January 4, 2005
For the professional or amateur meteorologists out there: Is there any chance this winter is shaping up to be a repeat of the dreadful, snowless winter of '01-'02, or do you think the upcoming warm spell is just a speed bump?
Jgm - I'm no meterologist (nor do I play one on TV!), but I can tell you that from a historical perspective, we are already WAY ahead of the 01-02 season. In that season, Liberty didn't get Eastwind or Strata open at all. The trails that were open didn't get open until after the first of the year in 02. Conditions were constantly too warm for snowmaking. Unlike that dismal season, we have already had several weeks of cold that the local areas have taken full advantage of. Liberty is over half open (and was in great shape over Christmas). Accuweather's long range forecast shows more seasonally cold temperatures on the way. For now, don't worry - go ski!
'01-'02 was a pretty good season for me. That's because I skied a lot a Whitegrass and there were a lot of storms that dropped 6-12" of powder. I played hookey from work a number of times to hit that powder the next morning when it was fresh. Most of these storms missed the closer to DC areas and all of them were followed quickly by rain or thaw. However if you pounced on it quick it was a pretty good season. My % powder days was over 50 that season and a lot of it was WV. I hope it's a good season of course, but sometimes you have to be an opportunist.
I agree with Jim. Although the we haven't had much snow, the weather has been cold for the most part (1 deg below average for the month of December here in Blacksburg). We've also had 2 near misses in the last week that could have produced a lot of snow. The cold weather and moisture just haven't been timed well. It'll come.
Although it's quite cold right now (12-27-04), the mid-Atlantic is going to receive some unusually warm weather later in the week (and into next week) with a strong possibility of rain (in some areas) over the weekend. I believe that it's now quite clear we're NOT going to have a stellar ski season (I've been predicting a below average ski season all-along). The only reason why things aren't as bad as they were at this point in 01 is the fact that many ski areas have made improvements to their snowmaking systems since the 01-02 ski season. One thing that's really strange...here in Central PA, is that there's NO snow on the ground right now (at 2,600 ft, no less) which is almost unheard of! I'm afraid that the weather is going to continue to be unsettled this Winter with more mild spells and BELOW normal snowfall. Because the base at most ski areas is likely to be thinner than average as we go into March, I'm figuring that it's going to be an early end to the 04-05 ski season. Of course, we're still going to get a couple of significant snow dumps, which will result in a few weeks (at the very least) of excellent mid-Winter skiing.
It seems like weather builds off of similarities from the previous winters and amplifies some of the trends. It's certainly not surprising that this winter is shaping up closer to average- as Mountain Masher said quite a while back it's very rare for three cold winters in a row in the Mid-Atlantic. I also wonder if tropical storms don't have some type of impact on the weather- it always seems that long-term weather patterns change if we get a few of those babies through. This year three of them hit in September, and our weather changed from cool in the late summer and early fall to mild by mid to late fall. It's an awful lot of tropical air and moisture that gets pumped in from the Gulf, so I wouldn't be surprised if it disrupted weather patterns for a few months.
The winter has just been odd through and through though. The pounding that the Rocky Mountains and Sierra have taken have not been amplified in the Pac NW- my friend out in Seattle reports that Snoqualmie had a 2 inch base on Christmas, which has never been reported that low before (which spells, incidentally, the potential for a horrific runoff season and disastrous consequences for the power markets). Part of that is warmth but part of it is that the Pacific storms have tracked almost exclusively over California. Meanwhile Victoria, Texas, which has never recorded more than an inch of snow from one storm winds up with a foot of snow on Christmas. WHAT DOES SOUTH TEXAS NEED THE SNOW FOR ANYWAY?!?!?!
The hits and misses have been much bigger than normal throughout the United States so far this winter. Here's hoping that things even out sometime soon.
'01-'02 was a pretty good season for me. That's because I skied a lot a Whitegrass and there were a lot of storms that dropped 6-12" of powder..... I hope it's a good season of course, but sometimes you have to be an opportunist.
Opportunist or just lucky, it helps to be both. March & April '02 were good months for me. March 10 we rolled into Davis on the tail end of 10-12" of fresh. TL was covered with loose powder. First time I skied the Drop well; big bumps, no ice and you could just stand at the top and see the turns. This was a planned trip so I guess we were lucky.
April 6 was pay for a room get a free lift ticket for Snowshoe. Opportunity knocks and off I went. Woke up to light snow, conditions that day were not as good as I like to remember, but for April 6, they were great, everything but widowmaker open and the snow continued for most of the morning.
We've burnt a lot of daylight so far this season but I'm looking forward to what's left. I guess I'm an optimistic lucky opportunist.
Checked the Washington Post this morning. As of 12/29/04, we are four heating degree days behind where we were last year weather wise, and about 55 heating degree days below the average for this time of year. In other words, this winter thus far has been virtually identical temperature-wise to last winter, which was at this time warmer-than-normal. Don't forget also that last winter was also in the mid-60s at New Years, just like this one apparently will be.
According to Murphy, it's also been below normal for December in Blacksburg (though that might change with the next three days of weather).
So based on what we know thus far, is it fair to say that this winter is shaping up more like 01-02 or 03-04? January and February will tell us more, but it seems like we're being a bit over-reactive at the moment...
I am not sure where all this negativity is coming from. I already have 3 Sking days on me this season and sofar all have been in good to very good conditions. and this is for a guy whois savign all this vaction days for next month's trip to QC.
Look at the amount of moisture we are getting! The biggest thing here isn't the cold its the moisture. O=In the warm wet winteres we always get huge dumps in February. The lakes aren't iced over yet. So that means more lake effect. The nor-easter snow machine is also in full effect. There have been 2 major dumps in the last 2 weeks that jsut barely missed the the midatlantic. In the month the worm will turn and we will get hit. This week the southern draft is too strong for snow. But sooner or later we will get hit with 12"+ of snow. We may get a couple dumps before march.
Temps have been cold for the past week. Most local areas are near fully open right now (Wisp, 7s, Whitetail, roundtop, Snowshoe, Laurel Mtn,...) and have built their bases to withstand this weeks rain. Some others seem to be sucking hind teat (T-line, Cannan, BK,) and are struggleing to get over 50% trails open. Too bad for them, but soon enough they will all be open. Even BK.
We have the moisture, now all we need is the cold. It will come and by late January we will be rolling in snow. This is just like last years winter which everyone said was going to stink as of new years, but ended up lasting until april.
Last year I skied 7 Springs on New Year's Day - virtually everything was open, but there were a number of thin spots - and there was some mud/dirt visible through the snow on the Alpine Meadows slope. Later that night, and for most of that weekend, it rained pretty hard - I remember looking at the Webcams and thinking that it looked disastrous.
But in spite of that I think we all look back on '03-'04 as a very good ski season. One of the prognosticators (maybe the Skiing Weatherman, or perhaps it was the Farmer's Almanac) has predicted that this would be a Winter remembered for hefty late-season snows....Feb/March.
Yes, I remember that New Years Day rain last year. I also made it a point to ski at 7Sp 7 week days last January as they had the best snow conditions that I can ever remember....One day I skied untracked powder most of the day! Don't give up just yet.
Late season snows? Keep in mind that NOAA is predicting an unusually dry late Winter and early Spring for the Northwest part of the mid-Atlantic including the region that 7-Springs is located in. Lets hope that NOAA's forecast is wrong.
<sarcasm> NOAA has pretty much been batting .1000 so far, eh? </sarcasm>
Wow, I just checked accuweather for Davis, WV and they are showing highs upto from 48*F - 60*F through next Saturday withonly a handful of nights in the 20's. This REALLY is looking discouraging for having a winter where more than the slopes are covered with the white stuff.
Like Roger said, last year when I went snowboarding at Timberline on Dec 27, it felt like a frigging summer vacation. But on Jan 5 it turned into a deep freeze that lasted for 30 days. I'd love for that to happen, but accuweather seemingly isn't showing that anytime soon.
The NWS is predicting a cool down and change over to snow by middle of next week. We'll make it through
I'm glad to hear that NWS is showing some cold weather within the next week. HOWEVER, the current weather.com forecast for Central and Western PA does NOT show any cold weather (temps cold enough for decent snowmaking) over the next 10 days. In fact, it's going to get back up into the 50s by next Wed. And, although we might get some wet snow (perhaps mixed with rain) by the very end of next week, the temps are likely to remain far too warm for any significant snow making. Snowshoe will pull through (it always does), but several ski areas in the mid-Atlantic might have to shut down for a day or two. Needless to say, the current ski season in the mid-Atlantic is getting shorter and shorter. And, after this melt-down is finally over, some of the more marginal ski areas might limit how much (more) money that they're willing to invest in snowmaking for the balance of this SHORT season.
NWS out of State College agrees with the Weather.com forecast but goes on to say that more seasonable air moves in Wed. night bringing highs in the 30's and snow for Thursday. They don't forecast more than a week out and if you look at the track record for those who do, you'll realize why.
Furthermore, although rain is forecasted for several days it is expected to be light and scattered. Resorts that put down the bases they should have during the cold weather and are grooming properly should be in good shape by next weekend, they may even have some fresh stuff for good measure. Optimism isn't such a bad thing
Thanks RogerZ, something to hang our hopes on.
4 Days so far
Thanks for your optimism, Murph. We received a foot of snow at Hidden Valley the week before Christmas, then came the wash-out on 12/23 and it all dissappeared. HV had the snow guns going continuously from 12/24 -12/28 and salvaged a pretty decent Holiday season. I guess I can't complain since I skied 6 days during the holiday either at HV or 7Springs. I remember last year's rainy washout starting the day after new years. Two weeks later, there was so much snow, I had 4 foot drifts to plow through to get to my condo door. But you are absolutely correct about the accuracy of the forcast beyond a week. If you track it they are rarely correct.
Here's another question for folks more experienced than I: At what point does the season in the Mid-Atlantic become a washout? Mid-January? Late January?
That's the joy of the Mid-Atlantic jgm, you just never know.
Case in point: the first season Whitetail opened (91-92 I think) was atrocious. I was in high school at the time and we took this exchange student from Finland up to Whitetail at the end of February. The day we went there was 76 degrees (at Whitetail- it was 80 in DC) and the exchange student was in shock that anyone would ski in such weather.
The next day the temperature dropped 10 degrees, and the day after that another 10 degrees. Sometime in early March it turned cold enough that they began to make snow again, and they got something like 1-2 feet of natural snow in the month. By the time they closed in the first week of April, they were skiing on every run and were simply out of skiers.
So, I'd say that aroud here, you don't run out of hope until the Cherry Blossom festival, and some years even that isn't true. For continued proof of that check out Johnfmh's post about the "perfect storm" in CV on Apr 1-2 last year.
That said, you should never really get your hopes up about any particular season around here, either. Just be glad for the good turns you get when all is said and done!
I just got back from Timberline yesterday. As most are aware, temps were in the upper 40's, all the snow on the ground was gone, and the few slopes that are open were looking a little thin in spots.
Nevertheless, this New Years ski trip reminds me exactly of New Years for the past 2 seasons. A number of people have posted about the warm-up last year. I remember we had a similar situation in 02-03 (one of the best winters in the mid-Atlantic recently). Same deal, warm-up and rain washed out all the snow. Within a week, the snow machine was back on and both seasons turned out OK.
I'm not too worried about this year. In 02-03, the snow machine turned off shortly after the great President's Day blizzard. I don't believe Canaan Valley got an appreciable storm through March or April that year. Last year was shaping up to be pretty sparse - we hadly had any snow in February; however, March and April came out strong with several large dumpages. Bottomline - even the best winters are relatively short in the mid-Atlantic. I'm hoping the best of this winter is still ahead of us.
The ski season in the mid-Atlantic generally becomes a "washout" (for many ski areas) when the following occur: The season has reached the M. L. King holiday and there is little or no snow-base and no real cold weather in the 7 day forecast. The worst washout that I can remember was during the late 80's I believe (I'm jogging my memory a bit here), when a couple of ski areas in the mid-Atlantic actually closed for the season in early to mid Feb. This season appears to be headed for a washout unless there is a major change in the current weather patterns.....and SOON!
For me also the nearest thing to a washout I can recall, if memory serves me, was winter of '91-92. I lived near Massanutten at the time and skied there fairly often. Believe that is the year they opened the quad chair with Diamond Jim and Paradice trails. If I'm not mistaken, we had an extended late Jan warm spell and Massanutten actually closed for an extended period not long after the January debut of the Diamond Jim trail pod. Can't recall if they reopened the ski area later in Feb, but they might have. Here's a fascinating read about an accident and law suit that resulted in a precedent setting monetary award from that winter of discontent at Massanutten.
UUUHHH, the account of that accident gave me chills. Need to remember what we do all winter long isn't the safest pursuit. I still can't say i agree w/ the verdict.
Keep smilin' everyone. I've been hitting these slopes for over 25 years and have seen all sorts of goofy conditions. Keep your cool and your datebook open, it will happen. It always does!!!!!!!!
JimK, I remember that accident (exactly where it happened along DJ at Massanutten) and the resulting liability case as well. I think that the verdict was wrong and the award excessive. Some have speculated that the jury, being from the Norfolk, VA area, didn't have much of an understanding of the dangers inherent to snow skiing and, therefore was more likely to rule against the ski area. I have often wondered if the verdict would have been different had the jury been from a place like New England. Don't get me wrong, I feel really sorry for the person who was hurt so badly, but I just don't feel that it was anyone's fault. Needless to say that case was a bad break for Massanutten (fortunately, they make tons of additional money off of their time-share sales) and the ski industry as a whole.