Hoodoo, Willamette Pass aim to open this week

Ski areas hopeful storm will load slopes with snow

By Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin

Hoodoo Ski Area west of Sisters may finally open for the season this weekend if enough snow falls this week.

The long-awaited winter storm should arrive in Central Oregon today and could drop as much as a foot of snow at Hoodoo by the weekend, said Leif Williams, spokesman for the ski area. Hoodoo officials plan to meet Thursday morning to determine if they have enough snow to open, and if the forecast supports it.

“(We) just hope the temperatures stay cool,” Williams said.

As of Tuesday an inversion still sat over Central Oregon, causing temperatures at the top of Hoodoo Butte to be warmer than at the bottom. Around 4 p.m., the temperature at the peak was 41 degrees and the temperature at the base was 37.

The inversion started in mid-January, leading to stagnant air and little snowfall in the Cascades. A cold front should arrive this afternoon, bringing moisture from the Pacific Ocean and a chill from the Gulf of Alaska, ending the inversion, said Rachel Trimarco, a forecaster at the National Weather Service in Pendleton.

Winter has been relatively dry around the state, leaving ski areas lower in the mountains waiting for more snow before starting their lifts for the season. At Hoodoo it’s been a long wait. The ski area originally planned to open Nov. 29, the day after Thanksgiving, but didn’t have enough snow. Hoodoo officials have said they want about 30 inches on the ground before they open. Their website Tuesday was reporting just more than 19 inches.

Already having missed the typical boost in ski area visitors who come on winter break or over holiday weekends around Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Williams said Hoodoo is hopeful the ski area will be open for its annual Winter Carnival. The day of live music, games and fireworks is set for Feb. 8.

The weekend would also mark the halfway point in Hoodoo’s regular ski season, he said, leaving it with nine or 10 weeks of skiing. He said Hoodoo officials haven’t given up on the goal of opening.

“We will keep hoping to open,” he said. “We won’t pull the plug for the season.”

The folks at Willamette Pass Resort along state Highway 58 appear to share the spirit. The answering machine message for the ski hill said Tuesday that Willamette Pass intends to open Saturday.

Located at a higher elevation, there’s been more snow at Mt. Bachelor ski area west of Bend, but officials there also welcome the coming storm and wintry weather.

“It looks like it is finally going to get cold,” said Dave Rathbun, president and general manager at Mt. Bachelor.

As the cold front moves in today, Trimarco, the Weather Service forecaster, said the temperature and snow level should drop.

The snow level this morning is around 5,000 feet, she said. Thursday it is expected to drop to around 3,000 feet, meaning there could be snowfall in Bend, La Pine, Redmond, Sunriver and elsewhere around Central Oregon.

While she also said the storm could bring as much as a foot of snow to the Cascades in the next couple of days, Trimarco wasn’t as bullish as officials at Hoodoo and Willamette Pass about the mountain snowfall.

“They are not going to be getting a whole heck of a lot,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com