In this installment I am going to hit three topics for the price of one.  First, I had a day on the snow last week that I don’t think I will ever forget.  I was in Salt Lake City for a trade show and snuck away to Park City for a day.  It is the first time I have been there since Park City Mountain Resort was combined with The Canyons.  The resulting seven mile WIDE network of trails, slopes and tree skiing is hard to fathom, but so was the amount of snow.  I haven’t seen that much snow on a mountain since I was (happily) stuck in four day storm in Austria more than 35 years ago.  Practically every turn made off the groomers last week was high shin to waist deep…just remarkable stuff.  And a hats off to Jonathan, the manager at Canyon Mountain Sports, who guided me to the fattest ski that I had ever used…and they worked like a charm!

Second, I need to sound off on something that has bugged me for some time.  Many of you know that I have been a snow condition reporter for almost 40 years now.  Along the way, I ran into some rather nefarious forms of snow reporting, where the “new snow” numbers didn’t match very well with Mother Nature’s output.  Well, the inaccuracies and obfuscation reached a new low this morning as I checked out the results of an overnight storm that started with a thump of snow across most of the Northeast but ended with a variety of precip types, including some rain, all the way to far northern New England.  I wanted to sneak in a late week day trip and was checking out “who got what” overnight.  I consulted the largest web site for snow conditions in the world (and to quote Billy Crystal’s Fernando from SNL…”and you know who you are”…) and what I found was in simple terms, a mess.

One column of the reports is dedicated to “Snowfall” and maybe that’s part of the problem as it should say “NEW Snowfall”.  You see, just about the entire region got 2 to as much as 9 inches of snow…before the other stuff came out of the sky.  I wanted to use the reports to determine the northern extent of where the garbage cut down on the snow total and then make a decision on a destination for the next day.  Unfortunately, the snowfall listed in the report ranged from 1 to 20 inches because the resorts listed snowfall for the past 1,2,3,4,5,6,or 7 days…there was absolutely no uniformity to the reports!!!  And I am not even taking into account that two other storms in the prior seven days also had other forms of precip.  Between the fact that there is no accounting for any sleet, freezing rain, or plain rain…as though it never happens…and the resorts seem to use any time frame they want, it makes it next to impossible to make an informed decision based on the reporting system as it is presented.  And I haven’t even included the practice of reporting one snowfall total for vertical drops of 1 to 3 thousand feet…funny, they always use the higher number from the summit.  Anyway, Caveat Emptor…we deserve better.

On to #3…the weather…and I will be briefer than usual.  The pattern has been changing to a colder one over the Northeast, but it has been slow…slower than I thought it would be a few weeks ago.  But, it IS changing.  This next week will see the temps trend down, but in terms of snowfall, there will only be weak systems racing from west to east, producing only snow showers with light accumulations in the mountains.  The week of the 6th will be colder than normal, and this frame of the jet stream shows part of the reason why…



This jet stream forecast for Sunday the 5th shows a direct feed of air from the northwest corner of the continent.  Counterclockwise flow around the trough over northeastern Canada is going to combine with clockwise circulation around the ridge building northward toward the Yukon, where the air is arriving from Siberia.  Here is a forecast for the temperature anomalies at 5,000 feet at that same time stamp…these temps act as a proxy for surface temps…

You can easily see the glide path from the Yukon to the Northeast on this slide.  Now, there is some risk of an extreme cold outbreak during the first half of February, but at a minimum, we shouldn’t have to worry about rain vs. snow too much early next month.  Longer term, I am bullish on the second half of the season and I will delve into that topic next time.  I know Festivus was last month, but thank you for the space for the Airing of Grievances…


  1. Richard Kavey says:

    Hi Herb, Snow reporting as well as ski area condition reports are strictly caveat emptor. However, the grand prize goes to Mt. Tremblant long before it’s presents owners. It was early winter. The report was “fair to good”. The reality was a couple of inches of fluff over bare ground and rock. When skiing scree flew everywhere and presented a ski surface of marble sized rollers that broke all stability from the ski. My friend skiing in front was throwing off enough sparks to start Armageddon. Now that’s fair to good skiing Tremblant style circa late 1960’s.

  2. Jack Mattern, owner of Frost Ridge Ski Are in the Rochester NY area, back in the late 60’s used to report “slippery grass” as part of his report.

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