Tuesday, January 31, 2017

In Defense of Science

Comments and actions from both elected and appointed national leaders have raised serious concerns in academia and the science community about the communication and funding of science.  One example is the house bill that was introduced several days ago to prohibit US contributions to the IPCC, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Green Climate Fund.

An example of draconian measures being proposed to silence or limit science communication in the US
In this post, I'd like to take the opportunity to share my experiences concerning the importance of science funding for innovation and economic growth in the United States based on my 30 year career as a student, researcher, and educator in the areas of weather and climate.

I grew up in a small town in rural upstate New York, graduating with a class of 45 from Perth Central School, which included grades K-12 in the same building.  My father was an engineer and a first-generation college graduate who required a "gap year" to earn enough money to start community college a year after he graduated high school and went to night school to complete his BS.  I was fortunate to be raised in a home that valued education, and to have many outstanding teachers.  However, attending a small rural school meant that there were as few as 3 other students in some of my college prep classes and that I had no AP credits.

When I started at Penn State, I had no idea I would eventually be a research scientist.  I thought I would be a TV meteorologist, as that was taking off in the 1980s thanks to The Weather Channel.  I plugged along through classes and, at one point as a junior or senior, my undergraduate advisor, Craig Bohren, commented that he thought I had the stuff to go to graduate school.  That was all fine and dandy, but then he mentioned that one can often earn a modest salary (about $13000-$15000/year at the time) and be granted a tuition waiver to attend graduate school in engineering and science (as well as other disciplines).  Get paid to go to college!  Ah, I was hooked.

That was essentially the first time that I learned one of the advantages of science funding for innovation and growth in the United States.  Research grants, given to US colleges, support graduate students, who are able to then obtain a higher education and ultimately contribute to innovation and knowledge advancement.  I doubt I would have considered graduate school without the benefits of a research assistantship.  

Of course, one might argue that such knowledge advancement isn't all that useful.  After all, scientists can go off on all sorts of tangents that appear to have little connection with reality, and sometimes I'm guilty as charged.

However, that was not my experience in graduate school.  I worked with the MM4 and MM5 mesoscale models, which were developed by Penn State and the National Center for Atmospheric Research.  These models were just beginning to be used outside those institutions for a variety of applications.  They were eventually replaced by the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model.  That model now has over 30,000 registered users in over 150 countries and is used by many private companies in the US.  Some of my fellow students at the University of Washington went on to form or work in private companies that use the WRF and other models and statistical techniques for renewable energy forecasting.  An example is 3TIER in Seattle (now owned by Vaisala), a renewable energy forecasting company.  The WRF model is also widely used today by weather companies providing content for broadcast and online media.  It represents an excellent example of the trickle down of research into future innovation and economic growth.

In 1995, I began my tenure on the faculty at the University of Utah.  Academics like to joke that you can only reproduce yourself once (i.e., have one PHD student) unless you are at Harvard and then you can do it twice.  This is a good quip, but also out-dated, at least in my field where my students remain gainfully employed in government and private sectors.  The government jobs are often related to weather forecasting, public safety, homeland security, or national defense.  The private sector jobs include a number of technical positions in the renewable-energy, insurance, and national-security sectors.  Here's a list, although I've written it in a quasi-anonymous way:

PHD#1: Lead Forecaster, National Weather Service
PHD#2: Private sector national security firm 
PHD#3: University professor
PHD#4: Several positions involving numerical modeling and forecasting for insurance and wind-power firms
PHD#5: Joint research appointment with renewable energy company and university
PHD#6: Researcher at government lab
PHD#7: Research meteorologist, National Weather Service
PHD#8: US Air Force
PHD#9: Numerical modeling and forecasting with private sector firm

As can be seen above, investments in research by the US government create the technical and scientific leaders of the future.  It develops capable young women and men who contribute to the greater good of the country not just at universities, but also in the government, private, and military sectors.  Threats to science discourse and funding, including in the Earth sciences, are not just threats to science, but also long-term innovation, economic growth, and homeland security. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Strong High Pressure = Bad Air

Whether they call it haze, smog, or gunk, steel yourselves as the week ahead looks like a grey and polluted one.

Salt Lake's all-time sea-level pressure record based on data I obtained from Weather Underground appears to be 31.09 inches of mercury (1052.8 mb) (surface pressure is reduced to sea level for convenience when analyzing surface maps since surface pressure analyses look like topographic maps).  Although we won't break that during the current high-pressure event, we peaked at 30.95 inches of mercury (1048.0 mb) on Saturday, which is quite high.

Source: MesoWest
Although we've retreated a bit from that maximum, strong high pressure remains firmly in control.  In addition, this morning's sounding shows a whopper of an inversion based at about 840 mb (1600 m above sea level).  Temperatures increase about 13ºC through the inversion.

Source: SPC
The one silver lining in this event is that the inversion is elevated and there is a shallow mixed layer over the valley floor, allowing for some shallow transport and mixing of pollution.  This probably helps keep valley pollution levels a bit lower than they would be if the inversion was based on the valley floor, although they are still well into the unhealthy for sensitive groups category this morning.
Source: Utah Division of Air Quality
As we suffer this pollution, I thought I would take a moment to remind everyone just how bad the pollution in this valley would be without efforts to reduce emissions over the past decades, including transitions in how we heat our homes, the use of cleaner fuels, the use of catalytic converters, etc.

 Below is a time series of mean particulate concentrations back to the winter of 1973-74, which was provided to me by Dr. David Whiteman of the University of Utah.  The magenta cyan bars are total suspended particulates, the blue PM10 (particulate matter smaller than 10 microns) and the red PM2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns).  Unfortunately, we did not measure PM2.5 back to 1973-74, so this is a bit of a hodge podge of available measurements, but one can see the decline in total suspended particulates and then a decrease in PM10.

Source: Dave Whiteman
Each of those declines indicates an improvement in air quality (or perhaps better put, a reduction in the severity of poor air quality).  The PM2.5 trend is a bit more unclear.  Nevertheless, it is remarkable that it is even flat given the growth in population, vehicle miles traveled, etc.

Now, just imagine what that graph would look like if we had stuck with "business as usual."  Let's not go back to the 1970s.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Final Upgrade to the NAM

One final upgrade is planned for the current version of the North American Mesoscale (NAM) Forecast System
The North American Mesoscale (NAM) Forecast System is scheduled for its final upgrade on February 1st.  Just in time for Groundhog Day, this upgrade to NAM "version 4" includes a number of major changes including:
  • Changes in the grid spacing of the CONUS NAM nest from 4 to 3 km, Alaska nest from 6 to 3 km, and CONUS fire-weather nest from 1.333 to 1.5 km.  Yes, the latter is a decrease in resolution, but probably not significant.
  • More frequent calls of some model physics packages to every 2nd time step and more frequent radiation calls for the NAM 12-km domain
  • Specific humidity advection now done every time step (shockingly, this wasn't already being done)
  • Changes to the model convective parameterization in the 12-km domain
  • Updated cloud microphysics
  • Land-surface model improvements
  • Completely updated data assimilation system
  • Use of a new climatology of fresh water lake temperature for inland water bodies not resolved by the current 1/12th degree analysis
  • Reduced terrain smoothing in NAM nests
Gory details available from Technical Implementation Notice 16-41, available here, and the poster below.  

I think it is likely that these changes will result in some improvements in the skill of the 12-km NAM domain.  That domain, however, has been a pretty reliable performer for event water-equivalent forecasts over the central Wasatch (despite its low resolution), so I'm hoping that the biases don't change much.  My conversations with the NAM developers this past week suggest they think that the changes will also help some of the overforecast problems that plague the NAM nest, but they really haven't done a careful analysis over the west.  Instead, their inferences are based on examining non-orographic precipitation events east of the Rockies.  Time will tell.

It is anticipated that this will be the final upgrade to the NAM and that eventually a new cloud-allowing modeling system will be developed using the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) Finite-Volume Cubed-Sphere Dynamical Core (FV3), which was recently chosen for NOAA's next-generation global environmental modeling system and replacement for the GFS. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Memories and Reflections

Professor Powder with Professor Lance Bosart at the Bosart Symposium
I know I've been neglecting the topics that motivate many of you to come to the blog during my travels the past few weeks, but I hope you will tolerate one more important digression.

This week I have been attending the Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society.  I am typically not a fan of the annual meeting because it is simply overwhelming in size (typically more than 20 conferences held jointly), but this year's was a career highlight.  The meeting features two named symposia each year and this year they were held for Bob Houze, a former professor of mine at the University of Washington, and Lance Bosart, who has had a ginormous impact on weather prediction in this country and has been a friend and mentor for almost 30 years. 

Even if you haven't heard of Lance Bosart, he has made your life better through weather forecasting.  He has published more than 200 papers related to weather analysis and forecasting, which according to Google Scholar have garnered near 10,000 citations (a ridiculously high number).  He has also served as advisor to more than 140 MS and PHD students, including many meteorologists who are developing numerical weather prediction models for NCEP, issuing forecasts, watches, and warnings for the National Weather Service, developing prediction systems at private companies, or conducting their own weather analysis and forecasting research at various institution around the country.  

The first time I encountered Lance was probably in high school.  I recall attending a lecture on meteorology at SUNY Albany, where he has been a professor for over 40 years) and believe he was probably the lecturer (the memories are hazy).  In graduate school, I attended several "cyclone workshops" that Lance organized and at which he provided helpful and constructive ideas for my research.  Subsequently, we have collaborated on projects to understand the interaction of fronts and cyclones with complex terrain.  During the Fall of 2003, I spent 3 months at SUNY Albany while on sabbatical, working with Lance, "taking" his advanced synoptic meteorology class, and attending his famous weekly map discussions.  It was a transformative experience that greatly advanced my research and improved my teaching here at the University of Utah.  

It was a great honor to give a talk reviewing Lance's contributions to mountain meteorology at his symposium.  I haven't been that nervous about giving a talk for a long time, but my desire to get the science right and deliver a few good pokes to the ribs was high.  Click here to access some twitter coverage of the entire symposium.  

The Wasatch Weather Weenies Blog should return to regularly scheduled programming next week.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Big Snows Across the Central and Southern Western US

For those of you shoveling snow again in Utah today, this is probably no surprise, but the snowpack snow water equivalent across our region, as well as most of the central and southern Western US is looking quite healthy for late January.  The only area of the west with widespread below median snowpack snow water equivalent is in Washington, northern Idaho, and Montana, but even there, they aren't running way below average.

Source: NRCS
The plot above includes only the NRCS SNOTEL observations.  California, where water flows uphill to money, has its own snowpack sensors covering much of the southern and central Sierra.  You can see that the snowpack across that region is also quite robust (values below % of average rather than median).

Source: California–Nevada River Forecast Center
The LA Times reported yesterday that Mammoth Mountain has received 246 inches of snow so far this month, breaking the previous January record of 209 inches.

Regional snowpack statistics show that the mountains of northern, central, and southern California already sit at 92, 108, and 118% of the average 1 April snowpack snow water equivalent.

Source: California Department of Water Resources
 Such a snowpack must be of great relief to the water-starved state.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Pound for Pound the Snowiest Place in Utah

What is the snowiest place in Utah right now?

I'll give you a hint.  It's neither Alta nor Snowbird.

Nor is it anywhere in the central Wasatch (and this is not fake news!).

It's Ben Lomond Peak, just to the northeast of Ogden.  In fact, for a given elevation, the area around Ben Lomond Peak and the north Ogden Valley is the snowiest place in the state at present and climatologically.

Source: Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth
Let me share with you some crazy numbers to illustrate just how snowy it is in that area this year.  At noon MST today in Little Cottonwood Canyon, the Alta-Collins (9622 ft) snow depth was 120 inches.  The nearby Snowbird SNOTEL (9144 ft) had a snowpack snow water equivalent of 32.8 inches.

Impressive, but let's look at the real king of Utah snow.  At the Ben Lomond Trail SNOTEL, at a lowly elevation of 5829 ft, more than 3000 feet lower than Alta-Collins and the Snowbird SNOTEL, the snow depth at noon MST today was 99 inches (it was over 100 earlier!).  That's right.  99 inches of snow at under 6000 feet elevation.   The snowpack snow water equivalent was 25.4 inches.

Now let's go a little higher, to the Ben Lomond Peak SNOTEL at 8000 ft where the snow depth at noon today was 170 inches (Correction: There is a problem with the Ben Lomond Snow Depth - it anomalously jumped from 134 to 170 today - see comments below), with a snowpack water equivalent of 44 inches.  Those numbers dwarf Alta-Collins and the Snowbird SNOTEL.

So sorry Altaholics.  Get off your high horse as you aren't even close to the snowiest spot in Utah at present.

Although this year Ben Lomond is doing especially well, if one looks at long-term averages and uses a boxing analogy, it is pound for pound the snowiest place in Utah.  For its elevation, it's the snowiest place in Utah.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Too Much of a Good Thing

I am once again out of town and once again the Steenburgh Effect is in full force.

Yes, you can say that it snowed plenty while I was back in Salt Lake through yesterday morning, but the water equivalent rates have gone through the roof since I left.  Note the steeper slope of the current storm after I departed compared to the prior one when I was in town.

Source: MesoWest
Coincidence?  I think not.

Of course that is entirely unscientific. It is mere coincidence I'm out of town, but sometimes I wonder...

The snow overnight is also of high density, resulting in upside down snow.  That, and the addition of wind and further weight on weak layers that developed before the prior storm, is pushing the snowpack to the breaking point.

The Utah Avalanche Center has issued a backcountry avalanche warning for the mountains of northern Utah, including the Wasatch.

And, as I write this, Little Cottonwood Canyon is closed at Alta is interlodged.  Expected highway opening is 1 PM.

More snow is coming as the front moves through later today.  This is the epitome of too much of a good thing.  If I could play God, we'd spread these storms out more.

Addendum @ 10:45 AM:

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Meteorological Good, Bad, and Ugly

In the wake of yesterday's Cottonwood Snowmageddon, we take a look back at the meteorological good, bad, and ugly.

The good is that with all the snow over the past 3 days, the total snow depth at Alta-Collins has eclipsed 100" (250 cm).


For the first time since the 2010/11 ski season, we have over 100 inches of snow at Alta-Collins before February 10.  Steenburgh winter is that magical period where we have such a snowpack before February 10, when the sun begins to have a much stronger influence on snow conditions in the Wasatch range.  Enjoy the deep snow and the low angle sun while they last.

Now, getting to the bad: Forecasts for Friday night.  From 4 PM Friday to 8 AM Saturday, Alta-Collins got 15", including 13" from 5 PM Friday to 5 AM Saturday with 0.55" of water.  

Such accumulations were much greater than forecast.  I did not put numbers on the snowfall for this blog, but expected only a modest refresh of a few inches.  The National Weather Service Little Cottonwood Forecast issued on Friday afternoon called for a 70% chance of 2-5" (with 0.15-0.35" of water) from 5 PM Friday to 5 AM Saturday and a 30% chance of 1-2" (0.05-0.14" of water).  As noted by commenters in the previous post, the "bros at the bird" beat us this time.  It's hard to say how much of the snow removal, traffic mess, and avalanche closures yesterday in the Cottonwoods were related to the underforecast, but I suspect it was a contributor.

BTW, the NCAR Ensemble handled the event pretty well.
NCAR Ensemble Forecast initialized 0000 UTC 20 January 2017

NCAR Ensemble Forecast initialized 0000 UTC 21 January 2017
Further evidence that the US needs a high-resolution ensemble ASAP.

The ugly?  There isn't one.  We have a 100" base on January 22nd, with snow in the forecast.  Avalanche conditions could be better, but after the past few down years, we shouldn't complain.  Just be careful out there.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Weak Eastward Penetration during Yesterday's Refresh

Snow totals in the upper Cottonwoods were generally in line with expectations with about 5 inches falling.  An exception was the Park City Ridgeline and Brighton area which came in with perhaps 3 inches according to the Utah Avalanche Center.

For much of the day yesterday, radar echoes were strongest over western portions of the central Wasatch, with echoes weaker along the Park City Ridgeline and in the Brighton area.  You can see this fairly well in the radar plot below.  I suspect this reflects the relatively weak flow associated with the trough yesterday.  Easy to diagnose in hindsight.  Much more difficult to anticipate in advance, mainly because such precipitation distributions are highly sensitive to many factors, including storm depth.

Overall, the NAM comes out looking good again.  No change in my view of the NCAR ensemble, which I think is extremely valuable, but for the most part, it overdid it yesterday.

We may see a few snow showers today, but accumulations will minimal.  Another modest refresh tonight.

For yesterday's refresh, Snowbird gets my hype-of-the-year award for the tweet below.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Thursday Refresh

Due to my travels in Japan, I haven't skied in the Wasatch since last year!  Last calendar year that is (31 December 2016), so I have virtually no idea what the skiing has been like the past several days, although I've heard reports that a refresh is needed.

We'll get some snow today and tonight that should help.  Radar shows relatively light echoes covering much of northern Utah at 1559 UTC (0859 MST) this morning.

This is consistent with the light snow falling on campus and along much of the Wasatch Front this morning.  Similarly, snowfall rates in the mountains have so far been light as well.

I expect things to pick up in the mountains during the day today as the trough axis swings through.  Right now, this looks like a modest refresh, with 4–8 inches falling at upper elevations in the Cottonwoods through 5 AM tomorrow morning.

One thing that surprised me looking over the models today is how bullish the NCAR ensemble is.  By 5 AM tomorrow (20/12Z on the plot below), most members are putting out 0.6 to 1.15 inches of water at Alta.  Those members are much wetter than the NAM and inline with the GFS, which is usually too wet.

Thus, I'm curious to see how this one pans out in the Cottonwoods.  My 4–8 leans toward the NAM, which has been a reliable performer and was initialized more recently.  The 1200 UTC NAM, for example, puts out 5" of snow and 0.41" of water at Alta Collins.  Something verifying closer to the wetter NCAR ensemble members, would, however, be more satisfying.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Inversion Tightens the Noose

Salt Lake Valley residents awoke to a shallower but dirtier layer of pollution this morning
In my previous post issued on Monday (Why Deep Cold Pools Are "Good"), I discussed how deep valley cold pools and pollution layers are actually "good" compared to shallow ones.  When the inversion (a layer in which temperature increases with height) is elevated, pollution is distributed through a deeper layer, resulting in lower pollution concentrations.

Over the past two days, however, the inversion has lowered, tightening the noose on the Salt Lake Valley.  You can clearly see this in the soundings from Monday morning (top) and this morning (bottom).  In the Monday morning sounding, the inversion was about 1 km above the valley floor, and the atmospheric temperature profile allowed for mixing through that 1-km deep layer.  In contrast, this morning the inversion is based pretty much on the valley floor.  

Source: SPC
As a result, pollution concentrations at low elevations have increased.  Note in particular how they went into overdrive yesterday.  Yes, there are a few ups and downs, but for the most part the valley floor (Hawthorne Elementary) is observed much higher PM2.5 concentrations from yesterday afternoon through this morning than observed the prior days.  
Source: DAQ
There is some good news.  An approaching storm should lead to improving air quality tomorrow.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Why Deep Cold Pools Are "Good"

I arrived back in Salt Lake City yesterday afternoon to somewhat murky skies.  After 2 weeks in Japan, my first activity wasn't work related.  Instead, I simply lied on the couch, ate junk food, drank beer, and watched football like a good American.  It's good to be home!

Today, however, I'm at the office and taking a closer look at those murky skies.  The sounding from this morning shows a very deep cold pool over the Salt Lake Valley, with a capping inversion based at around 775 mb, which is at an altitude of 2264 m (7428 feet).

Consistent with the deep cold pool and more elevated inversion, the Cliff Cam at Snowbird shows smog and stratus extending ominously up Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Source: Snowbird
Although people often become alarmed about deep pollution (a.k.a. inversion) events, for residents at lower elevations along the valley floor, they typically feature lower PM2.5 concentrations than shallow events because pollution is distributed through a deeper layer.  Indeed, while the air quality isn't good, we're only in the moderate category and levels for the event so far maxed out at "only" 30 ug/m3 about two days ago.
Source: Utah Division of Air Quality
PM2.5 levels would be much higher if the inversion was closer to the valley floor and the cold pool was shallow, which results in pollution accumulating in a much smaller volume of air.

So, the bottom line is that when you see stratus and pollution tonguing up to Snowbird, that's probably "good" for valley residents.  On the other hand, it could mean you being exposed to some pollution at mid elevations in the canyons.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Honshu's Climate Transition

I'm now in Narita airport awaiting my flight to return to the states.  My travels from Myokokogen to Tokyo today provided an excellent example of the remarkable climate transition that exists across the Japanese island of Honshu.

This was the scene last night when I went to bed.  Just like Alta, it doesn't need a reason to snow in Myokokogen.  It needs a reason to stop.

Did it stop overnight?  Nada.  Another 50 cm (20 inches) at the lodge and in town and 70 cm (28 inches) on the upper mountain.  Crazy.

My hat goes off to Michael and Tamami at the Myoko Mountain Lodge for going well beyond the call of duty to get me out of Dodge.  When I woke up at 6 AM, Michael was already out blowing out the walks and cars and Tamami was calling the railroads.  No service to the nearby station, so Michael drove me off the mountain and got me on the train.  Kudos as well to the remarkable Japanese snow removal systems for keeping the roads passable.

I suspect that the climate transition across the Cascades and Sierras is more abrupt than that of Honshu, but nevertheless, the contrast from the Snowpacalypse in Myokokogen to the Tokyo area was staggering. In Tokyo, on the western side of Honshu, it was a beautiful day with the only snow in sight on Mt. Fuji.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Starting to Get Real in Myoko Kogen

Do you ever wonder what it would be like if it started snowing and never stopped?
- Steve Casimiro, Editor, Powder Magazine, 1987-1998

Things are starting to get real here in Myoko Kogen.  It has been snowing nearly nonstop since I arrived 4 days ago and at least another 80 cm (30 inches) fell overnight.  Going for a tour was completely out of the question, so it was off to the Akakura Kanko ski area with the hope of finding something (anything) steep enough to make turns on.  The queue at the top chair first thing in the morning was the only one I encountered and much of the time we were there we were lectured by ski patrol that going OB was foolhardy and that one could die from any number of catastrophes (avalanche, immersion, etc.).  

Was it deep?  Damn straight.

Bottomless powder comes in many flavors.  The beauty of many storms in Utah is that they start off warm and produce some higher density snow to start, which means you have some sort of a cushion down there for ski floatation.  All I saw today was waist deep (or deeper) cold smoke.  With maximum slopes around 25º, about all one can do is point them down the hill and try to enjoy the pig wallow.

This was a common scene in bounds.

Some of the Kiwis staying here at my lodge rescued a snowboarder who had plunged into a deep hole over a buried creek.  It was fortunate that they were carrying a rope to pull him out.

After skiing for about 4 hours, I spent some time walking through town just to enjoy the moment.  Snowfall rates were probably over 10 cm (4 inches) per hour at this point.  Apologies for some fog on the lens in a few of these.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

JaPow White Room

Mother Nature is now bringing it to western Japan.  I'm now in Myokokogen, one of the snowiest locations in central Honsu and home to several (mostly not connected ski areas).

Source: Myoko City Tourism Board
From a snowfall perspective, the place is a winter wonderland and I've seen published, credible reports of an average annual snowall of 13 meters (511 inches), comparable to Alta.  Although I'm not sure what location and elevation that is for (snowfall increases from left to right and with altitude in the photo above, maximizing near Seki Onsen ski resort, which is closest to the Sea of Japan), it is clear this is a very snowy place.

Yesterday I spent a few hours touring low angle terrain above the Ikenotaira Onsen ski area with Miles Peterson, a guide with Dancing Snow, a local outdoor adventure company.  Although the classic Japanese tree skiing is still quite brushy due to a below normal snowpack, we did pass through some beautiful beech forests with well spaced trees.

The Myokokogen area has an abundance of lower angle terrain and thus touring today seemed to be a hopeless endeavor due to the heavy snowfall.  Many of the larger resorts here have a significant vertical drop, but with limited (or non-existent) steep terrain.  As a result, I headed over the Seki Onsen ski area, a small, throwback ski area, which turned out to be a wonderful experience.

Seki Onsen has only two lifts: An old double chairlift and an old single chairlift.  You pay right at the lift and join a handful of intrepid skiers waiting for first tracks.

At least on this week day, there were no lines to speak of other than the short queue prior to the 9 am open.  I suspect there were no more than about 100 people at the place.  They don't even have a lift ticket to clip to your jacket.  They give you a slip of paper and you show it to the lift operator for the first run.  After 9:10 am, they don't bother checking anymore.

The first lift is a double.  Ahead of me are Jeppe and Stephan, a couple of Danes who were kind enough to let me tag along for the day.

The upper lift is an ancient platform single chair.  No back rest or safety bar here, but if you fell today, you landed in thigh deep cold smoke.  No worries.

Not only is it a single, but they only load every other chair.  One wouldn't want too many people crowding the top.  The meager lift capacity is nothing to worry about.  The place is empty, as you can see in the photo above.

Although it is a small resort, there was just enough hill and pitch that we spent most of the morning in the JaPow White Room.

At the very rustic, but super friendly on mountain restaurant, there was this tribute to Craig Kelly.  RIP.

I quit early to take a short walk though the small village of Seki Onsen, which presented a classic Japanese scene in winter.

Here in Myokokogen, I've been staying at the Myoko Mountain Lodge, which I recommend highly (Note: I'm neither getting paid or comped a room to say that!).  The owners serve up an amazing breakfast, an equally amazing dinner three nights a week, and bend over backwards to make sure everyone gets transported to their various destinations.

The dining room is also a very peaceful spot to get some work done in the afternoon.

I might add that they have a hell of a snowblower.  Nearly everyone in these parts has one like this, which is further evidence of the copious snowfall.

The forecast for tonight and tomorrow is for a meter of snow, with another meter the following day when I'm supposed to begin the trek home.  Perhaps I will never leave!