For skiers and snowboarders anxiously awaiting the season to open at White Pass, there’s both good news and a sobering reality.
The good news: Plenty of snow is on the way, with the National Weather Service’s seven-day White Pass forecast calling for snow every day and night each of those days, mixed with rain on Friday only. Total accumulation of new snow by Saturday night is expected to be between nine and 16 inches.
The sobering reality: The management at White Pass isn’t going to open the slopes prematurely.
An opening this weekend is still very unlikely, with the snow base on Wednesday morning still at eight inches at the lodge and 27 inches at the summit. But if the snow keeps coming as expected, an opening during the first week of December is looking increasingly likely.
“At White Pass, we’ve always been the most conservative in terms of opening of all the Pacific Northwest ski areas as long as I’ve been here,” said marketing director Kathleen Goyette, who’s in her 24th season at White Pass.
“Kevin’s (McCarthy, White Pass general manager) view has always been that he’s not opening until he’s sure people will not damage their skis or get into any kind of trouble because of lack of coverage. We want to deliver, first and foremost, a safe product, and then a quality product. If we put 2,000 people on limited snow, that can cause trouble unless it continues to snow.”
Even once White Pass opens, it will likely be on a limited basis, with some lifts and runs not open because of insufficient snow coverage. The ski area typically opens with “anywhere between 50 and 75 percent of the mountain open,” Goyette said, noting that only once in her 24 years has White Pass opened with all of its terrain skiable. Opening without being able to offer that “quality product,” she said, is not McCarthy’s style.
“If we opened with just four runs open,” she said, “that would be a brand new thing we’ve never done before.”
White Pass officials have made arrangements to provide its season pass holders access to a couple of other ski areas already open in limited operation.
Crystal Mountain Resort, which has six lifts open, is offering White Pass season ticket holders reduced-price $30 midweek lift tickets. And those season pass holders can ski for five days free at Mission Ridge, which overlooks the Wenatchee Valley and reopens this Friday.