Hey everyone! So our season has come to a close and its time to reflect on the past few months before we start praying for a better 2012/13. Recent write-up I produced for the Capital Weather Gang:
Lousy end to lousy mid-Atlantic ski season
Ullr, god of snow, didn’t smile on the mid-Atlantic during the 2011-12 ski season. After two amazing seasons of decent snow and consistently good ski conditions, our area suffered one of the worst ski seasons in recent memory.
Thanks to the season’s late start and early end, local resorts Whitetail and Liberty were open for less than 70 days this season while higher elevation areas were open for only about 100 days. On average (my guestimate), the typical range for the D.C. area is closer to 100 days (low elevation) to 140 days (high elevations).
Throughout the winter, we hoped and prayed for a period of colder air and at least the chance for a decent winter storm, but were left with short spurts of below-average or near-average temperatures broken up by long streaks of warmth. Resorts were forced to feverishly make snow during the cold spurts only to watch it melt away under warmth and rain. The result was late openings, meager skiable terrain, an early close to the season, and overall lousy conditions.
Before highlighting some stats, I want to look back to the start of the season. Although a distant memory at this point, many of us were truly hopeful for a bumper season after winter came early with an intense October Nor’easter that blanketed local mountains with up to a foot of snow, pounded many areas of the Northeast, and even offered rare October flakes for the D.C. area.
This video from the Dolly Sods wilderness area (>4000 ft) depicts just how much snow fell in parts of West Virginia that weekend! Little did we know at the time, but that October storm turned out to be our only large Northeast storm of the season.
Temperatures: As CWG’s Jason Samenow noted in a recent post, this past astronomical winter was the warmest on record for the D.C. area. The season was characterized by a complete lack of “Greenland blocking,” which meant that the cold, when it did arrive, couldn’t hang on and was simply pushed out by the next incoming batch of warmth and rain. Looking at the table below, we can see that each month was above average throughout the area. Barring a dramatic shift in the pattern, I would expect March to join this list and post one of the largest departures of the season (and possibly on record).
Snowfall/Snowmaking: Although there were a few decent storms for the highlands of West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland (Canaan Valley, W.V., recorded over 110 inches for the season), the snow was never able to hold on for any appreciable stretch of time and build a legitimate base. The same was true for snowmaking. Resorts went gung-ho and pumped out the white stuff whenever they could, but had to watch it melt away during spells of warmth and rain. Given the constant temperature oscillations, resorts were really never able to get into a groove with consistent snowmaking and were constantly in recovery mode, attempting to rebuild base after each successive mild streak. The result was thin coverage with little snow in reserve (large piles you often find at the top and middle of the mountains).