Ski Conditions 101

This page explains how to make your own forecast of what the ski conditions will be like at the Mount Spokane nordic ski area.

  1. Look through the grooming report on this web site. This report shows you when each trail in our trail system was last groomed. The groomer starts out sometime in the middle of the night, and finishes up in the early morning hours, and it has a GPS device on it. So, you can see what time each trail was groomed, and what date it was last groomed. You might want to plan your ski route by choosing trails that were groomed in the last 24 hours. Note that there is no grooming for Tuesday and Wednesday skiing (on Monday and Tuesday nights).
  2. Find out what the weather has been recently, by checking the Quartz Peak weather station web page (linked from the conditions page on this web site). This is data from a weather station near the Quartz Peak lookout, approximately in the center of our ski area. On that page, you can see:
    • What the temperature has been recently, by looking down the temperature column in the table. If there has recently been a prolonged period above freezing, that will of course lead to softer snow, which can mean that tracks are soft for classic skiers. Also, if it got above freezing and then later below freezing, there may be icy conditions. Sunshine (not recorded on the gauge) combined with near or above freezing temperatures can lead to water dripping off trees, so shady trails can get patches of wet snow or ice. The best thing is weather that stays below freezing. However, keep in mind that the grooming machine we have is amazing, and recent grooming on a particular trail can make up for a lot of unfavorable weather.
    • When snow last fell. One column in the table shows the snow depth. If you see that yesterday the snow depth was a certain amount, and today it is higher, then you know that snow fell in the last 24 hours. You can look down the column and pinpoint the hour or hours when snow was falling (the hour when the depth increased). Then compare that to the times that various trails were groomed, and you can get an idea of whether the grooming came before or after the snowfall -- if the grooming for a particular trail happened before snow started to fall, then you'll most likely find that there is snow on top of the grooming, which will fill in the set tracks and also tend to make the skate lane soft.
    • Whether there has been rainfall. This is slightly indirect... but if there has been precipitation (which you can see by changes in the accumulated precipitation column), and it is above freezing, and the snow depth didn't increase, it could be due to rain. Obviously, rain does not improve the skiing conditions.
  3. Look at the webcam image, which is on the conditions page on this web site. That can give you some idea of the current weather: fog, sunshine, snow falling, etc.
  4. (Optional) Check the Mt. Spokane downhill ski area web site, which contains information on the current base/summit temperatures, 24/48 hour new snowfall, and webcams. This area is very close to our nordic area... but keep in mind that their ski report is marketing information designed to get you up skiing, so it may be slanted or optimistic.
  5. Check the National Weather Service forecast for the ski area, which you can find from a link on the conditions page on this web site. Check for sun and above-freezing temperature forecasts (not good for snow conditions), very cold temperatures (dress appropriately!), wind (high winds can be dangerous, due to falling trees and limbs), and snowfall (heavy snowfall will lead to snow on top of the most recent grooming). Note that the current conditions reported on the forecast page are unreliable, however! They are extrapolated from the Deer Park airport, and can sometimes be very far off the actual temperature. The Quartz Peak gauge and Mt. Spokane downhill area reports have actual, rather than extrapolated, temperature readings.
  6. Call the snow line to see what the state park rangers have to say about ski conditions. Unlike reports from commercial ski areas, they tend to be fairly unbiased. If conditions are bad or dangerous, they will let you know. The number is shown on the grooming report page on this web site.
  7. See if there are any pertinent announcements or reports at the bottom of the conditions page on this web site. For instance, there could be an event happening, a road closure, or reports of ski conditions in the past few days... However, again keep in mind that the grooming machine we have can really improve ski conditions, so a bad report one day doesn't necessarily mean the next day will also be bad. Conversely, weather can change quickly, so a good report one day doesn't necessarily mean the next day will be good.
  8. Combine all of this information into an idea about how the conditions might be when you get to the mountain. Then dress appropriately, grab the appropriate skis and wax, and get up there and ski! With the right equipment and clothing, you can have a great time skiing in nearly any conditions, so consider bringing a few pairs of skis for different conditions, and clothing for both warmer and colder than you expect. Near the back corner of the lodge, there is a thermometer to see what the air temperature is when you get there, and there are waxing stands at the lodge if you guessed wrong and need to rewax.