Despite the optimism of my earlier article, this winter just isn’t panning out: at least for those of us who look forward to winter sports, and winter photography. It brings back some bad memories…
In December 1988, while finishing up our training programs in Philadelphia, my wife and I purchased our current dwelling, in my hometown of Mountaintop, Pennsylvania. Being avid downhill and cross-country skiers, we were really excited about returning to the mountains and forests of home.
Growing up in the 1970s, there was generally very reliable winter snow cover in our region that facilitated skiing and snowmobiling into late March each year. We now had a big old house in the middle of the woods, with a couple of fireplaces. I imagined long weekend cross-country ski trips with friends, and then perhaps, beer and fondue in front of a roaring fire.
I suspect I was somewhat optimistic about the region’s actual snowfall history. I stretched my budget by purchasing a new set of cross-country skis, and waited eagerly for the first snowy weekend.
I actually ended up waiting all winter, because, there was essentially no snow that year. And as if to really screw my head up, there was no usable snow the year after. In fact it was not until 1991, that we saw usable snow, in this case an epic (greater than 120″) amount of snow that stayed around until April, much like I remembered from my youth. Since then we’ve had great variability in snow and cold, but we generally see 6-8 weeks of decent cross-country conditions at some point during the winter.
This year has been reminiscent of that winter 27 years ago. Up on the ridgetop where I live, we’ve seen a total of roughly 17 inches of snow, mainly in small events. As I have written earlier, there was one 9 inch snowfall which occurred over bare ground. This left us a roughly 2 week period where it was possible to cross-country ski, and then fairly marginally. We will also have had rather wild swings in temperature from highs of 5° on the 12th February, to roughly 61° the weekend after.
Even more unusual, then our conditions, is the lack of natural snow in the Adirondacks which in 22 years of visiting, I have never experienced. Because of this, my friends up there struggle financially, given their reliance on winter tourism.
Hiking in our local state park that rather warm weekend, I encountered an unusual phenomenon I have not seen before. Apparently, during the robust cold snap last week, rather thick ice formed on nearby Nescopeck Creek. Then when it warmed up, the combination of midweek rain and snow melt must have swelled the flow to fairly high levels, depositing chunks of ice on the shoreline far above the normal water line. This occurred to such a degree, that in places, it was actually somewhat tricky to navigate. I do not recall having ever seen this phenomenon before.
As I write this, a forecast for a midweek snowfall, has been changed to rain, as the storm track will take it west of us putting us on the “warm side” of the storm.
Despite my love of snow sports, clearly there is a moment in a winter like this, when you pretty much give up, and just wait for spring.
I’m not quite there… Yet.
Just a Reminder: you can left click on the images to see a larger version. Better yet you can visit my Smugmug site here.