little snow, with Mission Ridge likely enjoying the most. Later Saturday night and Sunday, as more of that cold, high pressure air squirts through the Fraser River valley into western Washington, it will likely encounter moist air moving inland from a warm front approaching the coast. That will likely generate snow over both sides of the Cascades.
Snow levels will likely range from 200 to 400' north of Stevens pass Saturday, 500 to 1500' from Stevens to Snoqualmie, and 1500' or so near Crystal and White pass. Sunday, expect snow levels near sea level near Mount Baker, perhaps 200-600' near Stevens pass, and 500 to 1,500' near Snoqualmie and Crystal.
THE SNOW GAUGE: We're talking POWDER! Saturday, the only significant snow will be near Mission Ridge, and there only an inch or two.
Sunday, Mount Baker may see an inch or two, Stevens 2 to 5", Snoqualmie 3 to 7", Crystal and White Pass 4 to 8". Substantially more snow will fall Sunday evening and overnight.
THE COMFORT METER:
Saturday-Partly to mostly cloudy with pass highs in the upper teens to low 20's. Add to that easterly winds of 10 to 20 mph, and the effective temperature or wind chill will be in single digits or teens. Layer up, take frequent breaks. Exposed ridges will be just that, southwest 15-30 mph winds with highs in the teens. That means wind chills could drop into the subzero range.
Sunday-Pass highs will be in the teens to near twenty with southeast winds of 10 to 20 mph. Wind chills? Single digits. Upper runs will have temperatures topping out in the low to mid teens with south to southwest winds of 15 to 25 mph. That means wind chills could drop into the subzero range...again.
BEYOND THE LIFTS: Avalanche hazards will be mostly moderate with loose wet snow avalanches or collapsing cornices posing the biggest threats.
My recommendation as I've emphasized before, and will repeat now...do what I do whenever I head into the backcountry; check the Northwest Avalanche Center at www.nwac.us. Don't ski or board alone, and watch each other carefully as you head downslope! As the NWAC experts emphasize, make every trip a round trip!
Enjoy the snow-this season may have had a late start-it now promises to have a late finish!
Jeff Renner / KING 5 Chief Meteorologist (and chief skier!)