Monday’s snowfall gets Vail locals buzzing
What’s the forecast?
Here’s the National Weather Service’s forecast for Vail for the next several days.
Oct. 28: Sunny, high of 44, low of 23.
Oct. 29: Sunny, high of 48, low of 26.
Oct. 30: Sunny, high of 51, low of 29.
Oct. 31: Sunny, high of 55, low of 32.
Nov. 1: Partly cloudy, high of 53, low of 31.
Nov. 2: Chance of snow, high of 36.
VAIL — What we think of weather is all about timing. If Monday’s cool weather and light snow had hit in, say, late May, there’d be grumbling. Monday, though, there was a buzz.
Tom and Jackie Higgins own the American Ski Exchange in Vail. Gear for the coming season is rolling in and being put on the shelves. Tom Higgins usually thinks about bird-hunting this time of year, but he said that fresh snow has started stirring thoughts of strapping on boards and heading uphill.
“It was really exciting to see snow on top of (the Riva Ridge ski run) this morning,” Higgins said. “And we’re gearing up for the season.”
Jackie Higgins said people had been popping in and out of the store Monday. Many were guests looking for gloves and hats to ward off the day’s chill after a warm weekend, she said. But others have started looking for gear.
At the Yeti’s Grind coffee shop in Solaris, Chelsea Dempsey said that store was also bustling, again, mostly with guests caught off-guard by the sudden chill of the day.
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Still, she said, she and other locals are starting to get eager for the start of ski season.
A CHILL IN THE AIR
That season, as always, will depend in large part on the weather. Vail Resorts has been making snow whenever nighttime temperatures dip low enough — into the low 20s — to allow it. There will be a few of those cold nights this week.
At the National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office, forecaster and climate specialist Joe Ramey said the week’s forecast is for gradual warming into the weekend, with highs in Vail getting into the mid-50s by Friday and Saturday.
Another front will move into the high country Sunday, bringing another chance of some snow in higher elevations.
LONGTERM FORECAST HAZY
Other than Sunday, the forecast remains relatively dry for the next couple of weeks. After that, the forecasting window gets hazy.
Ramey said current forecasting techniques can track storm systems well out into the Pacific Ocean, even into Asia. But, he said, longer-term forecasting still lives in a “Who knows?” haze.
Still, everybody wants to know what the forecasters know, so Ramey did provide a look at the trends.
The biggest of those trends is the El Nino patterns that develop in the Pacific Ocean west of South America.
An El Nino system is warmer water in the part of the ocean over which storms can develop. Those patterns generally result in average or drier-than-average snow years in this part of the country.
Moisture during El Nino years generally tracks farther to the south. While many people believe El Nino years are great for, say, the Wolf Creek ski area, Ramey said his research shows that the big-moisture line is actually closer to the northern or central part of New Mexico.
Big snow in this part of the country is often driven by cooler water in the Pacific, known as La Nina. A La Nina drove the big snow year in 2010-11. But that pattern persisted into 2012, the year a historic drought hit the Rockies.
Then there are the neutral years, when water temperatures are close to their historic averages. The last two winters have been Nino-neutral and resulted in OK and big snow years.
Ramey said the Pacific remains mostly neutral at the moment. Historic indicators point toward an El Nino winter, but Ramey said the patterns haven’t yet established themselves.
So, working with indicators and patterns, the best guess Ramey and his fellow forecasters can provide for the winter is that it may be drier than normal from December through February, with the prospects of a wet spring.
But the best forecasts anyone can provide remains just a couple of weeks into the future.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.