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The Skiing Weatherman Conditions Report: February 19-23

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Herb Stevens, GoLocalWorcester's Skiing Weatherman

President’s Day week is in full swing at the resorts across the Northeast. Hundreds and hundreds of school districts are on vacation, and that is great news for the resorts, as they are now sporting their best conditions of this season. In fact, they are about as good as they can get, thanks to the snowy pattern that has dominated the region this month. A warm-up is on the way, but it won’t last long, and longer term, the season looks as though it is going to go flying into March with no signs of letting up.

I have been taping Skiing Weatherman reports for 27 years, totaling more than 500 “shoot days” on the snow. During that time, I have had the good fortune and good timing to shoot the segment in the midst of a true powder day less than a dozen times. For sure, I have been on the snow with snow in the air more times than I could ever count…probably more than half the time…but shoots in heavy snowfall and deep powder have been rare. Last week, I hit the powder lottery when my hard working cameraman, David Huot, and I visited Mt. Sutton in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. The snow fell at 2 to 3 inches per hour for the entire day, and every turn felt as though it was being made on a pillow. In this age of sometimes obsessive grooming, it is nice to get out on a mountain and have more of a sense of “me against Mother Nature”, and that is exactly how I felt last Friday…it was a truly memorable day.

The Mt. Sutton experience

If you saw a report from Mt. Sutton that I filed late last season, I said at that time that Sutton is my favorite resort of the more than 400 that I have visited through the years, and it is. More than half the terrain is gladed (“su bois” in French) and the trail/glade layout is so natural…it looks as though nothing more than a few teaspoons of dirt were moved when the trails were laid out more than 50 years ago. There is everything from gentle green circle glades to runs with very tight trees, large rocks, and small cliff bands that you can launch off, if you wish. There are 60 named runs, but the ability to combine pieces of so many different runs on a trip down the mountain gives you the sense of never taking two runs that resemble each other at all. The snow is very dependable at Sutton, due to their location well to the north…but less than 10 miles from the U.S. border…but also because of the tendency for upslope flow snow showers when a cold northwesterly wind develops. The micro meteorology is very similar to nearby Jay Peak, Vermont…the glade skiing is every bit as good as the much more well-known Jay, and you don’t have to hike to get to any of it!

The skiing and riding is the highlight of the Sutton experience, but your time off the hill will be very enjoyable, as well. The town of Sutton is a very friendly place, with a terrific collection of restaurants, shops and pubs, with lodging options ranging from cozy B & B’s to 5 star digs with indoor pools. If you have a sweet tooth, you have to stop in to La Rumeur Affamee on Main Street. They have a fantastic assortment of cakes, breads, and cookies, but you have to try the maple sugar pie and Guinness infused cheddar cheese. A couple of doors away is the Pub Mocador, a spot where locals congregate, but also where you will find one of the best ski resort burgers that I have ever enjoyed. One of my favorite Sutton restaurants is Auberge a la Fontaine, also located on the main route through town, about a block south of the base of the 3 mile access road to the ski area. The food is excellent, with a nice mix of standard American fare and French Canadian offerings. There is a very inviting and attractive bar area, with more than a dozen stools for drinking, eating, or both. Throughout the seating area, the crackling of the fireplace serves as soothing background noise. On this trip, we stayed at Gite aux Douceurs Matinales, a terrific B & B about a quarter mile south of La Fontaine…if you are starting to get the idea that everything in town is close by, you are correct. When we pulled into the B & B and saw an old chair from a “retired” lift sitting on the front lawn, I knew we were in the right place! The last time I visited Sutton, I stayed at Le Domaine Tomali-Maniatyn, a magnificent wooden three-story structure that sits on a hill a couple of hundred feet above the access road…roughly halfway up the hill to the ski area base lodge. The building itself is a sight to behold, constructed of massive beams with enormous windows that afford stunning views of the valley below. The lodge has a roughly 35 by 20 foot indoor salt water pool that is great for sore muscles after a day of turning through the maples and pines up on the hill. These are just some of the reasons why you should make it a point to visit Mt. Sutton…March is the BEST month to head north of the border…just remember to bring your passport because you won’t get across the border without it.

This week

The memories of Sutton will linger a long time, but now it is time to look forward. This week is starting out with high pressure over the Northeast, and the combination of superb snow, plentiful sunshine, and light winds makes this about as good a President’s Day holiday as skiers and riders could hope for. A fast moving system that is bringing snow to Chicago today (Monday) will move through the east on Tuesday, spreading light snow across the region. Most locations in New York and New England will pick up 2 to 4 inches, with the lighter amounts found well to the north…the track of the compact area of low pressure center will be from west to east just below the southern New England coastline. Once that low moves into the Maritimes on Tuesday night, a milder west to east flow of air will set up over the eastern United States. The warm-up will turn out to be fairly dramatic for a few days later this week from the Poconos southward, but across the Northeast, the impact will be more limited. The reason? Well, a series of fast moving, small scale systems will run along the U.S. Canadian border later this week, and each one will pull a small chunk of cooler air southward as it passes by. Not exceptionally cold, mind you, but cool enough to keep the daytime highs from running up and cool enough to allow overnight temperatures to drop below freezing. On the front side of these systems, a southwesterly flow of air will help boost temperatures above normal, and each one will produce a mix of rain and snow, with the far northern and higher elevation locations most likely to see snow. Lower elevation areas will likely see the surface snow become more moist, but with daytime temperatures remaining above freezing into the weekend, the snow will still be very carveable…it will not turn to linoleum as we saw happen a couple of other times this winter.

Longer term…

Later this weekend, a cold front will pass through the region that will signal a return to winter weather. A new upper level trough will form over the eastern half of the country and replace the flat jet stream flow that will dominate this week. The week of the 24th looks cold and potentially snowy once again, and the general pattern of an eastern trough and below normal temperatures will remain in place as we move into March. Remember, though, that the slopes are getting more comfortable with each passing day, due to higher sun angles, longer days, and slowly rising “normal” temperatures. It will turn milder this week, but all indications are that winter has a long ways to go on the slopes and trails of the Northeast.


Related Slideshow: Winter Activities

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508 Oblong Road, Williamstown, MA. (413) 884-4246. 

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9 Route 183, Stockbridge, MA. (413) 298-4100. 

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1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge, MA. (800) 733-1830.

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