With nothing but clear skies in the alpine and persistent valley fog under an inversion this past week, claiming 5cm of new snow seemed at first just typical marketing BS by Red Mountain Resort, or perhaps a new policy to count the results of snow-making into their results. But the weird thing is, there actually is that much new snow all around the base area. I did some research into what might might be going on, and the closest I tell is that we’re experiencing unusually heavy pogonip. The word pogonip is a meteorological term used to describe an uncommon occurrence: frozen fog. The word was coined by Native Americans to describe the frozen fogs of fine ice needles that occur in the mountain valleys of the western United States in December. Interestingly researchers in the UK found that most cases of the frozen fog were linked to some sort of human activity, like a local factory or plant–that released moisture into the freezing sky and that became snow. Given that Red’s snow making guns have been running 24/7 of late, it’s not that much of a stretch to conclude that in these atmospheric conditions, Red’s snow making is seeding the fog and actually producing snowfall across a much wider area than ever intended.
Category Archives: Eclectica
While we’re still another significant snowfall away from being able to open, I’ve been finding places to wiggle around in the sunshine.
One week we’re enduring apocalyptic smoke and heat, then suddenly a deluge washes it all away, the temperature drops, leaves start falling, and thoughts turn to the coming winter. Any skier paying attention to the mainstream media couldn’t help but be depressed by endless talk of a strong El Nino and predictions of a warmer and drier winter. After such a mediocre snow season last year, it’s almost enough to consider taking up fat biking. We are going to experience an El Nino winter, but as an obsessive weather geek it seems all this doom and gloom forecasting is misdirected. The American NOAA provides detailed modelling http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/precip/CWlink/ENSO/enso.anal.shtml of El Nino’s historic impact on our (actually 10km to the South) weather, which leads to very different conclusions.
Jan – Mar precipitation anomaly records from 1950 – 2002 clearly show that while the Seattle area averages less precipitation in El Nino years, there is no consistent variation from normal for North Eastern Washington. The same applies for moderate to strong El Ninos. For temperature there is on average no change in El Nino years, while an average of approximately one degree centigrade increase in temperature in moderate to strong El Ninos. Compared to the two to four degree warming we experienced last year due to the Blob http://cliffmass.blogspot.ca/2015/09/godzilla-el-nino-versus-blob-who-will.html this isn’t a significant cause for concern.
I’m expecting a normal snowy winter, with as good a chance as not of an above average winter at Red mountain as per the last two strong El Ninos in 1982/83 and 1997/98 http://bestsnow.net/summ98.htm .
Surfers are familiar with the self characterization of being a storm rider. It acknowledges the unpredictable role of distant storms, that create the swells, which travel great distances before breaking as waves on distant shores, to finally be ridden by patient and dedicated surfers. As skiers, our lives are also intrinsically linked to these same storms, forming over and circulating around the North Pacific, and periodically pushing inland to dump their load of precipitation. Like whorls in a mountain stream, there can be an illusion of order, but weather is defined by its unpredictable, ungraspable, endlessly morphing naturalness. Modern life creates a curious disassociation with all that is natural. We’re becoming ever more accustomed to comfort and certainty, in a superficial and predictable artificial reality that mirrors the paucity of our limited imaginations. Skiing is an antidote. Weather and geography combine in almost limitless combinations to both pleasure and to challenge us, but we’re up the task. We bring our practiced technique, our physical conditioning, positive attitude, hard earned knowledge of where to be and when, and gear that almost makes it too easy, and we ski. Not because it’s always soft and smooth and sunny, but because it’s a joyful dance that connects us to the people we share it with, and to the limitless incomprehensible reality beyond ourselves, in whatever the day brings.
This winter hasn’t provided the continual powder skiing we all crave, but there have been great days, and just about every day there’s been some fun skiing to be done. The storms keep rolling in, month after month, year after year, sometimes snowy and cold, sometimes not, and as long as my body is able, I’ll be here to ride them.
While waiting for this very welcome snow to accumulate, I’ve been geeking out on snowfall statistics, and thought it’d be interesting to calculate what is the actual average annual snowfall at Red Mountain. The Resort publicizes the 300″ figure, but even by their own inflated figures we haven’t got close to that amount in recent history. Tony Crocker at BestSnow credits Red with 275″ per year, but even that seems a bit high. So I made up a spreadsheet, correlating Red’s figures, Tony Crocker’s data, and Rossland snowfall data back to 1905, made a few assumptions, and came up with some interesting results.
10 year average: 203″.
20 year average: 214″.
30 year average: 200″
40 year average: 204″.
We almost always get something in the range of 150″ – 250″, with extremely rare drought years (1977 and 1992) and the occasional powderfests (1975,1983, 1997, and 1999). With 118″ by the end of January, we’re having an average year.
It can be a challenge to stay warm skiing on these minus 20 degree mornings. Obviously having appropriate gear is key, but I find that dressing fully in the warmth of my home and raising my core temperature before venturing out, makes a huge difference. This involves driving in my ski boots. which I actually do everyday regardless of the conditions. When the topic occasionally comes up in conversation, people invariably respond that such a practice is either impossibly difficult, irresponsible, or illegal, which is all nonsense. I don’t find driving my manual truck is even slightly challenging (no different than heavy work boots and likely easier than high-heels), and there is nothing in the motor vehicle act (which I just browsed) that even mentions footwear. It’s only a 5 minute drive to Red, but I’ll often drive an hour to Kootenay Pass in my touring boots. If nothing else I’m sure not to forget them.