geoff-private-reserve

Geoff Mihalko shredding Private Reserve Thursday.

A relentless series of winter storms has blanketed Mount Hood with seven feet of snow in 10 days, rescuing the winter season and sending patrol crews scrambling to open new terrain safely.

Snow fell steadily all week from 3500 feet up, along with heavy winds from the west gusting to 50 miles per hour and whiteout conditions at times. By Thursday the powder was chest-deep in Private Reserve at Meadows and in Skibowl's Upper Bowl.

Here's what Clark Creek looked like at noon Thursday:

And here's what Skibowl's Beer Stube looked like at 2 pm:

After being unable to open its bowls for the first half of the season, Skibowl crews got so much snow so quickly this week that they were an hour and a half late in opening the Upper Bowl chair Thursday as they blasted avalanches and roped off unstable terrain.

Avalanche danger is not as extreme as it was earlier in the week, but it remains considerable, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center.

Meadows crews have been able to open portions of Heather Canyon and all of the Private Reserve, and they are working hard to open Vista and Cascade on the upper mountain. The powder is going to be extremely deep once the upper mountain terrain opens at Meadows.

Timberline plans to run the Magic Mile lift through the weekend, weather permitting, but the snow is too deep for the Palmer chair.

For racers and freestylers, the problem now shifts from not enough snow to set gates and build big jumps, to huge amounts of snow to pack down and sculpt. There are a half-dozen competitions of various kinds scheduled for Mount Hood this weekend, and each presents its own challenges.

But better too much snow than not enough. A month and a half ago, the snowpack on Mount Hood was a depressing 42 percent of average. Now it is 84 percent of average. That bodes well for quality conditions into April at Skibowl, May at Meadows, and all the way to August or September at Timberline.

In the short term, the snow is going to be excellent all weekend, and there is sunshine in the forecast. Have fun out there!