At this time last year, Central Oregon was covered in knee-deep snow. The region was in the midst of a historic winter in which heavy snowfall caused roofs to collapse, made travel treacherous and left stores out of shovels and ice melt.
But it was also Mt. Bachelor’s third-snowiest winter on record, a dream for skiers and snowboarders.
This winter has been the polar opposite.
No one knows that difference better than Bailey Gall, 21, an avid skier who works at Sunriver Sports. He loved all of the snow last winter. By Jan. 12 last year, Sunriver had 42 inches of snow on the ground. A year later, it’s strange to see the streets in Sunriver so bare, Gall said.
“I miss the snow now,” Gall said, before adding, apologetically: “Last year, near the end, I was hoping for the snow to go away. This is what I get.”
Gall is busy this winter repairing skis from people who hit rocks on runs at Mt. Bachelor. The ski area averages 457 inches of snowfall in a season, from October to April. So far this year, the ski area is hoping for more snowfall as the summit has 162 inches and the base has 143 inches, according to the conditions report.
Gall has skied Mt. Bachelor six times this season, much less than he usually does. He is waiting for more snow before he returns.
“I see all the repairs,” he said. “I’m not willing to do that to my gear.”
John Peck, meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Pendleton, said last winter was unusual because storm systems kept coming one after the other, piling snow across the region. It was the most snowfall in Central Oregon since the winter of 1992-93.
“There were events that produced fairly large amounts of snow,” Peck said. “We happened to have multiple of those events in a short period of time.”
Late-season snowfall is possible this year, but Peck said the forecast is not showing much.
“Near term, it’s not looking like a whole lot in the Bend area,” he said. “Not too much in the mountains.”
A year ago Friday, heavy snow caused the roof of the gym at Highland Magnet at Kenwood School to cave in. The previous evening, the roof had collapsed at the former KorPine particle board plant, considered the last vestige of Bend’s saw mill days in the Old Mill District.
Brian Kissell, principal at the elementary school, said he remains grateful and blessed that nobody was hurt when the gym’s roof collapsed. The school’s focus has since shifted to building a new gym, which is under construction and expected to be complete as early as the fall.
In the meantime, a temporary tent is set up as a gym for the students.
“No one dwells on that day anymore,” Kissell said of his staff. “We are moving forward.”
Damage caused last winter continues to affect many homeowners across the High Desert.
Corky Wray, Central Oregon Disaster Restoration owner, said his company is making repairs to roofs damaged by ice dams last winter.
In the first two weeks of January last year, the company received more than 500 calls, almost as many as they get each year.
A vast majority of the calls were to repair ice dams, Wray said.
“The amount of houses that had that issue last winter is more than we have ever seen in Central Oregon,” Wray said. “It was an epidemic. It was so widespread.”
Besides finishing jobs from last winter, business is getting back to normal, Wray said. And that is a relief for his employees, who were a bit worried about another hectic winter.
“There was definitely a little bit of worry,” Wray said. “You could see it on their faces.”
Jeff Paulson, assistant store manager at Ace Hardware on Newport Avenue in Bend, said locals seemed more prepared this fall stocking up on snowblowers, shovels and ice melt. Those were items customers frantically bought, and the hardware store kept selling out of last winter.
“People will not go through that again,” Paulson said.
Paulson recalls last year lines of customers spilling out of the store and going down to the street.
“It was definitely chaotic,” he said. “We couldn’t keep supplies in. Nobody could.”
Paulson, who has lived in Central Oregon for nearly three decades, said he expects snow to come this winter, eventually.
“We will get snow. It’s just a matter of time,” he said. “I’ve seen it snow in July.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, email@example.com