The Mt. Hood Express transit line from Sandy to Timberline has two sleek new $140,000 buses to replace the clunkers of last year.
It rained three and a half inches on Mount Hood before it switched over to snow yesterday, but it did switch to snow, and the fresh snow should last for a while because the forecast is calling for relatively low temperatures for seven days.
As of 6 am Thursday, Timberline had nine inches of new snow, Meadows had five inches and Skibowl had two inches.
Upper elevation lifts are on wind standby this morning and more snow is expected Thursday night, so it should be a while before all the fresh stuff is carved up. The forecast is calling for snow and flurries into the weekend, then clearing with mostly sunny skies by Sunday.
Most importantly, the sub-30-degrees temperatures are expected to last through the week. This should preserve the new snow and possibly enable Skibowl to make some new snow.
So far Skibowl has only been able to operate one chair in 2014, and the Multorpor chair is a hike from the lodge at Skibowl East. Most of the action at Skibowl has been at the Tubing Hill at Skibowl East and the rope tows at Skibowl West.
Meadows has operated nine chairlifts so far this season, but it has yet to open the steeps in Heather Canyon. There simply hasn't been enough snow, with week-long inversions driving temps on the mountain well up into the 50s. As of January 1, snowpack on Mount Hood was just 41 percent of normal, and snow from the one large storm to hit the mountain in January did not last long, between rain and high temps.
Only three years since 1980 have had less snow at this point in the season: 1981, 2003 and 2005.
One upside to the lack of snow has been a super-extended season for the Palmer lift at Timberline, allowing for a three-chairlift, leg-burning 3700-vertical-feet run from the top of Palmer to the bottom of Jeff Flood. But conditions have been almost summer-like on Palmer, endangering the real summer season that is a huge draw at Timberline. The hundreds of racers and freestylers who flock to Hood every summer to train will be sorely disappointed if the snow is gone by July.
So it's a good thing that rain turned to snow Wednesday. If it had persisted as rain, as with that vicious Thanksgiving storm that drenched the mountain with nine inches of rain, we would be in trouble.
As it is, we've got some nice, light snow to enjoy for a few days. See ya up there.