Skiers choice on Sunday: Seahawks or fresh snow

The Pack and the snow pack are all that stand between skiing Seahawks fans and their ideal winter.

If forecasters and odds makers are right, those hurdles might soon be cleared.

The most promising storm of this dry winter was predicted to arrive Thursday night (Jan. 15) and Las Vegas odds makers have made the Seahawks a 7 ½-point favorite over the Green Bay Packers.

The region’s ski areas could get as much as 2 feet of much-needed snow for the weekend, said Kenny Kramer of the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center.

Its data show Washington’s six Cascade ski areas had an average snow pack of 20 inches Thursday, 31.9 percent of normal for Jan. 15.

“This is like the whole season’s worth (of snow in one storm),” Kramer said.

It is news ski resorts have been waiting for since November, but the storm means Seahawks fans must face a tough decision Sunday. Hit the slopes or watch Seattle and Green Bay play for a spot in the Super Bowl. Or try to do both.

The NFC Championship will kick off at CenturyLink Field at 12:05 p.m. – the heart of the ski day – and is likely to reduce visits to the ski areas.

Seahawks game days typically mean a 40 to 50 percent decrease in skier visits said Tiana Anderson of Crystal Mountain. However, the weekend days the Seahawks aren’t playing often see an increase of about 20 percent, she said.

“So still a bit of a net loss but not terrible,” Anderson said.

Officials at White Pass and the Summit at Snoqualmie say Seahawks games usually don’t take a huge chunk out of their skier visits, but they’d still prefer later kickoffs that allow fans time to ski before watching the game.

Last year’s NFC Championship game between Seattle and San Francisco started at 3:30 p.m., about the time ski areas start closing for the day.

The resorts are working to accommodate fans.

Games will be shown on lodge TVs. Crystal plans a celebration in its base lodge and will use a projector to show the game. It also will broadcast the game over its outdoor loud speakers.

Skiers always find a way to get to the slopes when there is good snow, said Guy Lawrence of the Summit at Snoqualmie. Keeping up with the game is easy on the slopes, he said.

Lift operators sometimes play the game on radios and update the score on their message boards. Cell reception at South Sound ski areas is good enough that skiers and snowboarders might have luck watching games on their phones while riding the lift.

“If you ski really hard, you’re pretty much done by 12:05 p.m. anyway, right?” said Kathleen Goyette of White Pass.

Regardless of the skier turnout on Sunday, the resorts are happy for a sign that the season might be turning around.

The base are snow depth at Crystal Mountain (12 inches) is 31 percent of normal, according to the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center. Depths at Snoqualmie Pass (26 inches) and White Pass (6) are 41 and 13 percent of normal, respectively.

While all three have been open since late December, only Crystal is in full operation.

At White Pass, all the lifts are running but some of the steeper expert and upper intermediate runs have been closed, spokeswoman Kathleen Goyette said.

The resort is handling this with good humor, announcing in Thursday’s ski report that “another sunstorm” had rolled in.

Sunny days make for good skiing in the areas that are open, Goyette said. She credited snowmaking and grooming crews for making the best of the situation.

“We’re actually more fortunate than some places,” she said.

As Lawrence walked from his office to the slopes at the Summit he said the skiing was pretty good.

“I’d rather be walking on 5 feet of snow right now,” he said, “but it’s nice out right now.”

Crews have made the most of the snow they’ve received, opening either Summit West or Summit Central each day. But they don’t have enough snow to open Summit East and Alpental. Both have steeper slopes that require more snow for skiing and riding.

The resorts have cut lift ticket prices when they’ve had limited operations.

“We could all use a good storm,” Lawrence said.

Much like Seahawks fans, he can’t wait until Feb. 1. Not only is that the date of Super Bowl XLIX, but it’s also the start of what’s traditionally a pretty good snow month.

“January is usually pretty dry,” Lawrence said. “You never know, but February is often much better. Hopefully it will be this year.”