This winter’s heavy snowpack is certainly making things interesting at Washington’s snotels. And before you head out to an area to do some backcountry skiing or snowshoeing—you just may want to check in online at a snotel or two to get an accurate reading of what you can expect out there. What’s a snotel? No it’s not lodging made from ice—although you can find one of those in Quebec City if you’re inclined to want to really chill out!
Snotels are automated sensors operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in the western US to measure snowpack. There are more than 700 of them in 11 states. Washington has more than 70 located throughout the Cascades; and a handful in the Olympics, Blues, Selkirks and Okanogan Highlands.
The sites measure snow water content, accumulated precipitation, air temperature and many other data used to forecast water supplies and for climate research. Most of the Washington sites also measure snow depth—and as an outdoor recreationist intent on doing some winter wandering—this will probably be of most interest to you.
Most of the sites are in remote areas and not easily accessed—or in areas of restricted access. So, there’s a good chance that many of you have never come upon one. The June Lake Snotel at Mount St Helens however is easily accessed by following the Sasquatch Ski Trails. Of course it’s best to not disturb the snotel and just check in online which you can do right here. Have fun checking out the snow depths across the state. Visiting these sites this year is a lot more exciting and encouraging than last year. What site is currently blowing the others out of the snow pack?!
For information on snowshoeing and skiing at Mount St Helens,
consult my Day Hiking Mount St. Helens book.