Tuesday, March 11, 2014
I have just returned from several days at my all-time favorite ski area Mont Sutton in Quebec. You may have never heard of Mont Sutton, but it is an absolutely charming area that puts a premium on your experience on the hill.
More than half of Sutton’s terrain is gladed, and all of the runs were designed by a higher power - not more than a few teaspoons of earth have been moved to alter the trails since they opened more than 50 years ago. The trail/glade network at Sutton is so complex that you can easily spend a week there and never feel like you have hit the same line twice.
As I say, Mont Sutton is in Quebec, but it is less than 10 miles over the border from northern Vermont, in the Eastern Townships region of the province. Long ago, the Eastern Townships were a favorite summertime retreat for English upper class, and to this day, English is spoken freely and easily by the locals, and Americans are warmly welcomed. Catch Mont Sutton on a powder day and I promise you it will be an experience you will remember for a long, long time. If you enjoy tree skiing as much as I do, Sutton belongs on your bucket list.
The storm that brought fresh snow to much of central and northern New England on Sunday night only produced a light accumulation north of the border, so the surface remained firm for my last day of skiing on Monday. However, the pattern is just beginning to provide fireworks, and the prospects for snow across all of northern New England and Quebec over the next couple of weeks are outstanding, although the cold air supporting the snow may go to extremes on a couple of days during that time, which might discourage some skiers and riders from venturing forth. But make no mistake about it, the new snow of Sunday combined with what is coming later this week will set things up for a “must ski/ride weekend” to kick off the New Year.
The Sunday storm is worth reviewing, because even though it was a mix of rain and snow along the coast, the mountains did very well in what was a quick-hitting storm that raced out to sea early Monday morning.
In Maine, Saddleback and Sugarloaf both picked up 3 to 5 inches or so of high moisture content snow, the kind that bonds to and covers up some of the frozen granular that resulted from the ice storm of a week ago. Sometimes snow the consistency of pudding is better than champagne powder, and this was one of those occasions.
The heaviest snows fell from central New Hampshire, through the North Conway region and into the mountains of western Maine. Sunday River, Wildcat, Attitash, Cranmore, King Pine, Cannon, Loon and Waterville Valley all picked up around 10 inches of new snow, and trail counts have now jumped up at all of these resorts. In fact, throughout Maine and New Hampshire, the snowmakers have also been busy since Christmas Eve, and more runs have opened up at just about every resort, big or small.
Now that we have seen bases softened up considerably, the best thing that could happen would be for a storm to come along and dump some of those fluffy pillow feather flakes that we all dream about, and at this point, it appears as though we could welcome in the New Year with just such a storm. By later Thursday, low pressure will be moving up the eastern seaboard after having developed in the Gulf of Mexico, but it looks as though it will be a little too far offshore of Cape Cod and the islands to spread heavy snow across northern New England.
However, there will also be a low pressure area tracking eastward from the Great Lakes, and that system spinning along on the northern branch of the jet stream will pass through the region and produce at least a light to moderate snowfall.
Because arctic air will be entrenched over the region when either one or both of the lows pass through, the snow to water ratios will be quite high. The storm that raced by Sunday night had ratios on the order of 7-to-1 or 8-to-1 in most areas, and that is a recipe for great snowball making snow, but not a powder hound’s dream. With such cold, dry air in place, the physics of snowflake creation allow for much lighter crystals to form, and the ratios this time around will be more like 15-to-1 or 20-to-1, perfect for creating a blanket that each turn transforms into a puff of white smoke.
In the wake of the late week system, a powerful shot of air straight from the high arctic regions will spread across the region, and there’s no need pulling any punches about it - Friday and Saturday are going to be a very cold days on the slopes. Temperatures will modify on Sunday and Monday before another coastal storm takes aim on the Northeast. At this point, there is no guarantee about the track. If the storm becomes too intense, it will tend to cut up through western New England, which would put most of the region’s slopes on the warm side of the storm, leading to a mixed mess. A more modest storm could hug the coast and nail the mountains with a round of very heavy snow.
I will touch upon both the late week snow and the next system in line in my video snow report on Thursday, but for now, suffice it to say that the pattern we are entering into is a period with tremendous “upside potential.”Tweet
As The Skiing Weatherman, Herb Stevens has been the go-to guy for snow conditions for skiers and riders for more than 25 years, first on televisions stations up and down the East Coast, and now on newspaper-related web sites. A lifetime New England skier, Herb travelled the world as a caddy on the PGA Tour for five years before launching his career as a meteorologist. After one year at WJAR-TV in Providence, R.I., he became one of the original on-camera meteorologists at The Weather Channel, and later was chief meteorologist at WNYT-TV in Albany, N.Y. While at WNYT, Herb pioneered a weekly on-snow ski report, which later became his full-time job as The Skiing Weatherman.