Our off-again, on-again winter returns this weekend, with a huge forecast that should hopefully turn our thoughts back to snow. Sunday night appears to offer the most potential for snowfall, with huge storm totals being predicted from the Eastern Sierra to SoCal…
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Some time ago, my mom began what is now an annual tradition: the prediction, every Fall, that the upcoming winter is going to be “The Big One.” One would assume this strategy would guarantee that when The Big One finally did arrive, my mom would have successfully predicted it, but unfortunately she had the bad luck to begin her forecasting career at the start of an exceptionally dry decade in the southwest. Winter after winter would thus come and go in our hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona, leaving us in shirtsleeves on Christmas, grumbling helplessly as the local ski area struggled to open.
Lately, however, my Mom’s been on a bit of a winning streak. Which bring us to this coming winter…
For anyone who spent any time at a Southern California beach this past summer, it’s been pretty obvious that a La Nina winter was coming. The ocean has been cold, cold, cold, producing a cool foggy summer along the coast (113° diversions aside). Past experience suggests La Nina means bad news for California skiers. But there’s no way to explain away these very strange October storms that we’re having. So which will it be: Big Winter or Bust?
I’m going to modify my mom’s strategy a little and suggest that whatever happens, we’re going to have an unusual winter. That’s my prediction. Expect the unexpected. Strange storms, strange warm and dry periods, strange mountains. Count on it.
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Or was it even hotter? The LA Times reports the official thermometer downtown reached 113° F today, the highest temperature ever recorded (going back to 1877) — and then the thermometer stopped working. Have mercy!
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That’s the thought on my mind this morning. Another nice fat storm blowing in off the Pacific, with rain forecast locally into Sunday. Mt Baldy Ski is conspicuously silent on new accumulations. They’re saying snow levels are expected to drop, which may be code for, “It’s raining.” Mountain High says 2″ new snow—but they’re opening up the East resort, which is a really good sign this early in the year. Old reliable Mammoth Mountain says 4″ new snow on a 3-6′ base. Hmm…not much happening out of this storm as yet.
As I see it, we’ve been way under average for snowfall in California since the ’05/’06 winter, which was (I believe) an El Nino year. That was coincidentally the year I officially started up sierradescents, which was frustrating, as we got off with a bang but have bemoaned dry winters ever since. There’ve been opportunities over the years of course, but there are also a lot of lines in the Sierra that just need a lot of snow to open up. Let’s face it, looking back over some of my trip reports, someone unfamiliar with the Sierra might think that conditions like I skied on Mount LeConte or Birch Mountain or Mount Tyndall are the norm out here.
Really I suppose the most important reason to hope for a big winter is to quash that terrible shame I feel everytime I read those damned Coloradans whooping about another unusually-stable deep December snowpack, or fantastic powder skiing in June. It’s abnormal, I tell you. Let’s hope this is the year that harmony and balance are restored to the Universe—and we get ridiculous amounts of snow!
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I enjoyed the original Freakonomics when it first came out. Written by University of Chicago economist Steven Levitt and New York Times journalist Stephen J. Dubner, the book used economic analysis in clever and unexpected ways to expose “the hidden side of everything.” Freakonomics made its share of enemies, thanks to its occasionally radical theories, such as suggesting the national decline in Crime seen during the Clinton years was actually due to the legalization of Abortion some twenty years earlier. Levitt and Dubner clearly enjoyed rabble-rousing as a sport. But, the book did successfully challenge conventional wisdom on a wide range of subjects. It was a good, fun read.
After reading the book I followed the Freakonomics Blog for a while, though as time progressed the authors’ unconventional wisdom began to look more and more like conventional right-wing claptrap, so I moved on. Flash forward to this year, and the release of Levitt and Dubner’s new book. SuperFreakonomics has a key chapter on Climate Change titled, “Global Cooling: What Do Al Gore and Mount Pinatubo Have in Common?”, which gives you a good sense of where their unconventional wisdom has apparently led them (more…)
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Well, I think I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t point out that heavy rain is falling here in the basin, and snow has fallen, is falling, and will fall all over the Sierra. We’re into some very strange freaky June weather here…but maybe we stuck the skis in the closet a little too early.
Looking ahead to the weekend, watch for unsettled weather to continue, with thunder and lightning potential wherever you go. Hard to know what to say about avalanche hazard at this point in the season (ESAC is already closed), but in addition to the usual threats, do beware of that potent June sun poking out and burning brand-new snow. Things can go from sublime to scary glop in minutes.
I’m still trying to shake off a nasty playground bug, so I may be forced to sit the weekend out. If you do get out there, have fun and be safe. It might just be fantastic.
Yes, it’s a bona fide winter storm! We got heavy rain overnight here in the Southland, and it’s still raining hard now. Looks like this is a cold storm. Mount Baldy says a foot of new snow overnight. Mammoth got 18 inches. Could it be that we’re suddenly going to get a ton of snow this month now that I’m supposed to be resting?
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The Los Angeles Times is reporting that March, April, and May 2008 were the driest winter months on record for California and the Sierra Nevada mountains. I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising, given that (A) these three months traditionally see heavy snowfall in the Sierra and (B) this year these same months were essentially bone dry (except for the Memorial Day storm). Still, it is a strange and alarming ending for a winter that featured both unusually intense storms and an unusual absence of storms (more…)
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I was walking out my door today around 5 p.m. on the way to the grocery when the sudden rumble of thunder stopped me. Hmm…I guess those black clouds on the horizon weren’t fog, after all. SoCal weather took a turn for the bizarre today, with the full gamut of weather phenomena. Here at the SierraDescents command center, we got heavy rain and lightning. For those unfamiliar with Southern California (more…)
My brother and I talked about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro years ago; for us, it was one of those exotic, chance-of-a-lifetime dreams. Sadly, the trip fell through, and we never went.
While not a technical climb, 19,340′ Kilimanjaro has long been a coveted summit. The view atop the summit at dawn is legendary. And the climb up, starting in African rain forest, and ultimately reaching the continent’s highest (and glaciated) point, is surely one of the most diverse imaginable.
Kili’s popularity has been growing in recent years, fueled by a “see the snow before it’s gone” pitch. Most scientists believe Kilimanjaro’s glaciers will vanish sometime this century. That has translated into something of a tourist boom. I don’t know if my brother and I will ever make it to Kilimanjaro, but if we do, I doubt we’ll be carrying skis.