Answers to important questions nobody has asked me yet:
Q: If the snow is so amazing, why are ski areas about to ramp down operations?
A: Snow depth might dictate when ski season starts, but the end is often determined by people. As in, how many people still want to hit the slopes?
Ski resort operators often say the active sorts who flock to the slopes all winter seem to start hearing the call of other outdoor activities as the calendar flips to April.
“The demand just isn’t there,” said Tiana Anderson, spokesman for Crystal Mountain Resort. “At some point it becomes a novelty thing. People just come out to say they skied in May or June or July.”
Guy Lawrence, spokesman for the Summit at Snoqualmie, agrees.
“Our numbers are terrible (toward the end of the season),” Lawrence said by phone while riding a chairlift at Lake Tahoe in California. “It’s the law of diminishing returns.”
So, even though the most recent snow-depth report from the Northwest Avalanche Center shows that almost all of the Cascade ski areas have more snow than normal, the final days of the resort ski season are upon us.
Sunday (April 9) is the final day of daily operations at the Summit at Snoqualmie. The ski area plans to offer weekend skiing until its season-ending celebration May 5. Daily operations at White Pass end April 16, but the resort plans to open on weekends the rest of the month.
Mount Baker has a 190-inch snowpack, but is switching to weekend operations. Same goes for Stevens Pass and its 102-inch snowpack.
Even though there is plenty of snow, the quality isn’t necessarily good. And wet days — and we’ve had more than a fair share this season — are now more often rainy than snowy in the mountains.
“That’s what’s most important,” Lawrence said. “You want to give people a quality product.”
Crystal determines its closing day before the season and decided to tack on an extra week this season, but it closes April 23. The resort plans to reopen the Mount Rainier Gondola for the summer on June 23 and skiing in Green Valley will be open as long as conditions permit.
Last year, Crystal ran the gondola on weekends in May and early June, but officials opted against it this year because of low demand. “We can’t just spin the lifts for fun,” Anderson said.
The last three years, conditions didn’t allow skiing deep into spring and early summer. But 2011-13, skiers made runs in Green Valley into July. Could that be the case this season? Only time will tell, but for comparison’s sake Crystal averaged 565 inches of annual snowfall 2011-13. This season, it’s received 395 inches.
“It’s been a really good season,” Anderson said. “And coverage is still really good, so take advantage of these next few weeks.”
Q: Six credits at Pierce College cost almost as much as one day of skiing for a family of four that rents gear and puts the kids in the lessons. Any ideas for saving money?
A: As ski areas look to line their coffers heading into the offseason, spring is the best time to save money on the slopes. This is when ski areas offer their best deals on season passes for next season. As an added bonus, these passes are usually also good for the remainder of this season.
All three South Sound ski areas currently offer these types of deals.
At Crystal Mountain, a 2017-18 adult season pass costs $695 through May 31. If you wait until the beginning of next season, the same ticket will cost $950.
White Pass is selling a season pass for $479. While full-price rates aren’t yet set for next season, this year’s pass costs $799.
At the Summit at Snoqualmie, an unlimited 2017-18 pass is selling for $449. Prices aren’t set for next season, but this year a similar pass cost more than $500, Lawrence said. The Summit is also testing some new season pass programs this year.
The Summit is offering a family pass and it’s extending teenage prices to those as old as 25 (an approached used by Mission Ridge). The unlimited pass for ages 12-25 is selling for $350, a savings of $100 for those ages 19-25.
“We are really trying to cater to families,” Lawrence said.
The family pass is $1,399 and includes unlimited passes for two adults and two dependents (7-18 years old). Up to three additional dependents can be added for $100 each.
“It will save you some money,” Lawrence said. “But if you have more than two kids, the savings becomes even more significant.”
Lawrence said the ski area hasn’t determined if it will offer the packages beyond May 31.
Q: Is Obliteride changing this year?
A: In its first four years Obliteride raised more than $9 million for Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. In the past some riders have had to raise nearly $2,000 to participate.
This year, organizers are throwing in an incentive for those who register early. Riders can choose one-day routes of 25, 50 or 100 miles or the two-day route of 142 miles.
Registration is $100 ($200 for the two-day ride) and the fundraising minimum is $1,000 for the longer rides or $500 for the 25-miler.
However, organizers recently announced cyclists can enter the 100-mile ride by raising $250 (and paying the $100 entry fee). The catch: They have to reach the fundraising minimum and turn in the money by May 5.
The new 100-mile route travels from Seattle to the outskirts of Enumclaw and back. Ride manager Mark Grantor said it “is one of the flattest, most scenic century rides in the Northwest.” Still, the ride climbs about 3,800 vertical feet, according to the event website.
Participants in the Aug. 12-13 event can attend an Aug. 11 party at Seattle’s Gas Works Park. The party includes a salmon dinner. Two-day riders stay overnight at the University of Puget Sound. Organizers have decided to cap the field for the two-day ride at 175 cyclists. More information is available at obliteride.com.
SKI AREA SNOW DEPTH
PERCENT OF NORMAL
Summit at Snoqualmie