49 North, WA: March 13, 2021

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49 North, WA: March 13, 2021

Postby ChrisC » Mon Apr 19, 2021 4:44 am

I waited to ski 49 North until the weekend since the mountain does not operate all of its lifts during the week (the weekdays that it is even open). In particular, the Angel Peak lift only seems to operate on the weekends.

Also, today was my first day using the recently purchased Spring Indy Pass $149. Like they need to discount this thing more? I'll take it though!

Again, it was another classic spring day - temps warming into the mid-40s from the 20s. I was worried everything would be frozen solid in the early AM, but that was not the case. Snow preservation on due north facing terrain was still packed powder .... remarkably preserved.

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The mountain skied really well and had interesting terrain so I kept a pretty aggressive day going despite slow lifts.

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I started with runs off Chair 1 which were perfectly groomed packed powder or soft snow found in glades. Although a looong lift, the mid-station allowed you to cut off half the length and just ski the most relevant parts. This will no longer be an issue next year since it will be replaced by a high-speed quad.

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Angel Peak in distance.
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Next moved over to east-facing Angel Peak since the snow began to soften around 10 am. Some views back to Chair 4 Silver Lode.

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As the snow continued to soften, I figured I should get over to east-facing Chair 5 Sunrise Quad before conditions got too sloppy.

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Mt Spokane West Face in distance
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There was a demo day by a local Oregon ski company Deviation, so I decided to check some new boards out. Allowed my to get a quick tune on my skis at the same time.

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Decided to ski the lightly gladed areas off of Chair 1 in the afternoon.

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The snow on the north-facing areas again remained packed powder all day - Cy's Glade, Mahre's, Klondike, Tombstone, etc. Impressive preservation.


Overall, excellent sizable NW ski mountain. Highly recommend.


Some photos of downtown Spokane where I was staying for a couple of nights. The Spokane River area is quite attractive.

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Last edited by ChrisC on Mon Apr 19, 2021 7:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 49 North, WA: March 13, 2021

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Apr 19, 2021 7:20 am

I assume that it's considered part of the Great Gray North; however anecdotally, FTOers seem to have had a fair number of sunny, pleasant outings at 49 Degrees North and the other Inland Northwest ski areas.

Thanks for the downtown Spokane pix. As mentioned previously, we're aware of the nasty reputation it has as the Breaking-Bad equivalent of the northwest but it seems decent enough on the surface. Size-wise and general appearance, it reminds me of my hometown, Syracuse NY, with lot of nice ski options within driving distance, cute nearby Coeur d'Alene, and other outdoor opportunities.
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Re: 49 North, WA: March 13, 2021

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Apr 19, 2021 9:07 am

I believe as you move into March the odds of Great Gray North start declining. We know winter inversions start to decline with stronger sun around mid-February based upon Salt Lake data and Jackson experience. The chronic cloudiness above 45 latitude or so is surely impacted similarly though the timing may be different.

I tend to avoid the region after early March because most of these areas have bad exposure but get away with it during the chronic cloud season.

We had a sunny but not overly warm day at 49 North so it was at least 80% winter snow. The altitude is on the low side but it’s good to know the snow holds up well mid March with the north exposure.
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Re: 49 North, WA: March 13, 2021

Postby snowave » Mon Apr 19, 2021 11:02 am

Thanks for the report. Was tempted to head over there on my trip a week or so earlier, but just a bit too far from my base point in Kellogg. Plus, waiting until the new chair next year sounds more enticing.

I also agree, (and can confirm firsthand living several years in the region) with TonyC about the nearly constant gray usually eases up in Late February to early March as sun angle increases. While it does preserve snow, skiing in fog/slate gray skies all winter sucks, IMO. Thats what I like about the area I live in now (McCall).. plenty of sunny days mixed in with the gray, as we are just far south enough (45 *) to get out of that "PacNW bowl" where it stays socked in most of the winter.
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Re: 49 North, WA: March 13, 2021

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Apr 20, 2021 11:50 pm

I've wondered about what the borderline areas are in terms of the chronic winter overcast. Some of it is windward vs. leeward side of mountains: "Grand Foghee" vs. Jackson for example. I think all of the B.C. areas are in the gray zone. Alberta gets more sun but midwinter temps are so low that snow preservation is as good or better than the cloudy areas farther west.

There are likely some microclimates too. I always hear about Mission Ridge being much drier than areas on the Cascade Crest and perhaps it's sunnier too. Conversely Mt. Ashland is near the California border at latitude 42 but I suspect in the midst of the Cascades and not that far from the coast that it has the chronic midwinter overcast.

In Idaho I would have assumed that Brundage/Tamarack/Bogus would be fairly cloudy, being on the windward side of the Sawtooth mountains that shadow Sun Valley.
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Re: 49 North, WA: March 13, 2021

Postby snowave » Thu Apr 22, 2021 1:13 pm

Some good thoughts, TonyC. As you know, my wife and I have been bouncing around the west the last 10 yrs trying on places to see where we want to live, long term. Winter sun ended up being one of the biggest priorities, but trying find a good balance of sun and snow was a challenge. I also don't want 300 days of sunshine a year, either. Been there done that in CO and CA.

Overall, I think the 45th parallel (which i live directly on) seems to be a good indicator for the magic 200 days/yr of sun limit, which I've found to be about right for plenty of snow, but also still a fair amount of sunny days. However, there are exceptions as you mentioned, where windward/leeward slopes can make a difference, too.

While my time at many of these places does not give a large sample size (usually 2 yrs or less at each one), it did give an idea on what the local patterns are generally like.

I will start with my time in Leavenworth WA. ~ It was a bleak winter in 2012-13, with fall forest fires giving way to relentless storms through January. By February, the storm track let up, but the gray did not. Stevens Pass was socked in most of the winter, with only the occasional day of sun on the top of the mountain. Mission Ridge, yes.. more sun up top, but the fog/cloud layer liked to creep up onto the lower slopes at times. The East slope of the Cascades tends to get ~200 days of sun a year, but almost none of that in the winter. That said, locals told me that winter was worse than most as far as lack of sunshine.

Alta, WY: again, about 200 days of sun a year. I found it very tolerable compared to WA in terms of a good mix of clouds and sun. The Foghee name is somewhat deserving, but the year I lived there I did not think it was oppressive. Often times, it was only the top few hundred feet of the summit, and then you'd ski/ride out of it. I only went to Jackson Hole a few times, and they were usually either cloudy or at least the top was socked in. Probably Not a fair comparison due to my lack of days there compared to Targhee, which was my home mtn., but I think sometimes lee vs windward on a singular/narrow mountain range isn't that much different, hence.. Jackson/Targhee and Brundage/Tamarack.

Whitefish MT: Only ~150 days of sun/yr, and it felt like it. While I enjoyed the terrain at Whitefish Mtn, it was socked in the majority of the time. Locals say the proximately to the large Flathead Lake was a contributor, which I somewhat agree with... but the bigger problem was just being so far north and being stuck in a bowl. Again, sometimes the top of the mountain would poke out of the muck, but you quickly skied back into below. The biggest problem here was the dense fog. Even riding the spaced trees was sometimes difficult due to very low visability. As TonyC stated above, the clouds are what keep Whitefish snow quality good, as a majority of the resort faces South. I also spent several days at Blacktail Mtn, on the westside of Flathead Lake. I found it to have slightly more sunshine than Whitefish mtn, probably due to its overall higher elevation of much of the ski area. Prevailing winds (which were usually light across most of the valley, and often from either the NW of South) did not bank up moisture from the lake much.

Pagosa CO: Wolf Creek had no problems with sunny days, so not even going to bother talking about it.

McCall ID : ~200 days sun... Brundage/Tamarack: I have found these places to be a very good compromise on sun/snow/clouds. I've been here two seasons now, and have been happy with the sun/clouds/snow conditions. The first year had more clouds, but dense fog on the mountains wasn't usually a big problem. Of course, both ski areas have trees close to or at the summit, so that helped. Not much a difference that I could tell with Brundage being west facing vs Tamarack east facing, as far as the sun/cloud ratio... Although I haven't been to Sun Valley yet, stats say they only avg around that 200 day mark as well, so not sure they get that much more sun, even though they are significantly shadowed from precipitation events from every direction except the south.

There are some good resources on solar radiation around, including this one.: https://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Last edited by snowave on Thu Apr 22, 2021 2:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 49 North, WA: March 13, 2021

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Apr 22, 2021 2:03 pm

Thanks snowave. Interesting to hear the POV of someone who's spent a season or two at several ski areas as opposed to many of us whose impressions are more anecdotal.
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