Deep mountain snow has Wash. ski areas off to early start, prompts highway closing for a time
SEATTLE – A series of snowstorms that blanketed the Cascade Range lightened up Friday, drawing skiers to the slopes earlier than usual and prompting the state to briefly close a mountain highway east of the city because of avalanche concerns.Depending on the location, anywhere from one to two feet of snow had fallen in the Cascades from early Thursday through Friday afternoon, said Gary Schneider, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Seattle office.Snowfall throughout the region started to lighten up Friday morning and was expected fall periodically throughout the weekend, though not as heavily, he said.The storms brought deeper November snow than ski areas have seen in years. Officials at Mount Baker ski area in northwest Washington said Friday it had gotten 70 inches in four days, boosting its base depth to 94 inches.”This is a tremendous amount of snow for this time of year,” spokeswoman Gwyn Howat said. “In the last 15 years, it’s probably only happened a couple times.”The 94 inches was the deepest at any ski area in North America, according to SnoCountry Mountain Reports, a snow conditions reporting service based in Lebanon, N.H.”We’re surrounded in powder!” said Tiana Enger, spokeswoman for Crystal Mountain, near Mount Rainier, which was reporting 54 inches at the base and 61 at the summit on Friday. “This is as good as it gets – as good as it’s ever been this time of year.”There was so much snow Friday that state transportation officials briefly closed a section of Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie Pass for avalanche control work early in the day.Two men in a pickup died on I-90 when a tree fell onto the highway and hit the truck about 12 miles east of the Snoqualmie Pass summit. Authorities did not immediately know whether the heavy snow caused the tree to fall.