Thursday, October 1, 2015

Musings on Early Season Snow and Skiing

Twitter feed of Hannah Barkey and Matt Chirico getting after it in mid September.  Professor Powder confesses that he went swimming, biking, or hiking instead.
October is here.  Although skiing is theoretically possible in August or September (see above), October is the first month in which the odds of a significant storm or storms tick up significantly.  I could provide a detailed analysis of the likelihood of various storm sizes and depths during the month, but instead I'll rely on the entirely unverifiable but highly relevant ski journal that a friend has kept since the mid 1970s, which suggest about a 1 in 3 chance of legitimate (in contrast to that above) skiing in the Wasatch in October.  

My personal excitement level is climbing.  My back has improved quite dramatically this summer and, although still not right, is better than it has been in 3 years.  Then, I picked up a pair of Black Diamond Carbon Converts, my first new boards in several years and a major departure from the skinny sticks I usually tour on.  They won't see the light of day the first storm, as I'll wait for the snowpack to build some, but perhaps this old dog will learn some new tricks this winter.  

That being said, I'm not praying for snow yet.  I wait until late October for that.  Early or mid October storms provide a good jolt of adrenalin and excitement, but are almost always followed by a dry period (a.k.a., powder interuptus) during which the south aspects bake and the north aspects turn to facets.  Better for the snow to hold off and then to have several storms in succession in late October or perhaps better yet, early November (see Patience Young Jedi Knight). 

Everyone has been asking me how much it is going to snow this winter, but that's the wrong question.  What they should be asking is how much will it snow in late October and November.  If you want a great ski season, especially for ski touring, it's better for the snow to come early than late.  Not only do you build up a depth-hoar-free snowpack, but you can take advantage of the low-angle sun, which allows powder to linger for long stretches on a wide range of aspects.  Root for a 500 inch year in which 100 inches or more falls in late October and November instead of a 600 inch year in which 30 inches falls in late October and November. 

So, don't burn your skis yet.  Wait a few weeks and then hope the spigot turns on.  

1 comment:

  1. The above pictures are a little thin for my taste, and my tastes are pretty poor!