The Seattle Timesstole my thunder this morning. Resentful about my skiing-less weekend and sweltering in the upper-50s on my (normally cold) morning run, I had planned to write about the terrible snowpack in the Cascades, particularly on Snoqualmie Pass. Snoqualmie has easily the thinnest base of snow in the last 10 years (and I bet in a very long time, if we could find the data to prove it).
The Times article documents the poor conditions at Washington’s ski areas. The hardest hit, however, is altitude-challenged Summit at Snoqualmie which technically "opened" on December 28, but has yet to actually open most of its runs outside of Alpental. The entire operation is shut down today, as it was yesterday. And with a paltry 30 inches of snow on the ground, the area could conceivably stay closed for a while longer. Even the Mount Baker Ski Area—which once received the heaviest snowfall ever recorded, anywhere—is staying shut for several days.
The ecological consequences of low snowpack are serious: drought, desiccated salmon runs, forest fires, and so on. The scant snow is also terrible for the state’s struggling economy: seasonal workers are being laid off or not finding sufficient work, and sales at ski areas and gear shops are anemic. And the indirect economic costs are even greater.
Climate change is the likely culprit for the crime that my skis have not emerged from the closet since last winter. But what can we do? Well, many of Washington’s ski areas have endorsed the National Ski Areas Association’s environmental charter, which encourages action on climate change. You can find a complete list of our green ski areas here–they deserve our patronage. If the snow ever returns, that is.