Medford notched two record highs this week during balmy weather that may postpone the projected opening of the ski season as the snow that fell previously on Mount Ashland has all but disappeared.
"Mt. Ashland may be delayed, but it probably won’t be a big problem," said Dan Weygand, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Medford.
Unseasonably warm temperatures over the past week should give way to more normal weather patterns, though no fronts that produce heavy snow are expected in the near future. Over the next three months, projections suggest cooler-than-normal temperatures and more rainfall for the region, though the local weather service cautions these projections are difficult to call.
Medford hit 70 degrees on Tuesday and 72 on Wednesday, both record highs and a departure from high temperatures that normally hover in the upper 40s to 50s this time of year. The previous record for Nov. 21 was 67 degrees set in 1974, and for Nov. 22 was 68 degrees set in 1926.
A storm front should push through the valley this weekend, but snow levels could be 9,500 feet Saturday before dropping to 4,500 feet Sunday night with a projected 1-inch dusting on Mount Ashland. The ski area, which remodeled its lodge this summer, had posted a hopeful opening day of Dec. 9, but that now appears doubtful.
"Right now, going out to 10 days, we don’t see any big snow producers," Weygand said.
Mount Ashland has some snow on the summit, but only patches near the ski lodge. Prior to the warm weather and accompanying rain, the ski area had about 20 inches of snow.
"There's been lots of melting up on Mount Ashland," Weygand said.
While temperatures have been warm, rainfall has been about average for the season, which started Oct. 1. At the Medford airport, the gauge measured 3.26 inches, just shy of the normal 3.33 inches.
Weygand said snow should fall on Mount Ashland by late Sunday night, but it appears the weather system will not produce any significant accumulation.
Brent Lutz, a meteorologist at the Medford weather center, said the long-term forecasts, however, look good for Mount Ashland.
Medford's new temperature records were accompanied over the past week by record highs in Roseburg, Klamath Falls and Montague, Calif. Klamath Falls hit a record 64 on Thursday.
Lutz said his weather models don't show any fronts that will bring significant snowfall to the mountains until possibly the week of Dec. 15-21.
"At that point, we're seeing the hint of good snow levels," Lutz said.
The West Coast weather patterns are being strongly influenced by a La Nina pattern this winter, a pattern that produces less dramatic storms than El Nino.
Lutz said looking at the five years since 1980 with a similar La Nina weather condition, this area has seen wetter and slightly colder conditions.
Other ski areas in the state also have been affected by the warmer temperatures. Mt. Hood Meadows couldn't open this holiday weekend because of scant snow levels, while, despite a drop in its snowpack, Mt. Bachelor ski area reported it was open with 21 to 30 inches.