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VIDEO: Salomon Freeski TV, CMH Dreamland

In episode 2 of Salomon Freeski TV's 8th season, Mike, Cody and Alexi spend a week with Canadian Mountain Holidays, the longest running heliski operation in the world. They claim to have the "World's Greatest Skiing". Is this claim true? 

Watch and decide. Better yet, you should probably just go and experience it for yourself. 

Sam Collentine | OpenSnow

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CONNECTION: The Arctic Oscillation

One of our favorite weather blogs that we love to follow here at OpenSnow is the Wasatch Weather Weenies. The Wasatch Weather Weenies discuss the weather and climate of the Wasatch Front and Mountains in Utah, western United States, and beyond.

Participants include aspiring and old-school atmospheric scientists, weather enthusiasts, powder snobs, and poor souls enrolled in classes taught by University of Utah Atmospheric Sciences Professor Jim Steenburgh. Many posts feature content or insights enabled by the support of the National Science Foundation, Office of Naval Research, and the NOAA/National Weather Service. 

Yesterday featured a blog post about one of the most important large scale modes of climate variability, the Arctic Oscillation. In a definition taken directly from the National Climate Data Center, the AO is a climate pattern characterized by winds circulating counterclockwise around the Arctic at around 55°N latitude. When the AO is in its positive phase, a ring of strong winds (the jet stream) circulating around the North Pole acts to confine colder air across polar regions ("bottling-up"). This belt of winds (the jet stream) becomes weaker and more distorted in the negative phase of the AO, which allows an easier southward penetration of colder, arctic airmasses and increased storminess into the mid-latitudes ("buckling").

Source: NOAA

The author of yesterday's blog post, Peter Veals, decided to take a brief look at the Arctic Oscillation Index and its potential impact on monthly snowfall in the Wasatch of Utah. Peter looked at the correlation of the monthly mean AO Index and monthly snowfall at the Snowbird SNOTEL site. He plotted the the AO Index versus total monthly SWE (snow water equivalent) at Snowbird for the period 1991-2014. The red line is the best fit line or the line that best represents the data on a scatter plot.

Source: Wasatch Weather Weenies

Peter's results were not encouraging. Below are the R-squared values for each month. A value of 1 would indicate a perfect fit for the line of best fit. 

November: 0.03

December: 0.16

January: 0.01

February: 0.12

March: 0.00

April: 0.16

In other words, the AO Index has no correlation to snowfall at Snowbird in November, January, and March, and a very slight correlation for the rest of the winter. So as you can see, the AO overall is not of much use for predicting snowfall in the Wasatch on the monthly scale.

Peter went on to explain that while medium-range weather forecasting (out to 10 days) has become increasingly skilled in the computer age, seasonal prediction is still in its infancy. Also, the Arctic Oscillation is calculated over the entire Northern Hemisphere, and there are other climatic oscillations such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) that capture more of the conditions that impact western North America. 

As you can see below in the observed & ensemble mean forecasts, the Arctic Oscillation is currently in the negative phase but is trending towards the positive phase. 

Source: NOAA - Climate Prediction Center

Will the forecast hold and keep colder arctic airmasses and increased storminess "bottled-up"? Remember, this is only one teleconnection and for the Wasatch of Utah, it's a weak one at that. 

Sam Collentine | OpenSnow

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OPEN: Arapahoe Basin

This weekend kicked off North America's 2014-2015 ski season as Arapahoe Basin opened on Friday. 

On Wednesday Arapahoe Basin sent out a press release with the news of the opening. “Conditions have been outstanding for snowmaking and we are very excited to open this Friday,” said Alan Henceroth, A-Basin’s Chief Operating Officer. A-Basin’s mountain operations team started making snow on October 2, 2014, and they were able to create the 18-inch base necessary for opening over the course of several days. The ski area also received about a foot of natural snow in the weeks prior to opening.

I got the chance to get up to A-Basin on Saturday to catch a few turns and to chat with their Chief Operating Officer, Alan Henceroth. 

While standing outside Guest Services under sunny skies and with a great look at High Noon, I could tell that Alan was chopped full of excitement. When I asked him how they were able to open ahead of their counterpart, Loveland Ski Area, all he had was praise for A-Basin's snowmaking team. "We were able to take advantage of last weekend's ideal temperatures to maintain continous snowmaking from Saturday night through Monday night with only a slight break on Monday afternoon."

When asked if he was concerned about the mostly warm and dry extended outlook, he maintained that they will do all they can to keep High Noon under skiable conditions and the snowmaking team will jump on the opportunity to make snow when they can. I thanked Alan for taking the time to talk with me and headed over to jump in line for the Black Mountain Express. 

Excitement, that's all you could feel when standing in line. It seemed like just yesterday when I skiied my last runs of the 2013-2014 season on May 14th. To my surprise, the line moved very quickly and after 10 or so minutes we were headed up the mountain. With my cousin to my right and two beginners from Missouri to my left, it was all smiles as we rode the chair to the mid-mountain drop off adjecent to the Black Mountain Lodge.


After a quick picture, my cousin and I buckled in and took off down the "white ribbon of death." The snow was what you would expect for it being 12:30 P.M. in mid-October, creamy on top and a sheet of ice underneath. It's not like anyone cared though, it's mid-October! We made our way down and immediately got in line for another. 

Just being on the mountain this early in the Fall is all any skier or snowboarder can ask for. My cousin and I reminisced about last season and can only hope that this season comes even close. After finishing our second run, my cousin and I contemplated calling it a day. We both looked at each other and agreed on the old saying, "two more, skip the last."

Sam Collentine | OpenSnow

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GEAR: Avalanche Packs

This article is brought to you by They like our snow forecasts, and we like their knowledge of gear. So we work together to bring you details on the best stuff you can buy, and they help you earn cash back on purchases. Win-win-win-win, or something like that!

Backcountry Safety: Airbags Within Reach

There’s snow on the ground, folks. Not enough to fill the back bowls but enough to dream. Time to check the forecast, tune up your gear – and avoid jumping into marginal early-season conditions.  Manage the stoke and ride with back-up including wise companions and the right avalanche tech.

Airbags; blown out of proportion?

Avalanche packs increase your chance of survival when you pull the cord: in three seconds, volume-increasing airbags minimize your risk of burial while also protecting neck and head. Though all avalanche airbags protect the skier or rider, features, technology and style influence the price.  The Active Junky team glides in with three avalanche packs: bargain, mid-range and high-end.

BCA Float 22 Pack: Get In The Game Now


At only 22L, this BCA Float 22 Pack is far from a high-capacity pack but is well suited for sidecountry and quick backcountry expeditions. Last year’s style is discounted, putting it among the few under $400. BCA’s been on the forefront of the backcountry movement for years so this easy-to-use compressed air system is a viable option for folks looking to up their out-of-bounds security. If you still can’t justify the price, remember; a single-mountain season pass costs more.

Best For: Backcountry adventure on a budget.
Earn cash back on the BCA Float 22 Airbag Backpack

Mammut Ride R.A.S. Avalanche Airbag Pack 30L: Security + Carry Capacity

Mammut’s success in alpine pursuits is evident in this functional pack complete with a Removable Airbag System. At $700, the 30L, mid-range pack provides ample storage for full-day BC sojourns. Intuitive straps personalize the fit while R.A.S. technology allows you to jettison weight on resort days. Give serious consideration to this innovative and Active Junky-approved pack from the trusted folks at Mammut.

Best For: Serious skiers and riders who alternate between resort, sidecountry and backcountry days; longer BC day-trips.
Earn cash back on the Mammut Ride R.A.S. Avalanche Airbag Pack

Dakine ABS Signal 25L: Riding Strong And High

At $1249.95, Dakine’s ABS Signal Pack is not for the faint of wallet. Dakine’s high-end 25L is a sleek package, organized around the essentials needed for a day in the backcountry including goggle pocket, helmet pouch, waist pocket, shovel pocket and ice axe loops. A collaboration between backcountry powerhouses ABS and Dakine, Signal offers powderhounds the pinnacle of avalanche protection; guides and hard-core BC travelers need to give this one a second look.

Best For: Guides, mountaineers and serious skiers/riders looking for unparalleled backcountry safety.
Earn cash back on the Dakine AbS Signal Pack

Final Thoughts:  Start Smarter

Get educated through an avalanche safety course, follow local forecasts religiously, explore with experienced companions and, of course, make sure you’ve got the right gear. Airbag packs only mitigate the danger of an avalanche, over 90% of which are started by those they sweep away. Good decision-making is the start as avalanche packs simply function as a secondary level of security. 

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BREAKING: A-Basin opens Friday

arapahoe basin open

Source: Arapahoe Basin Ski Area Facebook Page - Camara Photography, LLC

Press Release: Arapahoe Basin Ski Area will kick off Colorado’s 2014-15 ski and snowboard season on Friday, October 17, 2014. Skiers and snowboarders will be able to make turns on the intermediate HighNoon trail starting at 9:00 a.m. Skiers and snowboarders will take the Black Mountain Express high-speed quad chairlift to the top of the run at mid-mountain.

 “Conditions have been outstanding for snowmaking and we are very excited to open this Friday,” said Alan Henceroth, A-Basin’s Chief Operating Officer. “It is always great to watch people have fun skiing and riding. I look forward to catching up with old friends and getting The Basin rolling.”

A-Basin’s mountain operations team started making snow on October 2, 2014, and they were able to create the 18-inch base necessary for opening over the course of several days. The ski area also received about a foot of natural snow in the weeks prior to opening.

Sam Collentine | OpenSnow

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