Getting ready for the big snow

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Lots of good news for skiers, snowboarders and lovers of snow.

First, Ski Sundown in New Hartford opens today with six trails. It’s one of the latest openings for the Connecticut ski area that’s run by Stratford native Bob Switzgable. And it comes at a make or break time for state ski areas that depend on school vacation weeks like Christmas/New Years. Add some natural snow and things get a little nicer.

Unfortunately, Mount Southington remains in the starting gate. On its web site this morning, Southington posted: “Rats! We’re just not getting those low temps that we expect at this time of year. We’re sorry to say that we need to push our projected opening date again. Although there is snow in the current forecast it will be enough to get us all excited about skiing but not enough to actually ski on. Meteorologists seem to agree that the temps will finally fall into a productive snowmaking range Friday and Saturday night. Therefore, if the forecast is correct we are planning to open on Sunday, December 30th. We’re keeping our fingers crossed and can’t wait to see you all on the slopes.”

Massachusetts areas like Jiminy Peak, Catamount and Butternut, all under winter storm warnings, could get up to a much needed foot of fresh snow.

And the best news: most mid to northern New England ski areas are going to get pounded with heavy snow tonight and into Thursday. Well over a foot (maybe two) of snow is forecast for the mountains of northern New England. This storm is a good example of digging a little deeper in the forecasts. Go to the usual weather sites like weather, accuweather and you’ll get the in-town forecasts for say Ludlow, Wilimington and Rutland, Vermont. In Ludlow, weather.com is calling for “five to 9 inches” of snow.” The forecast for Rutland, down the road from Killington, calls for “8 to 14 inches of snow … heaviest along the eastern slopes of the Green Mountains.”

Sugarbush, that already has 100 percent of its terrain open is in a good position to luck out with the storm.

It reports this morning: “We are under a Winter Storm Warning for Wednesday 7 PM through Friday at 7 AM, with 8-14 inches predicted, heaviest on the eastern slopes of the Green Mountains. Hey, that’s us! Thursday looks like the height of the storm, with the potential for fresh tracks all day long.”

The snowstorm would be an added blessing for Mad River Glen, on the same mountain spin as The Bush. Mad River that relies on natural snow had its prayers answered in the last week with over two feet of snow, just in time for the holiday week. It now has 100 percent of its terrain open.

Above is a National Weather Service map, as of Wednesday morning, showing projected snowfall amounts across western New York and Vermont. Looks nice doesn’t it.? Enough to pack your boards and head north for some deep powder? You might want to wait a day or two because some of the details tend to get buried. That is unless you look at the detailed mountain forecast.

For example, go to the National Weather Service site for the forecast for “Killington, Vermont” and you get this forecast for Thursday:

“Tonight Snow, mainly after 9pm. The snow could be heavy at times. Low around 22. East wind 6 to 11 mph increasing to 13 to 18 mph after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 3 to 7 inches possible.

Thursday Sleet before 9am, then snow and sleet between 9am and 10am, then snow after 10am. The snow could be heavy at times. High near 30. Breezy, with a east wind 14 to 23 mph, with gusts as high as 33 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow and sleet accumulation of 5 to 9 inches possible.”

But ….check out the NWS’s Mountain Point Forecast to find out what conditions are expected on the mountain.

TONIGHT…CLOUDY…SNOW. SNOW MAY BE HEAVY AT TIMES AFTER MIDNIGHT. LOW AROUND 21. SOUTHEAST WINDS 30 TO 45 MPH…BECOMING EAST AND INCREASING TO 65 TO 80 MPH AFTER MIDNIGHT. WIND CHILL VALUES AS LOW AS 2 BELOW.

THURSDAY…SUMMITS OBSCURED IN CLOUDS. SNOW. SNOW MAY BE HEAVY AT TIMES. HIGH AROUND 28. EAST WINDS 80 TO 85 MPH…DECREASING TO 60 TO 75 MPH IN THE AFTERNOON. WIND CHILL VALUES AS LOW AS 1 BELOW.

Along with the heavy snow, the big story here is the wind. With those projected wind speeds it’s likely upper mountain lifts will be on “wind hold” for a good part of the day.

Ski areas won’t be hiding that fact, but check the lift, trail and conditions report carefully before deciding to make the plunge.

Before making the trip north, it’s also wise to check road conditions. the 511 web site are wonderful. Vermont 511 not only tells you the truth about road conditions, but has radar and even a few live cams along I-91 and -89. Image at left shows what it looked like early this morning  in Derby, Vermont not far from the Canadian border.

New Hampshire’s 511 site has a few weather stations along I-93 that give you real time weather data like temperatures, precip and the all important visibility.

Maine has an impressive 511 site with loads of weather reporting stations across the state.

Friday and heading into New Year’s looks very good. More snow is expected, cold temperatures won’t leave us and ski areas will rapidly expand terrain.

Hopefully, we’ve turned the corner a winter that had a slow start.

Jim Shay

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