Skiers rejoice, drivers prepare as Stevens Pass looks at 1-3 feet of new snow through Saturday

STEVENS PASS, Wash. -- It first started as rain in Monroe, then soon turned to snow and slush 10-miles east of Stevens Pass; with compact snow and slick conditions over the summit on U.S. 2 Thursday.

"It's snowing about an inch an hour," said Harlan Sheppard, an avalanche forecaster and control specialist for WSDOT.

Conditions aren’t expected to improve anytime soon with another 6-10" of snow possible Thursday night and a Winter Storm Watch in effect for Friday.

Giving the four plows and incident response crews on Stevens Pass plenty of work this weekend.

"Between today and tomorrow they're expecting anywhere from 15 to 30" of snowfall on Stevens Pass," said Sheppard.

As the holiday week winds down and preparations for New Year's ramp up there are a lot of added travelers on the roads heading home from their Christmas vacations.

Those drivers could be in for messy conditions if their plans involve crossing the Cascade mountains Friday or Saturday.

WSDOT is preparing for a major snow event over Stevens and Snoqualmie passes through Saturday. The agency is bringing in additional staff and are prepared to pull in crews from other parts of the region as needed.

"We do have incident response team out that helps stranded motorists and then the tow truck drivers are pretty busy on these weekends too people start to go into the ditch," said Sheppard.

A tough commute for drivers is still well worth it to seasoned pros anxious to hit the slopes up at Stevens Pass Ski Area.

"I'm not really an expert at skiing like my parents, but I am good at skiing," said 5-year-old Timothy Gibbs, who's been skiing here since he was two.

Stevens Pass Ski Area officials said Thursday was their busiest day of the season so far.

"People are so stocked today, said Chris Danforth, Stevens Pass Ski Area Vice President of Sales and Marketing. "This is what people have been waiting for--snow like this--all season."

Stevens Pass over U.S. 2 has yet to close because of conditions this season, but that could change this weekend.

WSDOT and even Stevens Pass Ski Area officials are reminding drivers making the trek up during winter break not to get caught off guard.

"You see people with two-wheel drive Honda Civics with bald tires trying to come up to the pass and its like ‘that’s not going to cut it', said Danforth. "You really do need to be prepared."

But judging by the crowds of people on the slopes Thursday, the driving conditions were worth it.

"I love it. I love the snow," said Tom Moran, who drove up with his son from Brier. "The more the merrier."

Moran promised his son and daughter he'd bring them up to learn how to snowboard over their winter break.

His 15-year-old daughter Alyssa said with as much snow as Stevens got by noon--she picked the perfect day.

"There's a ton of people, but that’s okay, everyone wants to come up here too," said Alyssa Moran.

If you do plan to make the driver, skiers recommend you leave early.

Friday morning, however, U.S. 2 along Stevens Pass will be temporarily closed for preventative avalanche control work from 4 - 6 a.m.

The Northwest Avalanche Center forecasting Friday as a 'high' risk day for avalanches at and above the tree line.