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Up to 3 feet of new snow expected to hit passes: Skiers, boarders rejoice, but travel may be dicey

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STEVENS PASS, Wash. — Mountain pass ski resorts are expecting a crush of more skiers and snowboarders this weekend to take advantage of a heaping helping of fresh powder. But with anywhere from 1 to 3 feet of new snow falling, travel could get dicey.

“Lots of snow gets people excited, but traffic is going to be bad going back, I am sure,” said Sam Schille, who took advantage of the fresh snow on Friday afternoon and was thinking about coming back on Saturday.

“We’re going to see if it gets colder,” he said, making for improved ski conditions.

Stevens Pass is expecting 10 inches overnight Friday and another eight inches Saturday.

A forecast of snow, Schille said, means more people will be trying to hit the slopes.

“Traffic backing up, somebody else getting into an accident, or we’re getting into an accident and then we’re backed up,” he said. “That’s always in the back of your mind, especially when you’re running Highway 2.”

WSDOT warns this weekend, State Route 2, SR 410 and I-90 could all face winter weather conditions and potential for closure.

“If you’re heading up to the slopes, by all means take advantage, but be prepared,” said Travis Phelps, spokesman for WSDOT. The conditions through Sunday could feel more like December than March, he said.

“We’ll have our folks out there de-icing, but it’s never a silver bullet, so don’t go up there thinking ‘I am not going to bring my chains, I am just going to drive the speed limit.’ You could hit some snow, you could hit some ice,” said Phelps.

He suggested drivers pack a safety kit with blankets, water, food and cell phone. Phelps said make sure you have a full tank of gas in case you get stuck in a closure, and test your chains before you leave.

“Increase that following distance,” he said. “Snow quickly turns to rain or ice in a moment’s notice and it takes one small mistake and now suddenly you’re that person that’s ran into the person in front of you.”

April Clark said she is watching the clock, wanting to leave Stevens Pass with her daughter before the weather gets worse.

“We’re going to head out of here early. Beat the snow,” she said.

Her mother’s intuition told her another few hours of snowboarding isn’t worth getting into an accident.

“Her girlfriends are staying to night ski, and I am like, we got to go.”

If you decide to head to any of the passes this weekend, officials said you won’t be alone on the road.

“Normally this time of year things start to slow down, but when you get a storm like this, people still want to come out and ski,” said Chris Danforth, director of marketing for Stevens Pass. “We expect things to be pretty busy this weekend.”

Danforth said Stevens Pass is having a record year, and this storm could put them over the top.

“Last year was our best season on record and we’re actually about 7 percent up on that for skier visits this year,” he said. “The skiing is going to be really good for the next several days.”