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  • Chasing Snow
    ... is a blog dedicated to winter weather and skiing in New England.

    Bryan K. Woods, Ph.D. founded Northeast Mountain Sports and publishes this blog dedicated to skiing and winter weather. He received a B.S. in Meteorology from UMass Lowell and his Ph.D. in Geology & Geophysics from Yale. He is an expert in mountain meteorology with multiple peer-reviewed publications. He worked for five years as a Senior Staff Scientist at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc and its parent company Verisk Analytics. He is currently a Principal Engineer at HERE Technologies, the Open Location Platform company.

    Bryan lives in Chelmsford, MA with his wife and ski tuning bench. He spends his winter weekends in North Conway, NH or elsewhere skiing. He is actively involved in the Eastern Inter-Club Ski League (EICSL) as its Secretary, and a Board member of the Makusue Ski And Sport Club in North Conway, NH and ACE Ski and Board Club in Chelmsford, MA.

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  • Recent Weather Updates from "Chasing Snow"

    • By Weatherman in Chasing Snow
      It's no secret that March is the snowiest month of the year, and fortunately this year looks to preserve that generality.  A Nor'Easter will impact the region on Wednesday bringing snow stretching into Monday morning. Widespread moderate to heavy snow is expected from a band of 8-14" stretching across much of ski country. Locally deeper snowfall is possible, but moderate temperatures should limit the fluff factor keeping accumulations down. The latest GFS snowfall forecast will give you a general idea of the pattern.

      For much of the area, especially at lower elevations, expect a wet snow paste job. It'll make excellent base snow, but don't be looking for a blower powder day. As it stands the surface temperatures should be borderline in many areas, but plenty of cold air exists aloft. There will be little to no chance of mixed precipitation, so icing is not a concern. The skew-T below from the Monadnocks shows the plentiful supply of cold air aloft and deep later of moisture.

      What does the mean for skiing? Wednesday night should be fun where night skiing is available at places like Shawnee Peak, Gunstock, Pats Peak, Crotched, and Wachusett -- though temperatures at the latter bear watching for any rain mixing in. Thursday morning should bring knee-buster snow to much of central New England. Even higher elevation areas like Wildcat and Cannon will be looking at dense, though hopefully drier, snow and not champagne. Accumulations in northern Vermont will be lighter on Wednesday night as is typical with coastal storms. For Thursday I'd head to northern New Hampshire in search of dryer snow even if accumulations aren't as high. It'll be a hunt for quality over shear quantity. Given that Wildcat already has natural terrain open (with very thin and scratchy cover) courtesy of last Friday's nsow, they look like the best bet.
      As the low passes southern New England, it is expected to wrap up and move onshore into Maine. By this point snow should be wrapping up in southern New England, but the next phase of the storm will start, and this one isn't being discussed much yet. Expect the talking heads to catch up with it soon. The potential of heavy upslope snows exists for the Friday timeframe at which time the low will be inland. Wrap-around flow will be pumping Atlantic moisture into the spine of the Green Mountains. I'm not touching any potential accumulations so far out with an upslope event, but the typically favored upslope areas look to be in great shape. I'd start thinking about making plans before things get booked up.

      The plan for this weekend depends on what type of skiing you're looking for. For skiing groomers with maybe a little off-piste, southern Vermont looks to be in the best position given the snow they received on Friday coupled with Wednesday's upcoming storm. Groomed trails should be in great shape. If you're a powder hound looking for the trees, head to northern Vermont. Given the upslope nature and current base depths, Bolton, Stowe, Smuggs, and Jay are looking promising for the weekend. A bonus wild card in Bretton Woods who will do okay on Wednesday and can make out well from upslope flow. They have practically zero base depths already, but New England's only lift-serviced golf course doesn't need much snow to open its ungroomed terrain.
      Looking to next week, there is another chance of a storm in the early week (Tuesday?) timeframe. Then things should moderate back towards spring conditions in time for St Patrick's Day weekend. With natural snow on the ground, it could be a beautiful weekend.

    • By Weatherman in Chasing Snow
      For the past few days I've been carefully watching the development for Friday's coastal storm. The greater than usual uncertainty has been the result of two key factors: 1) the thermal profile is going to right on the cusp between snow and rain, and 2) the system is going to be highly energetic. Robust storms like this one are difficult to forecast since the perturbations enter a non-linear regime meaning small changes in computer model inputs can result in dramatic differences in the forecast. Model solutions have ranged from a non-event to a crippling blizzard of historic proportions.
      As the storm draws closer, we're starting to get a better handle on the uncertainty. Nothing in out of the question yet, but here is the general idea...
      A cut-off low will approach southern New England and then drift off to the south. The primary impacts of the storm will largely miss ski country. Heavy snow is likely to confined to upstate New York.

      Expect strong on-shore flow keeping the thermal profile above bringing heavy rain to southern New England. Snow will be limited to higher elevations, except at the tail end where the snow level may drop enough to bring pasty snow toward lower elevations. Areas like the Monadnocks, southern Greens through the Berkshires, and Worcester hills stand to get higher than forecast snowfall totals if the thermal profile changes much. The Catskills look to be in the best position for reliable snowfall out of this storm. Across southern New England, several inches of rain likely somewhere in a band where the low-level jet is the strongest.

      But this really isn't a story focused on rain or snow, at least not on its own. Instead this is going to be a story about severe coastal flooding and widespread power outages. There is still a lot of time for things to change, but multi-day power outages are a strong possibility. To highlight the strength of this storm, check out the pronounced tropopause fold that is forecast. You're probably thinking either a) what the hell is that? or b) cool! but get to the point. The tropopause fold itself is not on consequence to this story, but is a symptom of how robust the storm will be.

      A strong low-level jet is going to bring onshore plenty of moisture and exceptionally strong winds just above the surface. It's unlikely, but possible, that this moisture could reach the ground as snow if the thermal profile cools, which would increase the potential for power outages as the pasty snow further burdens trees that will be exposed to damaging winds. But check out that low-level jet...

      Wind speeds at 850 mb (around 5,000 feet) are going to be on the order of 100 kts (115 mph) around Cape Cod. Yikes! It's an open question of how much of that mixes down to the surface, but expect widespread wind damage. Also another cool geek note: check out the gravity waves being shed from the exit region of the low-level jet off the coast of Virginia. There's definitely some numerical issues caused by the weather model, but they're just another sign of the energy in the system. Cool.

    • By Weatherman in Chasing Snow
      I'm happy to be able to put forward a remotely optimistic weekend outlook. Some light precipitation (of mixed phase depending on location) on Friday night will give way to a beautiful day. Saturday looks to be a warm and sunny days with temperatures in the 40s in the valleys, and 30s at the summits. But all eyes should be focused on Sunday, which looks like a classic warm air overrunning scenario. In these situations, Vermont typically starts as snow and switches over to straight rain. But northern New Hampshire into Maine can be a very different story where cold air damming hangs tough. Looking toward Sunday afternoon, snow may still be the dominant precipitation over the White Mountains and northeast into Maine.

      But the temperature profile is going to be borderline. The exact details will depend on to what extent a secondary surface low develops off the New England coast, which will help to reinforce the cold air damming. If this lows fails to develop, we could be left with freezing rain or a straight cold rain. Optimistically so far it looks like the White Mountains will see a 6 inch paste job on Sunday. For those of you savvy on Skew-T diagrams, note the deep layer of overrunning warm air all the way up to 650 mb. That nearly isothermal layer looks to stay just below freezing, and should lead to a pasty snow, but it won't take much of a shift to flip it.

      Updates will be necessary as the storm approaches.
    • By Weatherman in Chasing Snow
      I was on vacation for a while in late January in early February, so I am sorry for missing those couple of storms. Unfortunately the weather has taken a turn for the less favorable. Looking toward this weekend, I expect only light accumulations in the higher terrain.

      The school vacation week look warm. Very warm. And there will be some showers mid-week. Not exactly the most compelling ski conditions, but the kids won't be freezing.

    • By Weatherman in Chasing Snow
      I know that January was less than favorable for snow storms, which is why you didn't see a lot from me. Plus I was on vacation for the last ten days in the Dolomites and Venice, but I'm back now! I'm still trying to work through my backlog, but fortunately tomorrow's upcoming storm is a simple story.
      In short, there is a progressive wave coming through tomorrow (Wednesday) that will drop a quick 8-12" of snow across northern New England. As the center of the low will pass over southern New England, accumulations will taper off across the seacoast of NH and most of MA. The snow should start in the morning and taper off in the evening and be done by midnight across New England. Like most coastal lows, expect New Hampshire and Maine to do better than Vermont, though nobody should be disappointed. I've left out any specific model forecast maps, because I don't want to get too focused on where the exact rain / snow transition line sets up in any one forecast. Also given the nature of this system (a progressive wave), I don't expect orographic enhancement to be as big a factor as we would see with a closed coastal low (your traditional Nor'Easter).

      The thermal profile still appears uncertain over southern New England, so I'm not showing a track for the low. Look for it to pass somewhere between southeastern NH and southeast MA. The result is relatively uncertain accumulations, with 2-8" expected in the transition region around the Merrimack Valley.
      After the storm, cooler but still seasonable temperature return. It will be a chilly but tolerable late week for skiing, and then will moderate toward the weekend. A weaker wave of disturbed warmer weather approaches for this weekend. Enjoy the soft snow on Friday and Saturday, because the passing of Sunday's weather could lead to a wetter snowpack firming up on the back side. Next week's weather looks at best seasonable, with a lack of any sustained cold air.
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