Master meteorology with ‘Hunting Powder’ book
Like any passionate skier, Jordan Lipp doesn’t want to miss a morning when there are feet of freshly fallen snow on the slopes after a storm. But unlike skiers who follow the “no friends on a powder day” mantra, he doesn’t want you to miss them either.
He wrote “Hunting Powder: A Skier’s Guide to Finding Colorado’s Best Snow” to help out. Released in January, it isn’t the usual backcountry guidebook that advises people on where to ski. Rather, it teaches people how to read weather models so they can figure out for themselves which spots might have a nice stash of snow on a given day.
“The amount of snow that’s going to fall at the Imperial Express SuperChair is going to be completely different than the amount that’s going to be at the bottom of Peak 9,” Lipp said. “You don’t ski the snow stake.”
Another aspect that makes the book stand out is the fact that this weather-focused resource wasn’t written by a meteorologist. Lipp is a lawyer on the Front Range who said his math skills aren’t good enough to pursue meteorology. He hopes his experience makes the book more accessible and fun to read with layman’s terms, personal anecdotes and less jargon.
“I think Jordan’s lack of a meteorology degree is a feature rather than a bug,” founding Open Snow meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote in the book’s forward.
Lipp essentially reenacted the plot of the movie “Aspen Extreme,” but in reverse. He did his undergraduate schooling at University of Colorado Boulder and joined ski patrol at Eldora Mountain and Berthoud Pass Ski Area before it shut down. He then went to Michigan to study law and ski the small, 230-foot hill of Mount Brighton Ski Resort — the origin point of the movie protagonists who headed west to Aspen.
Yet it was growing up in New York that fostered Lipp’s love of skiing. He’s been skiing since he was 2 because his father was a volunteer ski patroller at Swain Resort, a 650-foot hill in Allegany County. Lipp followed his father’s footsteps and joined patrol when he was 16.
“It was one of the best things I’ve done,” Lipp said. “It was a fantastic experience because, all of a sudden, I have to learn the basics of outdoor emergency care and CPR and leadership and toboggan handling — everything that’s great for a teenager to learn.”
Jordan Lipp’s newest book is “Hunting Powder: A Skier’s Guide to Finding Colorado’s Best Snow.” The guidebook is focused on meteorology and using weather patterns to search for powder.
“Hunting Powder: A Skier’s Guide to Finding Colorado’s Best Snow ” by Jordan Lipp
Self-published, January 2021
328 pages, $25
The sun and snow is what originally brought Lipp out West. He kept coming back to patrol Berthoud in between semesters at law school and found himself frequently giving advice on where to ski. In 2005, years after the lifts stopped running and it became a hot spot for adventurers, Lipp harnessed that love for the area in his first book, “Backcountry Skiing Berthoud Pass.” He wanted to preserve the other patrollers’ collective knowledge of the area.
Though the resort is gone, he still patrols around the region as a member of the Bryan Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol.
“On the trail map of Swain, they have these beautiful mountains in the background, but they weren’t actually there,” Lipp said. “It was just the pretty hills of New York. Then when I went to Eldora, they had these spectacular mountains in the background, and the mountains are actually there. Then when I was at Berthoud, it was the first time I was in the heart of those mountains. Berthoud has so many chutes, cliffs, bowls and every interesting type of terrain one could want. It’s all right there.”
Snow and skiing aren’t Lipp’s only interests. His second book was about product liability law, and Lipp jokes that he can take his kids out to dinner at Noodles and Co. on the royalties. Another passion is wine, and he and his wife wrote his third book, “Is There Apple Juice in My Wine? 38 Laws that Affect the Wine You Drink,” in 2018.
However, “Hunting Powder” has been in the works for 5 1/2 years, before he even had the idea for the wine book.
Wondering about the weather
It wasn’t until he read University of Utah professor Jim Steenburgh’s “Secrets of the Greatest Snow on Earth” that he realized there was an opportunity to fill a void. The book describes topics like how snow patterns work at Utah’s Big Cottonwood Canyon and why places like Solitude Mountain Resort and Park City Mountain Resort get the snow they do. Lipp wanted to do the same for Colorado’s ski areas.
The eight parts of “Hunting Powder“ are broken into 32 chapters that are filled with maps and graphics — in addition to eight appendices and a glossary — making the 328-page book more than a light read. However, Lipp knows people will skip around, so some chapters will mention another for easy reference.
The first four parts of the book focus on the production of snow and weather patterns, like how a cloud moves from Grand Junction across Interstate 70, through the “Dillon Doughnut” and precipitates in Summit County. The fifth part deals with how wind and temperature change fallen snow while the next portion gives tips on hunting powder.
With each draft, he’d send it to friends, professors at Colorado Mountain College, weather experts and more for feedback. For instance, in the section on avalanches, he was given the suggestion to talk about terrain first to grab the attention of the reader, even though it’s often last in avalanche classes, where students are already paying attention. Part of the book also grew out of Lipp writing forecasts for Bryan Mountain patrol.
“It’s one thing for me to forecast among my friends and say, ‘Winds are coming from the west, so we’re going to get the best skiing at Loveland.’” Lipp said. “Or, ‘Winds are coming from the northwest, so I think we’re going to get the best skiing at Berthoud.’ But it’s another thing to put the forecast on the patrol website and everyone can laugh at me when I get it wrong.”
For those who aren’t comfortable skiing in powder but still want to have fun, the book closes with skiing groomed snow, corn snow and even sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.
These days, Lipp is skiing in-bounds more due to his 8- and 6-year-olds — though the kids have skied Berthoud — but he tries to ski at least one day a month in Colorado. He can do that in the warmer months with an old pair of skis cruising down the dunes.
“One of the reasons I put the chapter in at the end of the book was just for folks who haven’t done it,” Lipp said. “It’s a lot of fun. Would you want to go out every weekend and go sand skiing? No. But once a year, it’s a blast.”