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