Snow, You Say? Mount Rainier National Park Has Received More Than 6' This Past Week

While the Plains states and Northeast have been drubbed again and again by winter in recent weeks, they've got nothing on Mount Rainier National Park. In the past week the park has received more than 6 feet of snow at Paradise.

That prodigous amount of snowfall -- 6.5 feet at last tally -- kept the Paradise area closed most of the week, although they managed to open it via the Nisqually Entrance on Saturday.

"While all this fresh snow provides some fantastic skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing opportunities, it also presents some acute, specific dangers skiers and riders need to be aware of- snow immersion suffocation and avalanches," the park's website noted.

Avalanches are the more commonly known hazard. The danger of natural or human caused wind or storm slab release is currently very high to extreme, even at lower elevations, and should remain so until the snowfall subsides and the fresh snow is allowed to stabilize. Remember, avalanches can and do occur just minutes from the Paradise parking lot! For more information on avalanche conditions go to http://www.nwac.us/. Ranger Glenn shares more about avalanche risk on Mount Rainier in this Ranger Brief video.

Snow Immersion Suffocation, or SIS, occurs when a skier or rider falls, usually head-first, into deep, unconsolidated snow or a tree well and becomes immobilized and trapped under the snow, leading to suffocation. Tragically, a 35 year-old skier died at Crystal Mountain Ski Area on February 19th after falling head first into a tree well. Most SIS incidents occur just after big storm cycles, as we have just experienced. In an inverted position it is almost impossible to self-extricate, and breathing becomes difficult as loose snow begins to pack in around you. It is critical to ski or ride with a partner, and to keep each other in sight at all times! A great resource for information on SIS can be found at http://www.deepsnowsafety.org/index.php/.

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The view of the visitor center at Paradise on Saturday shortly before 3 p.m. via the Paradise webcam.

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The view of Longmire shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday from the Longmire webcam.

Comments

Over four feet of snow fell during the week preceeding this story, and as much as three feet is forecast for next week at Mount Rainier, so Paradise may end up receiving almost fifteen feet of snow this February. The current reading of 171" is apparently the largest snow depth of any telemetry site in North America.

This was the world-record annual (July1-June 30) snowfall measuring station for many years (1122" in 1971-72), until Mt..Baker ski area next to North Cascades NP recorded 1140" in 1998. Paradise still holds several other snowfall records:

24 hours, 70" on Nov. 26, 1955

Monthy, 363" in January, 1925

One year, 1224" from Feb. 19, 1872 - Feb. 18, 1972

Average annual snowfall, 697" from 1954 to present.

Average April 1st snow depth, 181" from 1954 to present

Snow depth on ground, 367" on March 10, 1956

http://www.skimountaineer.com/CascadeSki/CascadeSnow.html

This is an excellent reminder of the hazards posed by travel in deep, fresh snow and from SIS, which is not something on every skier's mental radar. There have been at least two fatalities already this year at a ski area not far from Glacier NP when skiers were trapped in tree wells. In 1979, an expert skier and outstanding nature photographer named Danny On died in such an accident in Montana.

Another astounding fact [g]. The Washington Cascades were at about 50-60% of normal snowfall at the beginning of February. They're up to ~100% now.

The Puget Sound area's water supply for the summer was cause for concern at the beginning of the month. It isn't anymore...