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Ski Resort Life

Roemer's Weekly Weather report: Jan. 13, 2003


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As El Nino weakens, cold weather will invade eastern U.S. with more snow. Important snows coming for Colorado/Wyoming, while warmer, drier weather is coming for the Cascade and Sierra Mountain Ranges. Last fall, because of El Nino, other meteorologists were expecting a stellar ski season in much of the Rockies with a warmer than normal weather across much of the eastern United States. We happened to disagree because of how weak El Nino appeared and because of the unusual warm ocean currents streaming northward into the Gulf of Alaska.

We presented an argument in our November newsletter—Let’sTalkWeather (on my web site)—as to why we were worried that Colorado and Utah may not have that good of a start to the ski season and that the east could see well above normal snowfall. One of the reasons we felt this was because of the incredibly warm ocean temperatures moving northward in the Gulf of Alaska. When that happens, cold air is often deflected southward from the arctic tundra and away from Alaska into the eastern halfof the U.S. For the next 10-15 days, much of the eastern U.S. will see some of the coldest January weather in several years. This is atypical of El Nino and is a sign that this weather phenomena may be dying.

Our map today illustrates the western snowpack as of January 1st.Though this has changed somewhat in the last two weeks, one can see how the Cascades, Sierras, parts of Idaho and New Mexico have been the beneficiary of above normal snow (blue), while much of the central Rockies have had below normal snow-pack (yellow-red).The white areas illustrate general normal snowpack, as is the case over Squaw Valley/Tahoe and along the spine of the Cascadesand Sierras (near the west coast) where skiing has been decent.

This chart may be a little deceiving since ski resorts such as Mt. Hood (Oregon), Mt. Shasta, Grand Targhee and Jackson Hole, Wy., have had great skiing conditions and normal to above normal snowfall, but the chart is showing a lot of red/yellow (dry). However, it will give one a general idea that much of the west has been in the midst of below normal snowfall and that El NIno is not everything that other’s have hoped for; especially over parts of Colorado and Utah. However, the month of December was one of the snowiest ever at such ski resorts as Alpine Meadows Calif., and Whistler, B.C.. In fact, Whistler/Blackcomb received a stellar 10 feet of snow last month.


The good news this week is that Colorado will be in the batter’s box for some important mid week snows. Powerhorn, Colo., just received close to a foot and a half of snow and many resorts such as Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge, Keystone and Steamboat have a good chance to receive more than a foot of snow this week. This is pretty critical, because until recently, ski conditions in Colorado have been marginal.

The eastern slopes of the Grand Tetons may also get nailed with some heavy mid week snows as bitter arctic air slides south into Alberta Tuesday and into Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado by mid-week. Skiing will be awesome at Jackson Hole and Grand Targhee.

Sun Valley is seeing some great skiing with the recent snow and more is likely early this week before a drying trend sets in. In fact, for much of the west, a period of much drier weather will return Friday through the weekend. In fact, above normal temperatures will be the rule for the Cascades, Sierras and the Heavenly-Squaw Valley area, a region that has seen above normal snowfall the last few weeks. If you are headed out to Utah, some snowfall has fallen recently improving conditions some. I do see 3-8″ around Alta, Snowbird and Park City by Wednesday. However, I see generally a return to below normal snowfall in Utah this next week with temperatures returning to above normal levels by Friday into the weekend. So if you want some fresh powder in Utah, you better hit the slopes the first half of the week.

Heli-skiing in B.C. has improved by the recent snows. Early mid-week snows of up to 8-18″ will be likely across most of B.C.

We will see temperatures drop below zero at Lake Louise-Sunshine Village-Banff under mostly sunny skies eaarly-mid week. The next chance for important snows here will occur around the 18th or 19th.

In the eastern United States, there is no change in the active weather pattern with below normal temperatures. Several important weather systems will bring 1-4″ inches of snow Monday night and again on Wednesday-Thursday from Whiteface to Stowe/Smuggler’s Notch, Jay Peak, Sugarbush/Mad River Glen into northern New Hampshire and Maine. Skiing is outstanding in many of these areas.

Quebec, which has seen below normal snowfall recently, will be the beneficiary of some improving Snowfall—partly from bitter cold air sweeping in off the Great Lakes and also from a couple Alberta Clippers. There may be a major storm along the east coast sometime between the 18th-21st, but for now, lake effect and Alberta Clipper type snows will be the rule with 1-4″ every couple days.

Hunter Mtn, Killington, Mt. Snow and many other southern New England ski resorts are seeing one of their finest winters ever, and I see no change in the overall cold pattern there with normal to above normal snowfall,especially after January 20th.

Ski conditions have improved some in eastern Europe but remain marginal over most of France, Switzerland and Austria.

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