Low snowpack causing trouble for C. Oregon resorts

Snow enthusiasts, businesses also watch the skies

Small snowpack causing trouble for resorts

SISTERS, Ore. - This winter is off to a dry start in Central Oregon, and that's causing some trouble for nearby ski resorts.

While resort workers, snow enthusiasts -- and the businesses that depend on them -- are hoping for more snow, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Upper Deschutes and Crooked River Basin area snowpack is at just 48 percent of normal for this early point in the season.

NRCS officials say even with the low snowpack level this season, they've had a good water year precipitation-wise, and are at 96 percent of average.

They noted that it's still early in the season, and there's a strong chance the snowpack will get closer to normal.

Mt. Bachelor spokesman Drew Jackson said Thursday that even with the little snow they have right now, they're able to hang onto it, even with the recent warm temperatures.

"Even though it's been dry for the past couple of weeks, in December, the sun angle is so low in the sky that even with the warm afternoons, we don't get a lot of melting," Jackson said. "So that's really helped us this time of year. It's different from when it's in the spring, when the snow can really melt fast."

At Santiam Junction, the snowpack is at just 24 percent of normal, and nearby Hoodoo Ski Resort has not yet opened this season due to the lack of snowfall.

According to Hoodoo General Manager Matthew McFarland, Hoodoo has a base of about 13 inches right now, and they need to be at 30 to 40 inches in order to open.

While it may look like enough snow, McFarland said the runs are just not ready.

"We've been up there a lot, and there's snow everywhere, but sadly it's thin," McFarland said. "So lots of trees, rocks, you know, grass sticking through, in places all over."

This is not the latest opening that McFarland has seen in his 17 years as general manager.

One year, he said, they finally opened up in the middle of January.

McFarland is remaining positive about this year and said it will only take one big snowstorm to get them open.

Officials with the NRCS, which has automated telemetry and also periodically physically measures the snowpack, said they are also hopeful the region will see more snowfall, once the high pressure system that has been stuck in place moves out of the area.

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