Forecasters forgiven for stumbling storms |

Forecasters forgiven for stumbling storms

Matt Zalaznick
Daily file photoSkiers and snowboards in the valley, who'll do just about anything to ride fresh powder, get real cranky when weather forecasters promise them blizzards and Mother Nature sends only feeble flurries.

Because what’s more teeth-gnashingly infuriating than expecting 3 feet of snow overnight, sleeping in your ski boots so you don’t lose a second racing to first chair, getting all charged up to brag to friends who couldn’t ditch work about an epic, historic, Homeric powder day – and waking up to find a dusting of snow so pathetic it’s barely burying a dachshund’s ankles?

The first question you irately ask yourself is, “What’s the safest way to unfreeze a dachshund from a cement driveway? A welder’s torch? A flame-thrower?”

Then, you wonder furiously, how can the weather forecaster be so consistently clueless? Doesn’t he know better than to fool with a subject as deadly serious as waist-deep tree runs and face shots?

“Like any other reporters, I think weather forecasters just exaggerate the news to get people to tune in,” said Kirk Westphal, a skier from New York City headed up Vail Mountain Thursday.

OK, Kirk –if Kirk is your real name – you don’t live in the High Country. You don’t realize how vital half-a-foot of fresh snow is! You don’t realize how cruel it is for a forecaster – or a newspaper reporter thoroughly untrained in meteorology – to get a valleyful of skiers’ and snowboarders’ hopes up!

“You guys have been jinxing us with your weather reports,” said Curt Capinha of Vail. “The Vail Daily is not the most accurate source of weather information.”

Well then, how’s the snow up there? Not too fluffy, huh? A bit hard packed, isn’t it?

“We’re getting a little spring break in January,” Capinha said. “Hopefully, it won’t last too long, because we’re about to start seeing some grass.”

Well, if you’re going to side with the angry caller who claimed we hadn’t got one storm prediction right in seven years, we won’t say anything about the snow predicted to fall today, this weekend and early next week. We’ll only say the forecast is for –hey, speaking of weather forecasts, do dogs like to skydive?

“I know a guy who used to jump with his dachshund. The poor dog didn’t know what was going on,” said Al Arnold, a firefighter, skydiver, skier, surfer and extreme cameraman from Huntington Beach, Calif.

“Skydiving is more intense; skiing gives you more of a long-term buzz,” Arnold said. “In California you can surf, ski and skydive on the same day, but that hat trick has not yet been mine.”

Arnold is so extreme he’s got a video camera attached to his helmet.

“I’m the Warren Miller of the common man,” Arnold says.

And his ski models are also the ski models of the common man: They don’t do any tricks, huck off cliffs or jump out of helicopters, says Arnold’s friend and amateur ski-video star, Wes Peik.

But they do go back to their condo each night, have a few beers and watch videos of themselves skiing. Peik admitted he didn’t look all that sharp in Wednesday’s footage from Vail Mountain.

“That’s why we’re out here working on it again today,” Peik said.

Peik said he doesn’t have much use for weather forecasts.

“I don’t even watch,” Peik said. “The weather’s going to do what it wants to do.”

By the way, Arnold, asked us to mention his – which we absolutely will not do.

Others on the slopes Thursday had a little more sympathy for the world’s weather-guessers.

“I have an engineering background, so I know it’s tough to predict the weather with all the mountains around,” said Tony Schooler, a skier from Chicago. “I look at the weather forecast as a recommendation, not the truth.”

But could you stand a cross-country road trip with a bunch of meteorologists?

“They’re probably on the nerdy side,” said Chris Mankins, a skier from Denton, Texas. “But a road trip? Sure. They’d probably be well-prepared.”

Mankins’ wife Brandi says she’s hoping current forecasts are accurate.

“I think it’s supposed to snow Friday,” she said. “I’m afraid it’s going to get warm and everything’s going to melt or turn to ice.”

And warm weather around the country this winter had Schooler wondering about global warming, though he said he doesn’t think the heat will be scorch the ski industry for a few years yet.

“It’s going to take a long time – longer than our lifetimes,” he said.

But out-of-towners are noticing the balmy weather on Vail Mountain this week.

“I checked the weather report before I came and it said there wasn’t going to be any snow while I was here,” Westphal said. “But I didn’t think I was going to take a tropical vacation this week.”

But the snow’s holding up –at least enough to impress skiers from the East Coast.

“It’s been great,” he said. “After the snow in the east, I can’t complain.

And while none of those interview blamed a bungled weather forecast for ruining their day, Westphal said misleading meteorologists once landed him with his foot in his mouth while flirting with an eligible young lady.

“I once said to some people that weather forecasters are pretty poor at their job given the technology,” he said. “It turned out the girl sitting next me, her father was a meteorologist.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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