Snow piles up in Sisters


Last updated 4/18/2023 at 6:14pm

Photo by Bill Bartlett

Snow has continued to pile up late in the season at Hoodoo.

As temperatures in Sisters Country rise, folks are trying to put snow in the rearview mirror.

"I'm tired of it and the cold," said Miles Horton of Sisters, as he considered putting his snowblower away for the season. Horton is a newcomer from Sacramento. Old-timers tell The Nugget that this winter is still nothing like "the old days."

No matter if you love or hate the snow, it's unavoidable, living as we do in the High Desert. The last three to four years have been harsh on ranchers and farmers in Sisters Country, as well as stressing recreation like golf and fishing.

No records are being set, in spite of what seems like a ton of snow. However, there's a lot more snow and eventual runoff than in the last few years. Hoodoo delighted skiers and boarders last week with a 123-inch base on April 5. The snow has been good all season at Hoodoo, and by March they had booked over 130,000 skier days.

On average Hoodoo would have a 47-inch base in April. Their average annual summit depth is 35 inches. There are 57 inches this season, and it is not yet over. The resort plans to close on April 23. While they could run the lifts for several more weeks, they will start to lose skiers returning to biking and golf.

Nearby at Mt. Bachelor, it's another pretty picture. So far they have collected some 450 inches of snow and are sitting on a 134-inch base. From April 1-7, they were hammered with 45 inches, enough to set a closing date of May 28.


Up at the Three Creek Meadow measuring station, they reported 31.1 inches. It was 18 only two weeks ago. More importantly the snow water equivalent has soared in two weeks to 158 percent of normal for the entire Upper Deschutes Basin.

Snow water equivalent (SWE) determines the amount of water available in the snow. Measuring how much water is in snow can be difficult since the temperature of the air controls how much water is held in an inch of snow. One inch of rain can produce from two inches of sleet to 50 or more inches of snow depending on how cold the air is.

Different storms bring different types of snow that can hold different amounts of water. Warmer-weather snowstorms can create two inches of sleet for an inch of rain, whereas very cold snowstorms may create over 50 inches of very dry, powdery snow for an inch of rain.

Throughout winter, different storms bring different types of snow, so snow depth does not translate directly to the amount of water held in snow. Because of this variability, SWE helps to understand how much water the snow contains.

The Harney Basin is at 247 percent, followed by the Owyhee Basin at 213 percent, and none of the 12 state basins are under 141 percent amid reports of more precipitation for the month.

Reservoirs continue to look barren in large part as the snow hasn't begun to melt yet. Wickiup, the basin's largest, is rising and is at the 66 percent water mark. Deschutes County is looking good as compared to Crook County, where drought persists stubbornly. The Prineville reservoir is only 21 percent full, and the surrounding mountains are barren of snow.

Drought conditions have seen steady improvement since February. Sisters Country has dropped from D3 (Extreme) to D2 (Severe). A year ago we stood at D4 (Exceptional). The entirety of Crook County remains D4 and has been declared an emergency by the governor.


The garden centers in the county opened in synchronicity on April 1. Only the hardiest of plants are on display, as the rule of thumb for planting in Sisters is when the snow's off of Black Butte. A look at the iconic mountain indicates that it will be weeks before it's safe to plant.


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