CAPITAL REGION — We're still more than a week away from the official start of winter, but it sure is feeling wintry.
Tuesday's late-fall snowstorm was expected to be followed Wednesday by biting cold, with a blustery wind strong enough to prompt a National Weather Service wind advisory, which means trees and limbs could come down, and there could be scattered power outages.
The storm that arrived overnight into Tuesday brought as much rain as snow to Schenectady and Albany, but from Saratoga County north, the precipitation stayed snow for much longer into Tuesday, slowing travel and causing many school districts to take their first snow day of the year. It brought the Capital Region its first significant snow, though some areas saw a coating on Saturday.
Both the snow and the subsequent cold are good news for local ski areas, most of which are getting ready to open. The natural snow wasn't enough to let them open early, but it didn't hurt, as kids and adults got outside to play in the season's first accumulation large enough to make snowballs.
"Psychologically, it's invaluable — getting people in the mood for skiing," said Spencer Montgomery, owner of West Mountain in Queensbury.
West Mountain plans to open Saturday morning, thanks in part to around 9 inches of new natural snow that fell Tuesday. The mountain also has an enhanced snow-making operation this year, thanks to a new 8-inch water line installed by the town of Queensbury. The additional water allows the resort to use up to 60 snow guns that, under weather conditions predicted over the next few days, can each spray 70 to 80 gallons of water per minute, creating a deep base of snow.
Because West Mountain is still preparing trails, Montgomery said the resort couldn't have opened Tuesday, even if it had wanted to.
"We'll be making snow for the next three days," Montgomery said. "There's 33 guns on the upper mountain, but there's still a lot of prep that needs to be done. The hill is not ready."
Until now, he noted, the temperatures haven't been cold enough for effective snowmaking. But starting Wednesday, the National Weather Service is forecasting Glens Falls to see daytime temperatures in the low 20s and nighttime lows in the single digits — ideal for snowmaking.
"I don't know that I've seen such a good lineup of days like this — with new snow and then three days of good weather for making snow — ahead of our opening day," Montgomery said.
In Rotterdam, Maple Ski Ridge on Mariaville Road plans to open for the season at 3 p.m. Friday.
In the southern Adirondacks, the state-operated Gore Mountain ski area in North Creek is already open, with 28 percent of its trails in operation. Gore saw about 11 inches of snow Tuesday, according to its website.
The Weather Service's Albany office said the storm brought warm air with it into the region, but as it moves to the northeast, a cold front from Canada will follow, leading to 18-24 mph winds out of the west on Wednesday, with gusts of up to 45 mph.
"The cold will last through Friday, and then, as we get to the weekend, temperatures will moderate," National Weather Service meteorologist Neil Stuart said.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Bryan Viggiani said Tuesday's storm was a typical winter event, lasting nearly a full 24 hours, and plow crews anticipated a continued response as conditions change.
"The first stage is getting the snow off the road, and as it turns to rain or then freezes, it becomes more of a salt response pattern," Viggiani said. "That said, motorists should still be using caution because there's is a possibility of black ice. People should just slow down and be cautious. You can't drive like you do in summer."
No other storms are anticipated in the weather service's 10-day Capital Region forecast. Winter officially starts Dec. 21.