Contributed photo Emma Lungren, Lisa Hauffler, and Kevin Lungren pose for a quick photo while skiing Stevens Pass. If there are enough riders signed up for the SnowRider Ski Bus on Dec. 15, the charter bus will once again hit the slopes. Otherwise, it will be cancelled for a third straight year.

Early registration needed for SnowRider Ski Bus program

As the saying goes, “The third time is the charm.” South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District officials are hoping that will be the case this year with the SnowRider Ski Bus program.

Following two consecutive years of cancellations, the district is trying to get the bus rolling once again and get people on the slopes. Interested participants are being encouraged to sign up before the early registration deadline of Dec. 15 so it can determine if the minimum amount of riders will be met, said Program Coordinator Carrie Monforte.

A lack of snow and registrants led to the cancellation of expedient and reliable service to the mountains in 2015 and 2016.

“It’s important for people to know that if they want it to happen, they’ve got to sign up early,” Monforte said.

Credit cards or checks will not be processed by the district until the minimum number of riders is reached, which would make reimbursements unnecessary if the program was cancelled again. When operational, the Ski Bus has averaged about 36 full-time riders along with a few part-time riders. It is offered to everyone, from beginners to advanced skiers and snowboarders.

The capacity for the bus is about 55 people.

The Ski Bus is scheduled for six trips from Jan. 7 through Feb. 11 with pickups in Clinton, Coupeville and Everett. The cost is $295 and the minimum age is 10 years old. For those who sign up after Dec. 15, the cost is $345.

Six weeks of lessons cost $165 for ages 10 and up and $145 for ages 12 and up. Fifth-graders can also take advantage of a deal between Stevens Pass and Carter Subaru, which is offering free season passes in the hopes of inspiring youth to get out on the slopes. Visit https://www.stevenspass.com/giftshop/fifthgrader for details.

Snowfall is expected to be average or above average this season, according to a National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report. Forecasters predict that La Niña could have positive impacts on the winter season. La Niñas favor “wetter, cooler conditions in the northern U.S.” according to the report.

A three-month climate outlook by NOAA for January, February and March also predicts below normal temperatures with above average precipitation, which means more cooler days with a higher chance for snow.

A long-range weather outlook for the winter of 2016-17 by The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts a winter colder than last year, but still above what it characterized as “normal” season temperatures.

There were 10 people signed up as of Monday morning, said Monforte, following the district’s newsletter on the Ski Bus that was recently released to the public. While 10 is a promising start, she said there’s still a long way to go before it hits the road.

Monforte said the district is also allowing part-timers, also known as “a la carte” riders, to sign up early. Normally, part-time riders were not allowed to sign up until there were enough full-season riders registered. Those who have enrolled for the season are generally given priority due to limited space on the bus.

According to the district’s newsletter, there are several benefits of riding on the Ski Bus, including the convenience of safe and reliable transportation, transferable seats and savings with group lift tickets without committing to a season pass.