Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows announced last week that they will again be attempting to offer the longest season in Tahoe. That’s not always the easiest concept to define. Is it determined only by the days between opening and closing? Does it count if a resort opens early, but not continuously? Does is count if a resort offers some extra late dates, like Boreal’s Summer Shred days last June? No matter how you count it, plenty of people are appreciative when the mountain opens before Thanksgiving, or stays open until Memorial Day, when conditions permit. There’s the rub. Will Mother Nature cooperate with the plan to open Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows between November 11th and November 18th?
There’s also the question of what would actually open early. For several years running, it meant early season turns were only available on Red Dog at Squaw Valley. Alpine Meadows skiers were told to get in the car and drive over to Squaw. Last year something different happened, and there was no official explanation. Alpine Meadows did indeed open on November 12th. In simple terms, it is pretty easy to open with just Kangaroo at Alpine. Several readers tried to convince me that somehow they read into the announcement that both Squaw and Alpine will open at the same time this season, and we hope they are right. You be the judge.
So why did we wait to post this news? Well frankly we’ve been spending a lot of time looking at the weather and wondering exactly what this season will bring. Last month, we already reported that NOAA had officially written off La Niña for the season. But since then, there’s been more disturbing news. Forecasters and climate researchers have started mentioning the existence of both “The Blob” and the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.” These are not terms that have ever coincided with “great season ahead.”
Yes, that pool of water in the Gulf Of Alaska is awfully warm as we officially pass the autumnal equinox on Thursday and head into the shorter days of winter. This week, Daniel Swain at WeatherWest.com posted his thoughts about the relationship between the Blob and the RRR. Apparently it’s not quite as simple as the chicken or the egg. In the winter of 2014-15, that was the ongoing discussion. Did the Blob cause the RRR or vice versa? The answer is likely all of the above.
If you’re familiar with the idea of a self reinforcing feedback loop, you understand where we could be headed in the future. That Blob of warm water does encourage an area of high pressure to develop as warmer air continues to rise over the warm ocean. The reduced winds in the high pressure zone results in lowered windspeed, and therefore less mixing out of that warm water. So yeah, these are the sort of small scale changes that ultimately lead scientists to say the climate is changing. 2016 is again the warmest year on record.
Bryan Allegretto over at OpenSnow.com has also covered the re-emergence of the Blob and its potential ramifications for the season. In his post last week, BA was somewhat stoical about the potential for another drier winter. In his most recent post, he covers the possibility that although the winter of 2014-15 was certainly not a banner year for snow, there are other analog years that have been okay. He points out that the 2005-6 season brought 426 inches of snow to Donner Summit.
So with an ENSO neutral Pacific ocean, and the possibility of the existence of the Blob and RRR this season, few forecasters are willing to step out on a limb and forecast anything in particular for California. We just have to take it as it comes and hope there is enough snow to keep most of us happy.
I can look back to the 2014-15 season, where some of my friends only skied 1 or 2 days total, and know that I still managed to put in 70 days. Without any working responsibility this winter I plan to make the best of whatever happens. As usual, I am hedging my bets with multiple passes, keeping a variety of skis in my quiver for a variety of conditions and hoping something changes for the better, as it magically did last year.
I’ll be out at the Lost Sierra Hoedown over the next week so things may be slower here for a bit. Hope to see some of you out at the Johnsville Ski Bowl.