As a resident of the Puget Sound Region of the PNW, I never expect a White Christmas. If you are a resident of Western Washington, you shouldn’t either. Over the last century, the city of Seattle has only had four Christmas Days with snowfall. In outlying areas, the total is higher, but not much. In the Pacific Northwest, snowy holidays are what we see on Instagram or what we hear crooned on our holiday Pandora station. Around the Puget Sound, Salish Sea and wilderness coast, if we crave a snowy Christmas experience, we usually head to the mountains. This year, with an above average snowpack for the entire Pacific Northwest, you can have a white Christmas with ease. While my last two snowpack articles have been full of data and a bit long winded, this is going to be short and sweet so we can all enjoy the holidays.
As Christmas Eve greets the Pacific Northwest, the sun is out in some areas around the Olympic Mountains, letting them glisten in the cool, crisp sun. Two years ago, Hurricane Ridge had just 20 inches of snow and would have a high snowpack of 25 inches for the entire winter. This year, the Olympic Mountains are 135% of normal and have 157% of above average precipitation. This has been a wet year and our snowy mountains are enjoying the benefits of that. Avalanche Danger because of the snow is quite high, so it would be wise to avoid any areas where unstable snow exists.
The Waterhole Weather Station, located 200 feet below Hurricane Ridge, has a snowpack of just under 55 inches of snow so far, but the area hasn’t seen significant snowpack growth over the past week. In the last seven days, just 8 inches of snow have remained just below Hurricane Ridge. This area is 126% above normal.
Elsewhere around the Olympic Mountains, the snow is stacking up. Above the Dungeness River in a drier section of the Olympic Mountain Range, the snowpack is 25 inches at 4,010 feet. Last year, the snowpack for Christmas day at this location was 30 inches, so we are a little below that. However, this station is still at 165% of normal, according to the USDA monitor data.
The Buckinghorse Weather Station, located at 4,870 feet, is currently offline. This is a bummer, but the snowpack there is higher than normal. That translates into an above average snowpack for all western Olympic peaks.
Finally, at Mount Crag near Hood Canal, the weather station is also reporting great news for the Olympic Mountain snowpack. At 3,960 feet, the station is reporting a snow depth of 52 inches, slightly down from last year’s 64 inches on Christmas Eve. In the past week, the Mount Crag station has received 11 inches of snow. Not too shabby! They are at 139% of normal, so that is awesome.
Those hoping to get out and enjoy the snow in Olympic National Park and Forest will have have their best luck at Hurricane Ridge, above Port Angeles. This area offers snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding and even ranger-led adventures in the powdery paradise.