Where to go for Thanksgiving snow

If snow is part of your annual Thanksgiving ritual, you're going to have to burn some gas to find it.

Mount Ashland had enough snow on the ground Tuesday for a snowball fight, and the Mount Shasta Board & Ski Park had bare ground at the lodge. Timberline Ski Area on Mount Hood has opened a few trails, and Mount Bachelor will open Thursday with just two chairlifts and a handful of its 71 runs.

Weather forecasters were predicting dry conditions around Southern Oregon for the duration of the long holiday weekend.

Crater Lake National Park had about a foot of snow on the ground at the park headquarters and a few inches more at the rim, said Dana Barney, a cashier who was answering phones.

"The trees are all white, the sun is out and it's gorgeous," Barney said.

At Mount Ashland, the only thing lacking for an opening is the snow, said Rick Saul, marketing director. Seasonal staff have been hired and trained.

"We're at four inches and holding," Saul said.

He said there's no magic snow depth required to open. It's the quality of the snow, rather than the depth, that determines when there's enough to open the chairlifts. Heavy, wet snow covers the obstacles and stays in place better than snow that's cold and dry, so the ski area needs relatively less snow depth to open when the snow is heavy and wet.

In the past, ski area managers have opened the mountain with snow depths that ranged from 28 to 36 inches. Once the snow has reached adequate depth, workers need about 48 hours to groom trails, mark obstacles and finish other preparations for opening.

The ski area plans every year to open for Thanksgiving if there's enough snow, but there's usually not enough snow to open until around Dec. 10.

The earliest Mount Ashland opening in recent years came in 2001, when Mount Ashland opened on Nov. 30. The most recent Thanksgiving opening occurred in 1998.

The snow at Crater Lake would be ample for cross-country skiers who are willing to stay on paved roads, but not deep enough to cover all the obstacles and forest debris on trails through the trees.

Snow is scarce across most of the West. Washington ski areas are waiting for more snow, and only seven of Colorado's 26 ski areas will be open for Thanksgiving.

Beginning Nov. 15, Oregon Sno-Park permits are required when using cleared designated winter recreation parking areas. The permits are available in state Driver and Motor Vehicles Services offices and some sports stores and winter sports resorts. Season-long permits cost $20; three-days permits cost $7, and one-day permits are $3.

For condition reports about Northwest ski areas, see www.skitiger.com

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail:bkettler@mailtribune.com

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