Several Pineapple Expresses have been rolling into the Western United States dumping the snow that was missing last year. Resorts from Washington State to Colorado got out early and the base is piling up.
As of the first week in December there was over six feet of snow in Steven’s Pass in Washington. The quick dumping and temperature changes have led to dangerous avalanche conditions according to the North West Avalanche Center. The danger has been exacerbated by wind slabs and storm slabs.
Meanwhile back east, not so much.
Killington Mountain Resort in Vermont was the first resort out of the gun opening on October 18th with Sunday River opening the next day. Since then it has been difficult for reports to add to the base and skiable acreage.
According to Sarah Wojcik from Ski Vermont eleven resorts in Vermont have been open this December, including two Nordic resorts. "While the weather has not been cooperative in terms of natural snow, resorts were able to make snow in November and early December to open about 1000 acres of terrain in Vermont" said Wojcik. "Vermont areas have been able to maintain their acreage. When temperatures return to normal areas are ready get back the base as the Vermont resorts have about 80% snowmaking coverage" said Wojcik.
Resorts in the east have struggled with a bi-polar mother nature. The weather has been strange according to Aaron Kellet the manager of Whiteface Mountain in New York’s Adirondacks. “It’s cold, then warm, but it’s the humidity that is inhibiting the snowmaking. We have had some humidity levels over 90 percent and we just can’t keep at it.” Another challenge has been temperature inversions. “It has been warmer at the top at times and the snowmaking staff have been chasing the temperatures and the humidity.”
Despite less than optimum temperature for snowmaking and little natural snow Whiteface has been able to offer over 2400 feet of vertical one a couple of trails. There are plans to open the Whiteface Parks area on Broadway over the weekend.
Resorts are not the only ones feeling the effects of the warm temperatures according to Scott Brandi, president of Ski Areas of New York. Retailers are having challenges too he said. “After last year’s banner season in the east many retailers have stocked up on clothing and equipment. Without snow in backyards or mountains many consumers are holding off on purchases. It if goes on too long retailers will be forced to place items on sale, and there goes their margins”, said Brandi.
Mike Bono, Chief Meteorologist from Time Warner Cable in Albany says the direct cause of the warm weather is a warm atmosphere over the eastern US caused by the positioning of the jet stream, which usually separates warm and cold air masses aloft. "The "jet" has been dipping down in the West with plenty of stormy weather, heavy rain and snow in that part of the nation much of the fall going further north than usual in the east, that puts us on the warm side here, keeping our atmosphere warmer than average with low pressure/ storm tracks going north of us. That takes the snowy side of the lows well to our north and northwest" said Bono.
In the meantime there is skiing and riding out there. Call ahead or check on the conditions on-line before you head out.
Hang in there, colder weather and snow will come!