December 31, 2009 - Bend Bulletin Let It Snow

January 4, 2010
December 31, 2009 - Bend Bulletin Let It Snow

Let it snow - The recent storm was good news for winter sports lovers and for the snowpack, piling it up to about 70% of average

By Kate Ramsayer / The Bulletin
Published: December 31. 2009 4:00AM PST Rob Kerr / The Bulletin

Last time Candace Baker went cross-country skiing, she had to drive up the Cascade Lakes Highway to the high-elevation Dutchman Flat Sno-park to find good snow.

But Wednesday morning, as big flakes were falling in the mountains, she snapped on her skis at Swampy Lakes Sno-park. “It's wonderful. I've been waiting for it,” Baker said.

And with the snowpack in the Upper Deschutes and Crooked River Basin only at about two-thirds of its average size before Tuesday's storm hit, the snowfall made a difference.

“We started off with a bang, with lots of snow in November,” said Jon Lea, snow survey program manager with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Oregon. “Then in December, the first couple weeks left us a little bit flat.”

In mid-November, the area's snowpack got up to more than 150 percent of average. But then it didn't keep up that pace, with a relatively dry December. As of Wednesday, the snowpack was at 70 percent.

“Historically, December has been a snowpack-building month,” said Kyle Gorman, region manager with the Oregon Department of Water Resources.

“And this year we just have not received that much precipitation; it's just been drier than normal.”

But the snowpack doesn't usually hit its peak until early April, so the area could still catch up.

“We still have three more good, solid months of winter weather that we count on for snowpack building,” Gorman said. “It's not where I want to be at this point, but we're going to wait and see and hope we can wring some moisture from this storm.”

Water managers use snowpack measurements to estimate how much runoff will enter area waterways in the spring and summer, he said, and therefore how much water will be available for irrigators and to leave in the rivers for wildlife habitat. Many anglers are also interested in the snowpack estimates to gauge how much water will be in reservoirs and how long the reservoir depth will be OK for fishing.

Typically in an El Niño year like this one, there's less snow in the Northwest, Lea said. But other major weather systems this winter could counter that effect, so there's still the possibility of more storms like the one this week. “We'll hope that gives us a good shot in the arm for January,” he said.

For the skiers who hit the sno-parks Wednesday, more snow would be a welcome event. “Bring it on,” said Mary Tebeau, of Bend. “We want more. It makes winter fun.”

Kate Ramsayer can be reached at 541-617-7811 or


Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2009

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