Monday, March 10, 2014
President’s Day week is in full swing at the resorts across the Northeast. 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. Another light snow event will pass through the Northeast on Tuesday, and that will help refresh the surfaces that have seen high levels of traffic for the past few days.
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. 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.
Sutton is my favorite resort of the more than 400 that I have visited through the years. 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.
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 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 five-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.
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.
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. A fast moving system that is bringing snow will move through the east on Tuesday, spreading light snow across the region.
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? 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.
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.