The snowpack in Washington’s mountain ranges has seen up to a 60% decrease over 75 years and that trend will likely continue for the rest of the century.

Jim Smith owns and operates Snow Sports Northwest, a ski school based at Snoqualmie Pass in Washington that teaches hundreds of students every year. His father founded the company in the late 60s.  Scott Goddard was hired by Smith’s father in 1983 and has an equally long history skiing this area. Goddard now runs the Saturday school. The school’s instructors have the task of navigating the terrain with hundreds of kids, something made harder in season’s like this year. The season’s El Niño forecast has delivered. Snow totals are a fraction of normal, creating a domino effect on many industries.

A map from the EPA shows the trends in April snowpack in the western U.S. from 1955 to 2022. In Washington, most areas’ snowpack is down between 20 to 30%, with some areas decreasing as much as 50 to 60%. 

Washington State University PhD candidate Luke Reyes is based in Vancouver, Washington, and is devoting his studies to snowpack vulnerability in the western United States. Reyes and his research team recently published this study, which analyzed the snowpack during the Pacific Northwest heat dome of 2021, when temperatures skyrocketed into the triple digits for days straight and killed hundreds of people in the region.

“People would post all these before and after pictures and they’d be hiking on Mount St. Helens or Mount Rainier and there’d be snow one day and there’s nothing a week later,” said Reyes.

But when Reyes and his team looked at the numbers, they realized something huge. The heat dome is not the only reason the snow melted.

Watch the video and read the full story: