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Drought, extended inversion force mountain closure

Mount Washington Alpine Resort has been forced to close due to an extended drought and a temperature inversion that has brought higher-than-normal temperatures. - Mount Washington Alpine Resort
Mount Washington Alpine Resort has been forced to close due to an extended drought and a temperature inversion that has brought higher-than-normal temperatures.
— image credit: Mount Washington Alpine Resort

As drought-like conditions continue to plague the West Coast of North America, Mount Washington received a double whammy of no precipitation over the last two weeks combined with an aggressive inversion weather pattern.

As a result, the mountain's snowpack, especially at lower elevations, is too lean to continue with alpine and nordic operations for the time being.

“We knew we could make it through the first inversion which began a few days after our opening day on January 12th,” said resort spokesperson Brent Curtain. “But the next inversion wave was even warmer and deteriorated our snowpack so much it has forced us to close the mountain. Our plan is to reopen with the next significant snowfall.”

The inversion, a weather phenomenon where temperatures rise with elevation, brought temperatures as high as 16 Celsius to Mount Washington's alpine. The warm weather event, coupled with the lowest three-month snowfall totals since the resort opened in 1979, proved too much to handle for the mountain's snowpack.

The contrast in snowfall from last winter to this winter is stark.

Last year, the mountain received more than 500 centimetres in December alone. This year, the mountain has received less than 150 centimetres from the beginning of November to the end of January. A yearly average for the resort is close to 12 metres in a winter season.

“Our crews worked very hard to move snow around the mountain and fill in the gaps,” says Don Sharpe, director of business operations and marketing. “But we're now at the point where there's simply not enough snow to farm.”

In a move to put their season passholders' minds at ease, Mount Washington will implement a new '100 day assurance' clause that guarantees 100 days (which is equal to 100 per cent) of skiing or boarding per winter season. The mountain will then deduct a point per day that the mountain is open.

So for this season, the mountain is counting 14 days of open operations from Jan. 12 to 26. With the 100-day assurance, passholders are entitled to an 86 per cent credit towards the cost of next winter's season pass purchase.

Mount Washington is waiting to see what the season brings before making a decision on what to do with their 6ixPak customers. The mountain plans on making a final decision on March 31.

Mount Washington still hopes for snow and plans to reopen if the drought breaks and snow returns to the mountains. With three months left this winter, if the snow falls, Mount Washington will be ready.

“Our staff are still very optimistic that we will get more days in before the season ends,” Sharpe said. “This season has been extremely challenging for everybody. We feel for our customers, our community, but also our staff who are trying to persevere through work shortages and layoffs.”

For the latest mountain information and to check out the webcams, visit mountwashington.ca.

— Mount Washington Alpine Resort

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