It wasn't a pretty picture.
I was standing in front of the base lodge looking up the slopes at Stratton Mountain late morning last Sunday and it was raining — and raining hard, the water dripping off lift towers and chairs. It had been raining for hours.
So what was a skier to do?
Lunch! Leisurely! No need to grab and go.
Along with Schenectady-based architect Mike Roth, I headed over to Stratton to attend the first Northeast Winter Weather Summit, a two-day meeting sponsored by the North American Snowsports Journalists Association among other organizations that have an interest in the intersection of winter weather and outdoor sports. Among the attendees were meteorologists and ski industry representatives from throughout the region.
There was a full program from ski reporting, to conservation and sustainability initiatives, to bad-weather driving tips.
Hopefully, there would be a chance to do some skiing too.
Of course we know that early-season ski conditions in the East have been outstanding so far this winter. And the weather last Saturday was excellent -- partly sunny with temperatures in the upper 30s and no wind, just about perfect for a day on the slopes.
But we couldn't get there until Sunday. Sure, we checked the forecasts on the news and rechecked online all the way over to Vermont, but it was lousy across the board.
So who believes forecasts? We all have memories of days when meteorologists said it would snow and it turned out sunny, or when sun was predicted and it rained all day. Maybe this would be one of those days when the forecasters were wrong, especially taking ski area elevation into account. After all, earlier in the week, area resorts had gotten up to 2 feet of new snow when there was just a small dose of slush in the Capital Region.
No such luck. The forecasters had nailed it this time.
Fortunately, the event program was interesting start to finish.
There was a winter clothing presentation by The North Face. Yes, for certain kinds of outdoor activities there can be justification for a $700 shell jacket, and machine washing restores Gore-Tex. Machine dry (delicate cycle) is better than air drying for these garments.
Staff from the Mount Washington Weather Observatory in New Hampshire, which sees some of the worst conditions on the planet, gave a presentation on severe weather. The observatory is manned full-time by meteorologists who work seven-day shifts. They get to and from work in winter via snowcats.
The Team O'Neil Rally School from New Hampshire gave tips on winter driving. Snow tires are important as is knowing how to turn off traction control when the roads are snow-covered. From school founder Tim O'Neil came the cautionary reminder: “Moose crossing signs are not for the moose.”
WNYT’s Neal Estano was one of three broadcast meteorologists to discuss the impact of social media on weather forecasting. Bottom line: There is a lot of good information out there, and you can have lots of fun outdoors in our region in winter so long as you dress properly for the cold.
The Olympic Regional Development Authority; the Fairbanks Group, which includes Jiminy Peak and Bromley; and the Beast of the East, Killington, were among those making presentations on “sustainability.” The focus of all was on energy-efficiency, particularly with snowmaking, and all talked about alternative sources, especially solar, in making energy not only cost-effective, but renewable.
Rob Megnin's comments on “cow power” at Killington, the conversion of manure into energy, was a highlight.
Yes, there was a little time for skiing, too, on Monday. The clouds were low and the winds were frisky, but temperatures were above the freezing mark and conditions on the lower trails were excellent. Even when the weather is not optimal, the skiing can be very good.
The two-day program attracted about 70 people. Organizers hope to do it again next winter.
LUGE WORLD CUP
The World Cup of Luge returns to Mt. Van Hoevenberg in Lake Placid on Dec 15-16 for the third event in this year's international race series.
Former Union College student Tucker West, a two-time Olympian, is off to a slow start this winter, but he has won the men's race on this track before, so there is reason to believe he can improve on his 19th-place finish last weekend at Whistler.
Even though Chris Mazdzer of Saranac Lake is the reigning Olympic silver medalist in singles and was a U.S. men's best sixth last weekend , the buzz so far on the men's side has been about Jonny Gustafson, a 21-year-old from Massena who has been the top American overall so far this year. His mom grew up locallly in the town of Charlton, where Gustafson's grandparents still live.
In the women's competition, Emily Sweeney had a podium finish last weekend, finishing third in her first start since crashing in the Olympics last winter.
SECTION II CROSS COUNTRY
The Section II competition season gets underway Saturday with the Johnsburg Invitational, a 5K classic-style race at the North Creek Ski Bowl, starting at 11 a.m.
Queensbury is the favorite in both the boys’ and girls’ competitions with 12 schools expected to field teams.
The Alpine competition schedule starts after Christmas.
LAPLAND LAKE OPEN HOUSE
The Lapland Lake Nordic ski center in Benson will host its annual open house Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This is the 41st season for the area, which features 50 kilometers of trails, 38 of those are groomed with both track and skating lanes.
Area facility usage tickets are half-price this weekend.
Phil Johnson can be reached at [email protected].