Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2016 provided an opportunity to get out and enjoy the snow.
Sometimes the last day of a holiday week can be the best day for others.
Such was the case for this Christmas/New Year’s season at Stratton Mountain Resort in Vermont.
This season has been tough. No one disputes that. But people still want to get out on the slopes.
I was able to make two trips to Stratton during the Christmas/New Years break. The first was on December 30th, a Wednesday, and again on January 3rd, a Sunday.
Wednesday was very active with masses of season pass holders coming out after Storm Goliath rolled through. Goliath had subsided significantly by the time it hit central Vermont and only left with a few inches of natural snow.
Seething with the pent up demand pass holders headed out in droves to get some of what they have been yearning for. Conditions were good where there was snow but the lack natural snow and warm and humid weather had limited snowmaking. This resulted in only a few lifts being operated. The gondola was not running. I think it had to do with the layer of ice on the towers and cables from some freezing rain that Goliath left. Wise move, safety first!
The result was long lift lines. Everyone seemed to be taking it in stride though. They seemed glad to be out and on their boards and skis.
Fast forward to four days to Sunday.
Those who had booked the week had appeared to had left town, or were packing to leave. Driving up Route 30 I saw several vehicles loaded up with skis, boards and boxes on their roofs.
The Mountain seemed like a different place than it was a few days earlier.. The lodge was less crowded with ample seating and room to change.
The crowds were gone and so were the lift lines. The gondola was open and was essentially a walk on. While ski school participants were lined up for the American Express Lift the line moved quickly.
|Two views of the Ursa Express. On the left December 30th. On the right January 3rd.|
The Ursa Express, which had a 30-minute line on Wednesday, was down to three minutes. By noon there was no line and the lifties went about their chores without ensuring that every single chair had six people.
Snow conditions were better too. A few more days of cold weather allowed for more snowmaking that continued on the upper mountain. Although some up the upper expert trails like Tamarack and Polar Bear got a little scraped off by 1:00, good snow was found on Upper and Lower East Meadow and Lower Wanderer up until 3:00.
You should know that Stratton Mountain is the home of the Great Snow Guarantee: “On any day, ski or ride for one hour from the start of your day (time at which you bought your lift ticket – ticket is time stamped); if you are not satisfied with the snow conditions bring your ticket to guest services and receive a voucher for the same type of ticket good until the end of the current season.”
So if you can start your vacation, or take a day trip on the last day of the a school vacation, Stratton, or any other mountain will be a different place.
For more information visit http://www.stratton.com
|Some video from Stratton Mountain from Janary 3rd.|
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!
I met Time Warner Cable News Meteorologist Mike Bono while skiing at Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, New York last week.
So I said, “Mike, what’s up with this warm weather?”.
Here is what he said:
The direct cause of the warm weather is a warm atmosphere over the eastern US. Primarily responsible for that is the positioning of the jet stream, which usually separates warm and cold air masses aloft. That’s 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. With the jet stream 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. We usually get snow when the low center moves just to our south and there’s cold air wrapped around to the north. Time Warner Cable News Chief Meteorologist Mike Bono
So, positioning of the storm tracks and the cold air to the north and west has moved the snow in that direction, leaving us with rain or nothing on the other, warm side of the storm track. Occasionally a colder high pressure system moves in behind a front for a couple of days, but things haven’t synched up for the right combination to produce snow.
Going a step further in causality, we have a very strong El Nino in place right now. That’s
abnormally warm water in much of the eastern Pacific, which is translating to warm air
there too, steering the jet stream in the directions I’ve talked about across the continent.
By the way, they’ve had some very heavy rain storms on the West Coast with snow at
elevation and the Rockies have been catching a lot of early season snow too. The northern Plains have been going back and forth between cold and snow and warm and dry.
If you think it sounds hard to explain what has happened and what we have now, it would be at least as difficult to accurately figure out how the rest of the season will play out.
Looks like, with brief variations to colder, we’ll probably stay on the mild side through Christmas.
Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, New York recently opened the Taste NY Café in the recently constructed solarium in the base lodge. The café menu showcases fresh, locally sourced from New York State products including yogurts, cheese and charcuterie, pastries, snacks, wine and a selection cold, local beers on draft.
The Cafe features New York State Macintosh Apple Spice Muffins and New York City bagels from Davidovich Bakery from Woodside, NY.
Also highlighted are milk, yogurt and cheeses from the North Country Creamery from Keeseville, NY. North Country Creamery features 100% grassfed, Non-GMO, & Animal Welfare Approved diary products. All products are feature local herbs, maple syrup & organic extracts–no added colors or stabilizers.
Davidovich bagels with cream cheese from the North Country Creamery makes for a great breakfast.
The solarium offers additional seating in a bright space complete with a coffee bar, free Wi-Fi internet and numerous outlets for charging electronics.
Someone didn’t tell the folks at Killington Mountain Resort that it is the end of March.
My visit on March 27th reminded me of mid winter conditions. Except for temperatures in the high 20s, (darn right balmy for this season) one would think it was the beginning of February. There continues to be piles of the white stuff around. And, in true Beast of the East fashion, it snowed before we got there.
Grooming is still in full swing and if you want bumps they are there too.
We had some great runs on Escapade, Ovation and Superstar on Killington Peak. We moved over Bear Mountain and had a couple of great runs on Wildfire. The bumps on Outer Limits were too much for me. The same held true for the woods on Big dipper. I can take the steeps, but just not the big bumps. Never could, and I am not going to learn now.
It continues to boggle my mind why people rush to the mountain in the fall with marginal conditions but fail to hit the slopes late season when the coverage is good, the sun is higher and the temperatures are warmer. Friends and family start asking me before Thanksgiving if I have been out yet. I tell them “I can wait”.
Get out and enjoy Killington. They’ll be going until May easily even if the grass at home is greening up.
It’s no surprise that after a winter of successive snow dumps Mt. Sunapee in New Hampshire continues to have good snow coverage. The longer days and higher sun of March, along with some warm days, has diminished the snow pack some, but there is still plenty of snow on the trails.
We skied Sunapee on March 20th and the tight grip that old man winter has had all year still existed. Although it was overcast the skiing and riding conditions were pretty like one would find in January and February. There was still plenty of coverage on trails. When we looked into the woods there was plenty of white stuff too.
Due to the thaws and freezes over the past week the woods were off limits because they were mostly bulletproof. With no major warmups projected for the next week or so they will remain that way. The trick is going to be getting on the mountain when the temperature gets warm enough to soften them up. This might require ducking out of work or school to work on a goggle tan!
Mt. Sunapee’s views are still some of the best in the east. The vista of Lake Sunapee continues to impress. From the summit the trails on Stratton, Okemo and Killington are clearly visible.
The Sunbowl Express on the north side is a welcome improvement to the prior lift, this detachable quad, acquired from Okemo, has resulted in significantly shorter lift lines and a faster ride back to the top.
There still needs to be a easier way to get on to Upper Cataract from the North Side though. Stay tuned. We understand that is in the works along with several other substantial improvements. It will be interesting to see how Mt. Sunapee maintains the balance of trails, uphill capacity and parking when they are done.