A dismal ski season all-around


Snow cover on January 6 in 2012 (top) and 2011 bottom. (NOAA)

The lack of snow is taking a serious toll on the ski industry and other forms of winter tourism.

“Nationwide, the lack of snow is costing tens of millions of dollars in winter recreation, restaurant, lodging and sporting goods sales,” the Associated Press (AP) reported.

Reporting for Climate Central, CWG’s Andrew Freedman talked to David Robinson, director of the Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University, who said snow cover in December was 11th least extensive in the 46-year satellite record.

Wundergound.com’s Jeff Masters found “95% of the country that normally has snow at this time of year had below-average snow cover” (in December).


Whitetail ski resort in southern Pennsylvania was closed as of December 27. Colder weather to end December allowed it to open. After freezing temperatures early in the week,the resort is now offering skiing from manmade snow on 13 trails but 10 trails remain closed. Warm weather into early next week is likely to challenge the resort to keep trails open.

The Northeast snow situation is also bleak, although the big resorts have been able to make snow. Areas relying more on natural snow have been hard hit. The AP offered this anecdote: In Maine, up to 100 people would be skiing on 12 miles of trails on a good day at Carter’s Cross-Country Ski Center, but the center has yet to open because there’s no snow on the ground.

Normally flush with powder, Western ski resorts are struggling too.

Rob Katz, chief executive of Vail Resorts, Inc. which operates resorts in Colorado (Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, and Keystone) and the Lake Tahoe area of California and Nevada (Heavenly and North Star), issued the following statement (according to Bloomberg):

For the first time in 30 years, a lack of snow has not allowed us to open the back bowls in Vail as of January 6, 2012 and, for the first time since the late 1800s it did not snow at all in Tahoe in December

December was described as a “miserable month for Utah skiers” by Jim Steenburgh of the Wasatch Weather Weenies blog. Less than 25” of snow fell at Alta compared to 131.5” in December 2010.

Are there signs the situation will improve? Rutgers’ Robinson told CNN he’s not overly optimistic.

“It doesn’t look like there’s going to be huge improvement the next two weeks and we’re getting halfway through winter by then. But still, hope springs eternal for late January into early March,” Robinson said.

Wunderground’s Masters wrote a storm next week will pull down some cold air “giving near-normal January temperatures to much of the country, and some snow to northern New England.” But he stopped short of making predictions beyond that.

Where can you find ample snow and good skiing? In some places you might not normally think about.

Freedman reports Taos in New Mexico has received more than 8 feet of snow this year. He also pointed to Alkyeska resort in southern Alaska, which has been “walloped by winter storms.”

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.

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