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Originally published November 1, 2012 at 12:15 PM | Page modified November 1, 2012 at 3:08 PM

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State ski resorts begin to set targeted opening dates

Ski and snowboard resorts around the state are at the mercy of the weather but some have set opening dates in November.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The snow arrived early in the Cascade Mountains a little more than a week ago, and then quickly disappeared as freezing levels soared halfway to the summit of Mount Rainier.

While warm weather still is in the short-term forecast, at least four Washington ski and snowboard areas have posted tentative opening dates.

Stevens Pass Resort hopes to open Nov. 21. The Mission Ridge Ski and Board Resort and Ski Bluewood plan to open Nov. 24 and the Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park will open Dec. 1.

"We are still on track to open on time, and there's a couple of reasons to back that up," said Josh Jorgensen, the Mission Ridge general manager.

Jorgensen says there is a snowpack at the highest elevation areas.

"We're a little higher than other areas, and the other main thing is we have the largest snow-making capabilities," Jorgensen said.

The Mission Ridge base sits at 4,570 feet, and they plan to start pointing the snow guns onto the hillsides as soon as the temperatures dip to the mid- or upper-20 degree mark.

Usually Mission needs about 30 to 36 inches at the base to open, and a lot is also dependent on snow quality, and the terrain and trail runs in question.

Stevens Pass is expected to get snow on Monday and hopes to open by their earliest possible date, Nov. 21.

The Mount Baker Ski Area is taking things one step at a time and hasn't set an opening date yet but a nice storm late last week dumped about 10 inches of snow.

"We're living it day by day," said Gwyn Howatt, the Mount Baker Ski Area operations manager. "At this point things look pretty good that we could get an opening before Thanksgiving. But, we're not committing to anything yet as the freezing levels are just bouncing all over the place."

Howatt says there are still patches of snow on the hills after getting hammered with snowfall last week that was knee deep in places.

"We want to be a little more cautious," Howatt said. "In addition to just getting snow on the ground we always make sure that the forecasts show it isn't going to warm up right after. You've got to have some confidence it will stick around."

Mount Baker's staff have all the preseason preparations in order, and are ready to open within a 24- to 48-hour period.

Last November, Mount Baker, whose base sits at 3,500 feet with a top elevation of 5,089 feet, received 147 inches of snow.

All other Washington areas also got an early dose of snow, which enabled many to open the Friday after Thanksgiving under excellent conditions.

That was followed by a very dry and cold December with a minor dump of snow in January.

Then by February things really got cooking as one storm after another swept through the state, creating some of the best snow conditions in the country.

Mark Yuasa: 206-464-8780 or myuasa@seattletimes.com

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