Unwrapping a White Christmas in the Olympic Mountains

I never expect a White Christmas, and 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. If we can.  While 2014-15 was a winter bust, 2015-16 is looking amazing. 

In the winter of 2014-15, most of us skipped looking toward the mountains for snow. Last year, Hurricane Ridge, the winter wonderland of Olympic National Park, failed to receive the needed 26 inches of snow as a base to open their ski and snowboarding area. Freshly waxed skis sat in corners, not once touching the powder that they need to survive. Winter was a joke and by March, the snow was gone up to nearly 6,000 feet in the Olympic Mountains. Few got into snowy goodness in the Olympic Mountains during the winter of 2014-15, and it was a major bust. Luckily, the winter of 2015-16 is already amazing, and the snow has returned to the Olympic Mountains in full force.

Christmas Time 2014 Versus 2015
Christmas Time at Hurricane Ridge 2014 Versus Christmas Day 2015

Olympic Mountain Snowpack Christmas Day 2015

As Christmas 2015 greeted the Pacific Northwest, the sun came out behind the clouds and the Olympic Mountains glistened in the cool, crisp sun. One year ago, Hurricane Ridge had just 20 inches of snow and would have a high snowpack of 25 inches for the entire winter. The Waterhole Weather Station, located 200 feet below Hurricane Ridge, has a snowpack of just under 7 FEET of snow so far in 2015, with more on the way.

There is actually so much snow at Hurricane Ridge right now that Olympic National Park crews will be needing an extra day to get the road ready to open. The Ridge’s ski and snowboard area, just 17 miles from downtown Port Angeles, Washington, was supposed to open Saturday, the 26th of December. However, due to amazing amounts of snow, it will not open until Sunday the 27th. The Hurricane Ridge area will remain open daily through Jan. 3, weather permitting.  For more on the conditions of both the road and the region, please read our earlier post.

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 30 inches at 4,010 feet. Not a bad total for being in what some consider a rain shadow.

The Buckinghorse Weather Station, located at 4,870 feet, has a snowpack of 99 inches! At this time last year, they had around one foot.

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 64 inches.

Mount Ellinor Dec. 2014 versus Mount Ellinor Dec. 2015
Mount Ellinor Dec. 2014 versus Mount Ellinor Dec. 2015

Snowpack Map for Christmas Eve From 2003 to 2015

 

 

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By Doug and Mathias on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington State

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