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The Skiing Weatherman Conditions Report: March 19-23

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Herb Stevens, GoLocalWorcester's Skiing Weatherman

Very often, when we reach St. Patrick’s Day, the attention of skiers and riders starts to turn to other pursuits such as tennis, golf, bike riding, or gardening. The lift lines start to shrink as a mild day pops up here and there, followed by a stretch of several days that feel warm as soon as you walk out the door. Pretty soon, you’re stowing away the skis or the board for the summer, even though the mountains are still buried with snow.

This year, it doesn’t look as though those warm weather “distractions” are going to be viable for quite some time, as we are in the midst of what is a remarkable run of late winter/early spring weather. The first day of astronomical spring is this Thursday, but the weather doesn’t appear to have any interest in transitioning to spring warmth any time soon. In fact, I think we are headed for perhaps the coldest final week of March in the past 50 years, thanks mostly to an unrelenting upper level trough that has spent most of the winter parked over east-central Canada.

The counter-clockwise flow around that trough has tapped arctic and Siberian air much of this winter, helped by an anomalously warm pool of water over the northeastern Pacific Ocean that has promoted an upper level ridge over western Canada. The circulation around the ridge is clockwise, so it works in tandem with the trough to dig into the cold air sitting over the higher latitudes. As anyone who lives by the ocean knows, it takes a long time for water to change its’ temperature, and as long as that warm pool sits there, it will promote the set-up that delivers cold air.

In addition, the snow cover over the eastern half of Canada is very deep…anywhere from 30 to 60 inches…and that will continue to refrigerate the air before it sweeps into the U.S., which the jet stream will tend to do for the foreseeable future.

Not only will the eastern trough keep it colder than normal, it will provide the foundation for potential late season snowfalls. The southern branch of the jet stream has been more active the past few weeks, although the northeast has missed out on a couple of storms because the northwesterly flow has been too strong, thus suppressing the storm track. In order to spin up a major storm, you have to get the two branches to work together, or phase.

A burst of westerly winds in the tropical pacific this month continues, and that is an indication that the southern branch will remain energized. The storm track migrates northward as we move into spring, so although the northeast whiffed on the storm that has brought Washington D.C. a white St. Patrick’s Day, the odds favor above normal snowfall in this part of the country over the next few weeks…a blockbuster storm is a threat, too, due to the energetic pattern we are in.

The cold weather has another benefit for skiers and riders…it allows the groomers to continue to work the magic with their machines. When nighttime lows do not drop well below freezing, the snow can’t support the weight of the machines as easily, and when surfaces morph into mashed potatoes as it turns warmer, there comes a time when the grooming is done strictly by traffic. That means some pretty ugly surface conditions on those mornings when the temperature drops low enough to cause the snow to stiffen up but doesn’t permit the Pisten Bulleys to create corduroy. I have no worries about the mashed potato season developing for several more weeks, at least. Rather, I think you should keep your eyes open for late season powder days, because I would be very surprised if we get out of the current pattern without at least one, if not two or three significant snow events in the mountains between now and mid-April. Easter is late this year, but the resorts that are committed to staying open until then…or beyond…should have conditions more than worth your consideration for spring break. With so much frost in the ground and more very cold weather on the table, golf courses and gardens are going to be muddy much later than normal, so grab some sunscreen, load up your boards, and make plans for great late season sliding.

Special events of interest

Wachusett Mtn., MA: Cardboard Box Race and Deck Party 3/22

Cranmore Mtn., NH: Spring Splash 3/22, Gaper Jam 3/23

King Pine, NH: Cardboard Box Derby 3/23

Attitash, NH: Spring Mania Grandstand Mogul Jam 3/22

Cannon Mtn., NH: 2nd Annual Old School Duel & Retro 80’s Day 3/22

Loon Mtn., NH: Battle of the Bumps 3/22, Cardboard Box Race 3/23

Waterville Valley, NH: Howl at the Moon Big Air Under the Lights 3/22


Related Slideshow: 14 New England Snow Tubing Spots

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Ski Ward

Great for Worcester families, Ski Ward is the perfect destination for everything snow. On any given day, there are over 200 tubes, up to 8 snow tubing lanes in operation, and 2 lifts to bring you back up for another slide down Ward Hill! This year, Ski Ward is celebrating their 75th anniversary, and it’s no secret what has kept them open so long. For a deal, head over on Tuesdays—on the 1st Tuesday of the month tickets are only $7.50 (for their 75th anniversary), and all other Tuesdays tickets will be $19.39 (that’s the year they opened their doors!).

1000 Main Street, Shrewsbury, MA. (508) 842-6346.

Photo: James Emery/Flickr

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Another New England ski area that is celebrating an anniversary this year is RI's Yawgoo Valley Ski Area and Sports Park—they turn 50! Visit Rhode Island’s only ski area to help them celebrate. For only $12, enjoy a 50-minute session of tubing fun! After tubing, head to the snow tubing park’s concession stand to grab a hot chocolate and thaw out!

160 Yawgoo Valley Road, Exeter, RI. (401) 294-3802.

Photo: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism/Flickr

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Nashoba Valley

Also turning 50 this year is Nashoba Valley Ski Area in Westford, MA. Open seven days and seven nights all season long, this is the perfect place to get your snow fix. Fly down up to eighteen groomed lanes, serviced by four lifts to minimize wait time. If you need a break to fuel up, visit the onsite snow tubing park lodge, featuring a full bar, TVs, and a warm place to relax.

79 Powers Road, Westford, MA. (978) 692-3033.

Photo: Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism/Flickr

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Ski Butternut

The Berkshire region of Massachusetts is ideal for a winter getaway. At about an hour and a half drive from Worcester and a two-hour drive from Providence, it is close enough to make a day trip out of it, but the area’s beauty will make you forget you’re so close to home. In the Berkshire town of Great Barrington, you will find Ski Butternut on East Mountain. The price is right for a great tubing experience—only $20 for two hours. This park features 8 tubing lanes, 7 chutes, 200 tubes, an old fashioned handle lift, and 100% snowmaking coverage.

380 State Road, Rte. 23, Great Barrington, MA. (413) 528-2000.

Photo: Alon Banks/Flickr

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Amesbury Sports Park

When many people think of northeastern Massachusetts, they think of the beaches and dunes. Well, the town of Amesbury boasts something a little different: Amesbury Sports Park. During the winter, they are 100% dedicated to snow tubing fun on their lanes—the hill is the steepest tubing hill in the state.

12 S Hunt Road, Amesbury, MA. (978) 388-5788.

Photo: Ines Hegedus-Garcia/Flickr

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Mount Snow

Vermont is known for their pristine 4-season scenery, their mountains, their maple syrup, and so much more. One winter thrill that is a Vermont do-not-miss is snow tubing! Check out the park at Mount Snow in West Dover. The hill is one of the largest available for snow tubing in the state, and is always covered with plenty of snow, even when there is none in your back yard.

39 Mount Snow Road, West Dover, VT. (802) 245-SNOW.

Photo: John Benson/Flickr

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Woodbury Ski Area

Woodbury Ski Area in Woodbury, CT is the largest snow tubing park in all of New England. This place is huge—you get to race down their 20 tubing lanes located in 3 different tubing parks serviced by 4 different lifts. Each park is very different, from terrain to speed and more. If you’re going tubing with a group, ask about their family size tubes!

785 Washington Road, Woodbury, CT. (203) 263-2203.

Photo: Aine D/Flickr

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Killington Tubing Park

Killington is another Vermont favorite. Take a cruise down one of the tubing lanes at Killington’s snow tubing park, found right at the heart of this Green Mountain resort. Once you're all snow tubed out, get some R&R at The Clubhouse, where you can grab warm snacks, drinks, pub food, hand-tossed pizza, and more!

4763 Killington Road, Killington, VT. (802) 422-6201.

Photo: Mt. Hood Territory/Flickr

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Pats Peak

Every weekend or school break, Pats Peak in Henniker, NH opens up its snow tubing park for business! In order to ride the tubes down the mountain, riders are required to lie on their stomachs, making for a thrilling experience! If you want to try a bit of everything, visit Pats Peak on Saturday night or Martin Luther King Day. For just $48, enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, and lesson tips!

686 Flanders Road, Henniker, NH. (603) 428-3245.

Photo: BaileyPalBlue

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Berkshire East

Berkshire East in Charlemont is another Berkshire gem. Enjoy 2 hours of tubing for only $20 on 3 separate 450-foot long tubing lanes. There is an old fashioned handle lift to bring you back up to the top once your cruise down the mountain is done!

66 Thunder Mountain Road, Charlemont, MA. (413) 339-6617.

Photo: David Shankbone

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Loon Mountain

Head to Loon Mountain and let gravity take you for a cruise. Take in the beautiful mountain views while you tube down the mountain, and grab a snack and hot chocolate afterwards at the Slopeside Deli. Tubing at Loon is super convenient for families with little ones; they have a special tot tubing area for kids under 7.

60 Loon Mountain Road, Lincoln, NH. (603) 745-8111.

Photo: Jamsong

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Magic Mountain

Head to Magic Mountain in Londonderry, VT for a fun-filled day of snow. Ride down one of the several tubing lanes and breathe in some fresh mountain air. After your day of tubing, head to the Black Line Tavern afterwards for a delicious family dinner.

495 Magic Mountain Acc., Londonderry, VT. (802) 824-5645.

Photo: Randy Bennett

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Bousquet Mountain

One of the best values for tubing in Massachusetts is to be had at Bousequet Mountain in Pittsfield, located in the cultural district of the Berkshires. There are plenty of open tubing lanes and chutes for people over 5 years old—and the price is only $15 for 2 hours on the mountain.

101 Dan Fox Drive, Pittsfield, MA. (413) 442-8316.

Photo: Randy Bennett

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Grafton Ponds

Although there is only one snow tubing lane at Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center, it will be worth the wait to take the ride down the hill. The lane is 600 feet long, one of the longest in New England. Their special snowmaking process ensures perfect conditions all winter long.

783 Townshand Road, Grafton, VT. (802) 843-2400.

Photo: David Shankbone


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