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How To Survive Spring Skiing.

I always welcome spring with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I love the warmer weather, the longer days, and the soft, carvable snow. On the other, spring signals the winding down of ski season. And to me, that’s a big deal. Skiing is more than just a sport to me. It’s a passion. And watching it disappear for 6-plus months is a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

Really, I have nothing to complain about. It’s been a great season. We’ve had a nice amount of snow here in New England, and as of today, I’ve had 75 ski days, with hopefully, more to come. I’ve skied at 14 different mountains (including a private ski area), attended a women’s clinic, and been to Diva West, Diva East, and our new this year Diva Mid-Atlantic. And even though my ski days are dwindling down, it’s important to remember that ski season will come again. Of that I have no doubt.

But in the meantime, let’s live in the moment and enjoy what we have left.

Me at Okemo, April 13, 2015

Skiing at Okemo, April 13, 2015

Spring skiing is a completely different animal from skiing in say, early season or mid-winter conditions. And though I’m not an expert,  there are a few things I’ve learned over time about skiing this time of year:

1) Wear sunscreen: The sun is higher in the sky than it’s been all winter. So even if you haven’t dipped into the tube of SPF 30 yet, now’s a good time. After all, researchers have discovered that even a little tan isn’t healthy. More than 2.5 million cancers in 3 million people are diagnosed  annually. If you want the look of a goggle tan, try some make-up, instead.

2) Wax your skis: You know that grabby snow that can bring your skis to a stop, while your body continues to travel? Not good. A coat of warm weather wax will fix that right up. Carry some rub-on in your pocket, too, for touch-ups on the mountain.

3) Dress accordingly: Layers are a good idea. It may start out pretty cold and warm up quite a bit, so you may want to peel as the day goes on. Also, no matter how warm it gets, do not wear short sleeves or shorts. Why? If you fall, you’re gonna pay big time. Falling on snow is like falling on sand. The ice crystals will scrape your skin raw, plus you’ll get very, very wet. So protect your skin, stay dry, and wear a shell.

4) Timing is everything: If the temps are still dropping below freezing at night, you might want to start your ski day a little bit later than usual. This is practically sacrilege coming from me; I’m always out when the lifts start running. But if you want to avoid rock hard ice, stay in and have another cup of coffee. Then follow the sun around the mountain. Ski the south and east-facing slopes in the morning and the north and west-facing slopes in the afternoon, so you can catch the snow as it softens up. Conversely, if you don’t get an overnight freeze, get out there as early as you can so you can ski before the snow turns  into a gloppy, sticky mess.

5) Softer and wider is better: Set aside your narrow waisted carving skis and go for something wider. Powder skis have a bigger surface area that lets them to surf over the heavy stuff  without getting bogged down.  They also have a softer flex, which allows them to bend more, so you don’t have to steer as much.

6) Ski it like you mean it: Keep a balanced, even weight on each foot. Also, steer lightly by tipping the skis on edge ever so slightly to turn. To put it simply, slow moves, long turns. Let the tails follow the tips, and don’t twist your feet too much. Commit to the fall line and don’t spend too much time shopping for good stuff.

7) Enjoy! A lot of people end their ski season when they no longer see snow in their own backyard. This is good for those of us who stick it out. The mountain is a lot less crowded. Quieter. Just the way I like it.

So what’s your spring skiing tip?



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Choose Your Deity: The Gods & Goddesses of Snow

 

Ullr, from an 18th century Icelandic manuscript.

Ullr, from an ancient Icelandic manuscript.

It’s the end of August, and the gods and goddesses of snow are starting to stir in their beds. This past weekend snow was in the forecast for the higher elevations of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado. Yes, boys and girls, it’s coming.

‘Gods and goddesses?’ you say. ‘I thought it was all about Ullr!’

Well, not really. Sure, the Nordic deity is the one who gets all the press. Even the most staunch unbelievers aren’t shy about trying all sorts of things to get him to deliver snow during ski season. But Ullr isn’t the only god of  snow out there. Plenty of other cultures have them, too. So if you want to hedge your bets, here are a few others you might want to direct your attention to:

Chione (Khione): The goddess of snow in Greek mythology. Chione was a daughter of Boreas, god of the wintry north wind. She was also the consort of Poseidon, god of the sea.

Aztec

Itztlacoliuhqui, Aztec god of snow.

Itztlacoliuhqui: No, I have no idea how this is pronounced, but the Aztecs had a god of snow, who was also the god of frost, ice, cold, winter, sin, punishment and human misery. Illustrations show his face as a piece of finely curved black obsidian. Some say this reflects his blindness to the hardship inflicted on farmers by a bad, crop-destroying frost. According to legend, Itztlacoliuhqui started off life as the god Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (Lord of the Dawn, Venus) who, after a shooting match with the Sun God Tonatiuh, was punished and transformed into Itztlacoliuhqui, the god of stone and coldness — which is why it’s always cold at dawn.

Poli’ahu: Incredibly enough, there’s a snow god in Hawaii, too. Poli’ahu, whose name means “cloaked bosom,” or “temple bosom,” is a legendary daughter of Wakea who dwells at the summit of Mauna Kea. The antithesis of her fiery arch-rival, Pele, Poli’ahu spreads her beautiful white kapa across the summit of Mauna Kea in the winter, and adorns the mountain with her pink and gold cloak in the summer.

Aisoyimstan: Many native American tribes had dieties for snow; Aisoyimstan is the snow god for the Black Feet people of Montana. Aisoyimstan is the  ‘Cold Maker’ who blankets the earth with frost and snow. He is completely white, down to his hair and clothing. And he even rides a white horse.

Caillech

Cailleach Bheur

Cailleach Bheur: The goddess of winter for ancient Scottish, Irish, and Manx peoples, Cailleach Bheur is often depicted as a blue-faced hag who is reborn every October 31. Cailleach Bheur brings the snow until the Goddess Brigit deposes her. She eventually turns to stone on April 30.

Moran (Marzanna): In Slavic mythology, Morana was the Slavic goddess of winter and death. She usually appeared as an ugly old woman, but to those who showed no fear she appeared as a beautiful young girl. Moron’s arrival was always expected with fear and her departure was celebrated with a lot of noise and happiness.

Kuraokami: is a legendary Japanese dragon and Shinto deity of rain and snow.

Khuno: The Incan snow god. According to  legend, Khuno burned the land of all vegetation during a fit of rage, leaving only the coca plant behind. The hungry people ate it and discovered that coca leaves helped them endure the cold. Hey, could this is the reason cocaine is referred to as snow?

So pick your deity, or pray to them all. It can’t hurt.



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Should you work out in the heat?

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 6.11.18 AMThe weather news out of the southwest over the past few days has been positively historic.

On Sunday, Phoenix topped out at 118 F, the fifth highest temperature ever recorded in the city. Blythe, California, set an all-time record high of 124 F on Monday. And these are only a couple of the record-shattering highs that have been popping up all over the region. In Southern California, The National Weather Service reported 17 daily heat records on Sunday alone.

So what do you do when you’re a dedicated runner/cyclist/hiker/outdoor enthusiast, and it’s hot enough to bend railroad tracks? Or melt the tarmac enough to cause a plane to sink? And I’m not exaggerating: Both of these actually happened during previous heat waves.

Heat is nothing to mess around with. According to federal data, it actually causes more deaths annually in the United States — about 130 — than flooding, lightning, tornadoes, hurricanes or cold. In fact, Phoenix fire officials blamed the severe heat for the deaths of four hikers over the weekend,

I don’t mind summer, but these temperatures are crazy. Once it reaches the 80’s, I’ve pretty much had it. And with yesterday the first official day of the season, there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot more really high temps in the next few months.

So what should you do when it’s really, really hot? Should you go outside and work out?  Or should you skip it entirely and feel like a complete slug?

You could sit around and dream about ski season. That’s one alternative, though it won’t do you much good. Or you could work out indoors, where it’s air conditioned, which is probably a lot better. But if you simply have to get outside, make sure to take the  proper precautions:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. And I mean plenty. Dehydration can contribute to fatigue and poor performance. Even worse, it can cause heat stroke. So be sure to drink 2 cups of water 2 hours before you start your exercise routine, and keep it coming — about 8 ounces every 15 minutes.
  • Wear appropriate clothing, preferably light in color and moisture wicking. Cotton stays wet, making clothes cold and uncomfortable, so it’s not the best choice. There are a lot of high tech fabrics that are much better and will keep you feeling better.
  • Exercise during a cooler part of the day. It’s best to go out first thing in the morning, or late in the day, when the sun isn’t directly overhead.
  • If you stop sweating, stop exercising. Or if you feel nauseous or dizzy or especially hot. This is extremely important. You could be suffering from heat stroke, which can require emergency treatment.
  • Swim. This is a great way to exercise and stay cool at the same time. Kind of a no-brainer, don’t you think?

Also, it’d be a good idea to learn to recognize the signs of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Here’s a handy-dandy graphic put out by the National Weather Service that can help:

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 6.24.58 AM

Keep cool, everyone.  Remember, the earth is turning and winter is coming. Then we’ll complain about the cold. 😉



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When Lightning Strikes.

Photo from Wikipedia

Photo from Wikipedia

Did you know that over the past 30 years, lightning strikes have killed an average of 48 people annually in the US? Okay, in the grand scheme of things, not a huge number (in comparison, there were 38,300 traffic fatalities last year), but if you’ve ever been outdoors during a thunder storm, you know how frightening it can be. Who can forget the incident on Grand Teton in 1985, immortalized in the book Shattered Air: Two hikers were killed and three suffered life altering injuries after being struck by lightning during a climb. More recently, 62 people were killed in powerful storms that ripped across Bangladesh. So yes, even though 90% of lightning strikes are not fatal, they’re not to be taken lightly (no pun intended).

Here are some interesting things you might not know about lightning:
• There are an average of 25,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes per year in the US.
• Lightning can reach a temperature of 50,000°F.
• An average of 1,800 thunderstorms are taking place on earth at any given moment.
• Earth is struck by an average of more than a hundred lightning bolts every second.
• The average flash of lightning could power a 100-watt light bulb for more than 3 months.
• When lightning strikes sand or rock, the extreme heat can fuse minerals beneath the surface into a tube called a fulgurite. Though relatively rare, these “lightning fossils” have been found worldwide.
lightninggod• In Indo-European cultures, the thunder god is frequently known as the chief or king of the gods, e.g. Indra in Hinduism, Zeus in Greek mythology, and Perun in ancient Slavic religion; or a close relation thereof, e.g. Thor, son of Odin, in Norse mythology.

Lightning can strike anywhere. And though it’s a lot more common in warmer months, lightning can occur in the colder months, too. When thunder and lightning take place during a snowstorm, it’s called thundersnow, and if you’re on a chairlift during one of these storms, you better get off as quickly as possible.

In testament to its rarity, take a look at Jim Cantorre’s excited reaction during a thundersnow storm in Chicago in  2011:

There’s a lot of mythology and misinformation about what to do during a lightning storm. And as women who love the outdoors, it’s important for us to separate fact from fiction. So here’s some advice to take with you this summer:

Check the forecast
This seems like a no-brainer. But before you go hiking or boating or whatever, find out if any storms are expected. An understanding of general weather patterns is useful, too. In most cases, thunderstorms arrive in the afternoon, so plan your schedule accordingly.

Gimme shelter
If you’re caught in a storm, the best course is to seek shelter. But that isn’t always possible. Lightning goes for the tallest target, so the best course is to get as low as you can and not be close to anything especially tall. All trees attract lightning because they are tall and contain a lot of moisture, which provides good electrical conduction for the lightning. If you’re in a forest, find some small trees surrounded by taller trees or find a dry, low area like a depression or ravine. Stay away from lone trees and other tall objects as well as rocky outcrops and ledges. If you’re in an open area, find the lowest spot possible and assume the lighting position: Crouch down with your heels touching, head between the knees, and ears covered. Minimize your contact with the ground and do not lie down flat. In all cases, avoid bodies of water.

Ditch the metal
This may not even need to be said, but be sure you’re not in contact with anything metal. If you have a metal-frame backpack, make sure it’s at least 100 feet away from you.

It ain’t over til it’s over
Wait at least 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder to leave your shelter or to resume hiking or backpacking. Be aware of other thunderstorms that may arise after the initial storm.

What are the deadliest wilderness sports, as far as lightning goes?
According to Backpacker.com, it goes as follows:
Fishing – 25%
Camping – 24%
Swimming -18%
Hiking – 7%

king-kong-plane-swatter-martin-daveyThe chances of your being struck by lightning are a minuscule 1 in 12,000. But beware: Scientists say climate change may increase the chances to about 1 in 8,000 by year 2100. And as for lightning never striking twice? Well, that’s a myth, too. Places like the Empire State Building get struck a hundred times a year. So take precautions, stay safe, and unlike King Kong here, don’t climb the Empire State Building during a thunder storm.

 



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Good Riddance to a Dismal Season* (*in the east).

Mad River glen

Photo: Mad River Glen

Yep, the sign on the left at Mad River Glen pretty much sums it up. Mother Nature, you’ve brought us to our knees. We surrender. I personally give up. My ski season is over.

I know, a First World problem, right? Boo hoo — instead of skiing 88 days like I did last year, I only clocked 53.

Yes, I’m whining. But here in the East, the worst ski season in years has had terrible repercussions, not just for skiers, but for the resorts and businesses that depend on them for income. Peak Resorts, for example, which owns 14 eastern resorts, reported revenue down 16 percent from the same quarter last year. Overall visits to Peak properties dropped 23 percent compared to the same quarter in 2015.  And they’re by no means alone.

Call it what you want — The Year of No Winter,  The Winter That Never Was — I’ll just call it dreadful. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, all six New England states set records for warmth, a marked reversal from last winter, one of New England’s harshest. You can read more details in this article in the Washington Post.

In Vermont, the season started bad and never got better. Christmas Day saw temperatures climb into the 70’s. The Nor’easters that typically bring blockbuster storms never materialized. We were plagued with freeze/thaw cycles. And we got far too much rain.

The results speak for themselves. Sugarbush, for example, got roughly half the snow they typically get during an average winter. And as of March 31, Jay Peak was at 55% of normal snowfall and is likely to have the lowest snowfall season in its 35 years of data. Even worse, some smaller ski areas never even managed to open.

For the larger areas, it was all about the snowmaking. Without it, I don’t think we’d have had any ski season at all (for my post about how the snowmakers at Stowe handled the season, go here). To the snowmakers out there, two ski poles up. Thanks for all your efforts. You truly are miracle workers.

Yes, I know. The ski areas in the West have had a banner season. Reports are coming in left and right of resorts that are extending their ski season. And I’m glad for it. Last year was a bad one out there, so yes, they deserve it. Still, I get heartache watching the photos of major dumpage parade by on my Facebook feed.

In the East, though, many ski resorts have wrapped up the season early. Ski shops, loaded with unsold merchandise and struggling to stay afloat, are having blowout sales. And me, I’ve put my skis to bed. If I could manage another trip out west, I would. But since that isn’t going to happen, it’ll probably be seven long months before I ski again.

Goodbye, winter. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Here’s to a better ’16/’17.

 



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How to Survive the White Ribbon of Death

Photo: Chandler Burgess

Photo: Chandler Burgess

Whether your season’s already started (I’m looking at you, Killington and Sunday River) or you’re planning to ski as soon as your mountain opens, there’s a good chance you’re going to encounter something scarier than a zombie apocalypse (hey, Halloween’s coming. Go with it).

Yes, I mean the dreaded White Ribbon of Death.

Oooooooooooooooh.

Don’t run away screaming. I know it’s frightening, but there are ways to ski it and live to tell the tale. It just takes courage, fortitude, and a little bit of knowledge.

In case you don’t know, the White Ribbon of Death (aka WROD) is the narrow strip of artificial snow ski areas put down early in the season so they can open before Mother Nature cooperates. Generally, it’s populated by about a zillion people, all hopped up because they haven’t skied in a loooong, looooong time. Add in not-so-great conditions, and you’ve got a scary situation. You pretty much take your life in your hands when you ski it — not that that keeps anyone (including me) away.

So what should you do?

• Keep it in perspective. Sure, you’re loaded with excitement. After all, it’s been a long, long summer. But you’re not the only one who feels this way. SO — don’t expect to be all alone out there. It’s going to be really, really crowded. And don’t think it’s going to be knee deep powder, either.  Face facts: The conditions are usually pretty marginal. Just know what you’re in for before you show up.

• Make the necessary adjustments. Whatever you’re skiing on, make sure to check your bindings to be sure they release properly. It’d be pretty awful to take a fall and be out for the rest of the season.

• Use ’em if you’ve got ’em. Old skis, that is. There isn’t that much of a base and you’ll probably encounter a rock or two. So if you want to preserve your good skis, keep them for when conditions improve.

• Don’t dress for the polar vortex. It’s very early season. There’s plenty of cold weather to come. You can leave your heavy stuff at home. Layers help, so you can shed or add as needed.

• It might not be a long day.  You may only get a few runs in before the crowds or conditions get to you. That’s okay. The whole purpose of skiing the WROD is just to get out there. In fact, you may want to bag the whole first tracks thing and start a bit later, when everyone else is fed up with the crowds and long lines and has quit for the day.

• Relax and have fun. Remember, it’s not the only time you’re going to ski this season. There’s plenty more to come. So if you only get a few runs, think about the whole long season stretching out before you. And smile.

• If you do ski the WROD, report back. Share your story. Let us know how if you skied it — and lived.



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Surviving Spring Skiing.

I always welcome spring with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I love the warmer weather, the longer days, and the soft, carvable snow. On the other, spring signals the winding down of ski season. And to me, that’s a big deal. Skiing is more than just a sport to me. It’s a passion. And watching it disappear for 6-plus months is a pretty bitter pill to swallow.

Really, I have nothing to complain about. It’s been a great season. We’ve had a ton of snow here in New England, and as of today, I’ve had 87 ski days — a new personal record. What’s more, I’ve skied at 13 different mountains (four of them for the first time), attended two women’s clinics, and even took a snowboarding lesson. And even though my ski days are dwindling down, it’s important to remember that ski season will come again. Of that I have no doubt.

But in the meantime, let’s live in the moment and enjoy what we have left. Yesterday I skied in sixty degree temps under a bluebird sky. The snow was soft and easy to carve, and the bumps were positively delicious. Really, a glorious day.

Me at Okemo, April 13, 2015

Skiing at Okemo, April 13, 2015

Spring skiing is a completely different animal from skiing in say, early season or mid-winter conditions. And though I’m not an expert,  there are a few things I’ve learned over time about skiing this time of year (yes, I know — I posted this last year. But good advice bears repeating):

1) Wear sunscreen: The sun is higher in the sky than it’s been all winter. So even if you haven’t dipped into the tube of SPF 30 yet, now’s a good time. After all, researchers have discovered that even a little tan isn’t healthy. More than 2.5 million cancers in 3 million people are diagnosed  annually. If you want the look of a goggle tan, try some make-up, instead.

2) Wax your skis: You know that grabby snow that can bring your skis to a stop, while your body continues to travel? Not good. A coat of warm weather wax will fix that right up. Carry some rub-on in your pocket, too, for touch-ups on the mountain.

3) Dress accordingly: Layers are a good idea. It may start out pretty cold and warm up quite a bit, so you may want to peel as the day goes on. Also, no matter how warm it gets, do not wear short sleeves or shorts. Why? If you fall, you’re gonna pay big time. Falling on snow is like falling on sand. The ice crystals will scrape your skin raw, plus you’ll get very, very wet. So protect your skin, stay dry, and wear a shell.

4) Timing is everything: If the temps are still dropping below freezing at night, you might want to start your ski day a little bit later than usual. This is practically sacrilege coming from me; I’m always out when the lifts start running. But if you want to avoid rock hard ice, stay in and have another cup of coffee. Then follow the sun around the mountain. Ski the south and east-facing slopes in the morning and the north and west-facing slopes in the afternoon, so you can catch the snow as it softens up. Conversely, if you don’t get an overnight freeze, get out there as early as you can so you can ski before the snow turns  into a gloppy, sticky mess.

5) Softer and wider is better: Set aside your narrow waisted carving skis and go for something wider. Powder skis have a bigger surface area that lets them to surf over the heavy stuff  without getting bogged down.  They also have a softer flex, which allows them to bend more, so you don’t have to steer as much.

6) Ski it like you mean it: Keep a balanced, even weight on each foot. Also, steer lightly by tipping the skis on edge ever so slightly to turn. To put it simply, slow moves, long turns. Let the tails follow the tips, and don’t twist your feet too much. Commit to the fall line and don’t spend too much time shopping for good stuff.

7) Enjoy! A lot of people end their ski season when they no longer see snow in their own backyard. This is good for those of us who stick it out.  The mountain is a lot less crowded. Quieter. Just the way I like it.

So what’s your spring skiing tip?

 

 

 

 

 



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The State of the Winter.

Here we are. It’s the beginning of February, and winter’s in full swing. So how’s it shaping up so far?

As skiers, we eat, sleep, and dream weather. We worry about it. Anticipate it. Think and talk about it. No surprise there. If you’re involved in a sport that’s dependent on a certain type of temperature, a certain type of precipitation, it’s only natural to be concerned about what Mother Nature’s dishing out.

Before we go any farther, step into my WayBack Machine and transport yourself into the not-s0-distant past, all the way back to September/October 2014, when we pored over winter forecasts like Talmudic scholars, parsing every phrase to determine what was coming in the ski season ahead. What’d the Farmer’s Almanac say? How thick was the Wooly Bear Caterpillars’ brown stripe (if it’s thick, it’s the sign that the winter will be mild)? Was there going to be an El Nino? If so, how strong or weak would it be? It was easy to drive ourselves nuts. There were dozens of prediction maps, including this one from WeatherAdvance.com:

2014-2015-winter-4

Now slowly, slowly, bring yourself back. Let your molecules settle into the present day. I’m not a meteorologist (nor do I play one on TV), but here are a few interesting things that have occurred this winter:

• The Pineapple Express notwithstanding, the West is still extremely dry. Virtually all of California remains in drought. Utah, Arizona and New Mexico are also abnormally dry. Colorado fares slightly better, but its snowpack still far lags where it usually sits this time of year. And the snowpack in the northwest is below normal, too. Not good.

To illustrate: Here are a couple pics from Cliff Mass’s weather blog. The first is from the Mt. Shasta web cam on December 26, the second from Monday, February 2. See the difference?

CliffMasspic1

CliffMass2

Also disturbing, the NOAA snow depth analyses for the Cascades from December 29, 2014 and January 29, 2015:

Screen Shot 2015-02-06 at 7.00.07 AM

• As part of this, we’ve seen a number of ski area closures due to lack of snow. In California,  Mt. Shasta, Dodge Ridge, and Badger Pass. In Oregon, Willamette Pass, Hoodoo Ski Area, and Mt. Ashland. And in Alaska, Eaglecrest. It’s all too sad. Let’s hope things turn around.

• After a less-than-impressive start, the East Coast has finally cranked it up. A train of snow storms, one after another, has blanketed the northeast with record-setting snowfalls. Right now things are looking great in New England. According to Tim Kelley, meteorologist with Ski the East and NECN (New England Cable News), the east has the best snow in the lower 48 right now. As a Vermonter, I’d have to say it’s pretty damned good.

• Remember the Polar Vortex? Well, lucky us — it’s back! Arctic air from Canada has brought temps into the single digits and below from the Midwest to the East, with bone chilling wind chills. I don’t mind temperatures in the teens, and if it’s not windy, I can deal with the single digits on a limited basis. But enough is enough. Give me a balmy 25° any day.

• Conversely, women from the west who post on TheSkiDiva.com have been complaining about the warm temperatures. In our Where is Winter thread, there’ve been reports of temps in the 50’s and 60’s in Oregon and Washington. Check out the temperatures in Denver from this past weekend (from the Denver CBS- affiliate):

Screen Shot 2015-02-05 at 8.41.47 PM

While I certainly believe global warming is real, I have no idea if these are weather glitches or related to a broader weather scenario. All evidence supports that our climate is changing, which means we can expect all sorts of crazy weather ahead. I encourage all of you to support causes like Protect Our Winters and do whatever you can to minimize your carbon footprint on this fragile planet.

What does the rest of the winter have in store? I’ll give it a scientific who knows. Wish I could go into the WayFuture Machine to find out. But one thing I know for sure: spring will come, then summer, and then we’ll start the speculation all over again.

Such is the circle of (a skier’s) life.

 



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So what if it’s an El Nino year?

Believe it or not, people are already starting to plan their ski trips for next ski season. I know, I know. Seems like a long time off, but there are work schedules to juggle, kids to attend to, things to work around. People have to PLAN.

The problem with figuring out a trip so far in the future is the weather. You Just. Don’t. Know.

Lately I’ve been hearing that 2014-15 will be an El Nino year. What does that mean? El Niño is a pattern that develops when easterly trade winds in the tropical Pacific relax – even reverse – allowing a vast pool of warm water in the western tropical Pacific to move east until it reaches the west coast of Central and South America. This results in higher than normal sea surface temperatures across the equatorial Pacific, creating weather patterns that can cause droughts, storms, fires, and floods throughout the world. The last El Niño occurred in 2009 to 2010. The last big one, in 1997 to 1998, caused billions of dollars of damage around the globe.

The trouble is that even though there’s loads of speculation, no one can tell exactly what’s going to occur. Will it be a strong event? A week one? Will it even happen?

I took a look at the NOAA web site, and here’s what they think El Nino will do for our weather in January, February, and March:

Temperature predictions

Temperature predictions

 

Precipitation Predictions

Precipitation Predictions

 

But it’s not that cut and dried. Anthony Barnston, chief forecaster at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society in New York, believes it’s not clear right now how strong an El Nino this’ll be. A majority of forecast models suggest that it will be moderate, though many indicate it’s more likely to be weak than strong.

However, Kevin Trenberth, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says the coming event could rival the one strong one of 1997. He  points out that NOAA based its prediction mostly on data from April, and that more recent data show strong signs that waters off the coast of Peru are continuing to warm. And that means are more intense weather event. He also says that El Niño tends to drive the average west-to-east storm track farther south than usual. This means more winter storms for California, instead of the Pacific Northwest. Depending on the intensity of this El Niño, drought-stricken California could finally be getting some relief. The Northwest, along with western Canada and southern Alaska, tends to dry out during an El Niño and post warmer-than-normal temperatures.

The bottom line?  Who knows. Forecasters seem to have a lot of trouble figuring out what the weather’s going to be next week, let alone 6 or 7 months from now. So stay tuned. One way or another, we’ll all eventually find out.

 



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A Skier Looks At Earth Day (again)

From I F*cking Love Science.

From I F*cking Love Science.

This is funny, but in a black humor sort of way. Because its premise is real: there are still people who don’t take global warming seriously. Sure, we’ve had record cold this winter here in Vermont. But for some, that’s enough to prove that global warming is a myth. Like just because it’s cold in one place means it’s cold everywhere.

With a winter like this, it’s hard to remember that global warming isn’t steady. It’s a trend. And over time, the trend is definitely toward warmer global temperatures. Take a look at this, from the National Climatic Data Center:

Climate Change

Scary, isn’t it?

I could go on all day. But right now, with Earth Day upon us, I really want to talk about what we, as skiers, can do to help.  With global warming threatening to eliminate winter — and our favorite sport along with it — environmental consciousness is something we really need to get behind.

It’s not all about skiing, either. Snow and ice are critical habitats for a wide range of animals. They provide a substantial amount of the planet’s drinking water. And polar ice melt could sink islands and flood coastlines.

How can we help? I’m sure you’ve heard the same thing over and over again: we need to reduce our carbon footprint. But that’s not easy, especially since snowmaking, ski lifts,and  just getting to and from the slopes require huge amounts of energy. So what are we supposed to do?

Glad you asked. I have a few ideas right here:

Carpool. Or use public transit to get to your favorite ski areas. It’s amazing how foreign this simple idea is to many people, though high gas prices might make it more appealing. Seriously, though. Buddy up, people. It’ll help the planet. It’ll save you money. And it’ll make your trip easier, too. If you’re having trouble finding someone to ride with, check out MountainRideshare.com, which works to hook up people who are traveling to ski resorts.

• Support resorts that use renewable energy resources. According to Patrick Thorne, editor of the Green Ski Resort Guide, 60% of the world’s leading 250 ski resorts get at least some of their power from wind, solar, or water (hydro).  Vail, for example, is the second largest purchaser of renewable energy in North America. And Jiminy Peak (Massachusetts) and Burke Mountain (Vermont) even have wind turbines on site. An interesting one to watch: Mountain Riders Alliance. This organization (I blogged about them here), has the stated goal of  developing values-based, environmentally-friendly, rider-centric mountain playgrounds that have a positive impact in the local community. So far they’ve opened a prototype ski area, Mount Abram, in Maine, and they’re working to re-open Antelope Butte Ski Area in Wyoming and Manitoba Mountain Ski Area in Alaska. Also, be sure to check out the National Ski Areas Association’s Climate Change Challenge, a report of what many resorts are doing to reduce greenhouse gases. Let them know if you support what they’re doing. It really does help.

• Buy from green companies. Another thing I’ve discussed before (go here). In brief, there are a growing number of gear companies that produce outstanding skis and apparel from recycled material. Many also support 1% For The Planet, giving at least one percent of their sales to environmental groups around the world. And some are involved in the Conservation Alliance, a consortium of outdoor industry companies that disburses its collective annual membership dues to community-based campaigns to protect threatened wild habitats. Founded in 1989 by REI, Patagonia, The North Face, and Kelty, the Alliance has more than 180 member companies, and has contributed more than $13 million to conservation projects throughout North America.

• Support environmental causes like Protect Our Winters, which was founded by pro snowboarder Jeremy Jones, after witnessing first-hand the impact of climate change on our mountains. You might also want to check out Climate Solutions, which is working to accelerate practical and profitable solutions to global warming,  C2ES (the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions), and US Climate Action Network.

Of course, there’s a lot we can do in our daily lives, too. Turn off lights when not in use. Use energy saver appliances. Walk or bike when you can. Recycle. Use re-usable shopping bags. Plant trees. Support causes that are working for environmental change.

After all, for skiers, every day should be Earth Day. Celebrate today.

 



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