Washington's ski areas ride into late season
Some Cascade ski resorts plan to stay open into May — and even weekends in June.
Seattle Times business reporter
Cascade ski resorts say unexpected snowfall late in the season could keep skiers visiting the slopes until some time in May or even June, but they're still waiting to see how much extra business the longer season brings.
While daily operations have ended this year, Crystal Mountain plans to operate weekends into June, said general manager John Kircher.
Last year, extending the season accounted for about a 10 percent increase in business, he said.
This year, however, sunny conditions close to home may make it harder to get Seattle residents up to the mountain, Kircher said. On the first weekend of spring, business at Crystal was down about 25 percent from last year's same weekend, he said.
While this year's attendance totals for ski resorts aren't available yet, it appears that the numbers may shape up a lot like last year's. The heavy snowfall and extended ski seasons contrast with many ski areas outside of the Pacific Northwest that suffered disappointing conditions this season.
Tiana Enger, marketing director for Crystal, said March was a "banner month" after a winter holiday season that was only average. The resort received 170 inches of snow in March, for a total snowpack 36 inches more than last year.
Snoqualmie Ski Resort also fared well this year, with about 500 inches of snowfall compared with 435 inches total last year, said Guy Lawrence, the resort's marketing director.
Alpental will operate weekends at least until the Cinco De Mayo weekend, Lawrence said.
Gwyn Howat, operations manager at the Mount Baker ski area, said snow conditions need to be exceptional to draw people to the resort when spring comes around. This year, the conditions have proved to be just that, she said.
"This March has been the equivalent of having perfect surf every day for a month," Howat said.
Duncan Howat, president and general manager of the resort, said business from January to February made up for a drier start of the season and put business at Mount Baker up about 10 percent from last year.
At Stevens Pass, March brought nearly 10 feet of snow, said Nate Escalona, marketing manager. For the entire season Stevens saw a "whopping 556 inches of snow," more than 100 inches above average, according to a news release.
This season, Stevens Pass will stay open at least until May 6, its latest closing date in decades, the statement said.
The Seattle Ski and Snowboard shop felt the effects of good snow conditions in the mountains, said Nathan Blackburn, snowboard buyer for the store. Blackburn said this year is shaping up much like last year, with good sales pushing through to spring.
The evo Ski and Snowboard Shop in Fremont also saw strong local sales, said Atsuko Tamura, president and CEO.
While online sales didn't match expectations due to subpar snow conditions nationally, online and in-store purchases from Washington mountain-goers didn't disappoint, she said.
"There was a lot of excitement in people going up to the hill," Tamura said. "From a Pacific Northwest standpoint people took every chance they could get to get access to good snow, and I think our store mirrored that."
Erin Flemming: 206-464-2718 or email@example.com