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Ski Resort Life

Worst Winter Ever? Don't Despair. East Forecast Calls for Snow.

Vermont's pre-eminent weather guy expects cold temperatures and above-average snowfall from here on out. Get ready to ski.

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Just as denial, anger, bargaining, and depression are giving way to acceptance among Eastern skiers that this season is going to be hugest stinker ever, there’s reason for hope, possibly even joy, in the weather forecast.

“I would be optimistic heading into the end of this month and early February and March,” says Mark Breen, the senior meteorologist at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, Vt.

That’s right, Eastern skiers: Step away from the ledge.

Breen, well-known for his detailed “Eye on the Sky” forecasts, heard far and wide on Vermont Public Radio, expects that skiers will have to suffer through one more warm weekend, and he says there’ll likely be the usual January Thaw at the end of the month—but only a brief one. Other than that, winter’s on its way.

“The weather pattern has already started to rearrange itself. The phenomenally warm weather of November and December are done, and I don’t see a repeat of that for the rest of the winter.”

Breen says long-range computer models correctly predicted the depressing warmth of the past two months and that those same models call for the type of “blocking”— with cold temps and low pressure stalled over New England—that snow lovers love most.

Breen is a student of weather history who can tick off the record-snowy winters without referring to notes. Historically, warm starts can still result in snowy finishes, he says.

“I’m thinking of the years 1957-58 and 1964-65, which featured some very mild Decembers and early Januarys and then some terrific snowstorms, including one in February of ’58 that for a long time was the standard to measure all storms against. That’s not a forecast, but the ingredients are there. … I think by the middle and end of next week and into the following week we’ll see better opportunities for snow and more consistent cold.”

The annual Thaw, which Eastern skiers expect and dread, “won’t be too long or too warm, and then the pattern reinvigorates for the better part of February. So like I said, there’s still reason to be optimistic as far as snow and good skiing. It’s just going to be a later season.”

Breen says El Nino winters can vary widely in the East. “It’s not a one-flavor kind of winter for us. Different El Ninos produce very different winters here. They can be this kind in some cases, like in ’82-83, when it continued this way all winter. But El Nino also produced the tremendous winter of ’76-77, which was long, cold, and snowy.”

In the East, it’s more about what’s going on in the Atlantic. “Ocean temps in the Atlantic often play a role in what’s called blocking, which is when general areas of either stormy or fair weather get stuck. If you get stuck in a succession of cold temps and storms coming up the coast, everyone’s happy. Well, all the snow lovers are happy. Right now the temperatures in the Atlantic are favoring high pressure over Greenland. When you get that, it tends to keep colder air better established over us.”

So here’s to mild, sunny weather for Greenlanders. And for Eastern skiers, it might be time to call off the suicide watch. 

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