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The Skiing Weatherman Conditions Report: February 13-16

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Herb Stevens, GoLocalWorcester's Skiing Weatherman

I hope you were able to get out on the slopes over the weekend, because the slopes and trails of the northeast were in their best condition of the season thus far, thanks in large part to the major snowstorm of last Wednesday.

If you weren’t able to make the trip to the hills, I hope you at least skied or rode vicariously by watching coverage of the Olympics! The downhill has always been my favorite event of any Olympics, and this year’s men’s course was amazing…3,600+ feet of vertical drop over more than two miles covered in a little more than two minutes. The next time you visit Whiteface in Lake Placid—the east’s largest mountain in terms of vertical drop at 3,166 feet—just pause by the start of the access road, raise your eyes 400 feet or so above the top of the highest lift, and then imagine skiing from that point to the base lodge in about two minutes. It just doesn’t seem possible.

Now, closer to home…

This week, a short wave trough at the jet stream level traversed the country from the Pacific Northwest, across the plains and Mississippi Valley and into the Southeast. By now, the northern and southern branches of the jet stream will have started to phase together and it looks as though low pressure will form in the northern Gulf of Mexico and head across the southeast and head up the coast.

This storm will not be one that cuts up west of the mountains and sweeps warm air into the region. It will be a coastal storm, so we don’t have to worry about rain/sleet/freezing rain on the slopes, and the potential is there for a significant snowfall in the resorts of the Northeast for today and into tomorrow. Coastal regions could see a changeover to rain, but this has the makings of a nice snowfall producer in the hills and mountains…just in time for the President’s Day vacation period that will get underway this weekend. It is not etched in stone that this storm will take the best track for northeast snow, but it looks quite promising to me. If the threat fizzles, it will likely be caused by a track that is too far offshore.

Even if the storm does not deliver the goods, it appears as though a system will come rolling along in the northern branch of the jet stream over the weekend and it should be able to produce a light to moderate snowfall to most of the region’s resorts. Temperatures will remain cold enough to sustain packed powder for the foreseeable future.

Longer term…

The jet stream will gradually become more zonal in nature next week. A “zonal flow” is one that flows from west to east across the continent. That sort of configuration will allow Pacific air to spread across the country, which will lead to a bit of a warm-up during the second half of next week and through next weekend. It does not look like a major thaw, but a spell of 5 or 6 days when temperatures will be above normal. That could be a bit of a problem if a storm system decides to come along at that time, as it could result in a messy mix or precipitation types. Usually, though, a zonal flow is rather benign in terms of storms, though.

Interestingly, one of the analogs that I have leaned on much of this winter, 1993-1994, also had a brief warm-up in the middle of February before colder weather returned. By the time we reach the week of the 24th, I think we will be looking at the return of colder than normal air as a new upper level trough takes shape over eastern North America. The transition back to a cold regime could get underway with a messy event that turns to snow, but until then, we are looking pretty good.

So in summary, the slopes are in outstanding shape, trail counts and the sun angle are up, and another sizable storm appears to be in the cards this week. Sounds like a good time to carve out some time for a trip to the slopes!

Special events of interest

Sugarloaf, ME: Kagan Cup 2/14-2/16 Moguls, half pipe and Slopestyle competition…2/15 Maine Heritage Ski Classic

King Pine, NH: Sweetheart Race 2/15, Trivia Scavenger Hunt 2/16

Cranmore, NH: Fireworks 2/15

Attitash, NH: Big Air 2/15

Mount Sunapee, NH: Heart Hunt on the slopes 2/14

Wachusett Mt., MA: USASA Slopestyle 2/15

Ragged Mt., NH: $14 lift tickets 2/14 (online purchase only)

Crotched Mt., NH: Midnight Madness 2/14—ski or ride until 3 am


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