2.17.2015

Snow Update - Geeking Out One Year Later


Approaching the summit
This post, about The Steenburgh Winter concept and "geeking out" about snow conditions, has been one of the most popular on this blog, making it into the top five. Although I love snow and skiing as do lots of people who read this blog, for some reason it always surprises me that such posts remain so popular over time (Note the number one post).

It's been about a year since we "geeked out" and it is the time of year when the "Steenburgh Winter" is coming to an end (and in some places has already ended) so it's a good time to check in on this year's snow conditions.

As a reminder, the concept of the Steenburgh Winter comes to us from University of Utah professor of atmospheric science Dr. Jim Steenburgh. It is summarized below:
“Steenburgh winter begins the first day that the Alta-Collins snow stake reaches 100….It represents the approximate snow depth needed to transition from early season conditions to winter conditions in the Cottonwoods…. Steenburgh winter ends on February 10…. It seems to be around this time of year when the sun begins to have an increasingly caustic effect on powder…. Prior to February 10, powder can linger for many days on most aspects.  Even south facing slopes might survive without a melt-freeze cycle if it is really cold.  After February 10, the south aspects will almost always suffer a melt-freeze cycle if the sun comes out and, as the days go on, the sun becomes an increasingly formidable enemy to powder on an increasingly greater range of aspects.”  
(You can use this website to help you find the Steenburgh Winter date for your area. Just find the date where the maximum sun angle first reaches 35 degrees above the horizon and that is your Steenburgh Winter date.)  
So where do we stand this year? Last year, on February 12 (The day the post was written) the base at Bridger Bowl was 76” and the Big Sky base was between 57” and 85” depending on elevation. Today, the base at Bridger Bowl is 56" and Big Sky is 42"-63" depending on elevation so not as bad as I had expected but not conditions to rave about either.  If you believe in the Steenburgh Winter concept, we only have seven days left until it ends in southwest Montana. Poor Alta, (where the concept of the Steenburgh Winter was created) is only at 66" base, well below the 100" inches needed by February 10.
Saturday=Biking in shorts. Sunday=Powder turns!
It was a crazy weekend weather-wise. Temperatures pushing 60 and biking in shorts on Saturday with blowing snow and powder turns on Hyalite Peak on Sunday. Conditions Sunday came as a surprise as Saturday was not the only warm day last week. In Bozeman, we're just coming out of a long stretch of unseasonably warm weather. Nordic ski venues in the town of Bozeman were in poor condition starting in mid-January and were completely melted out shortly after that. I’ve seen years with little snow before but never one with such extended periods of warm weather in between storms.  

 
 Additionally, the northeast has had four major storms in a short period of time with records being broken, and there are reports of multiple days of school closures in the south due to ice. What is wrong with this picture?! I’m sure the scientists, old-timers, Fox News watchers, and climate change believers and deniers alike have their theories as to what is going on weather-wise. I invite you to contribute your thoughts in the comments section of this post.
Mike, Kumiko, Moi



Interestingly, I hosted a visitor from Japan in my home last week. (Read more about citizen diplomacy here.) She was an administrator from University of Toyko who was in Bozeman with a group on a short-term professional exchange.  Part of the program aimed to have the visitors experience life in an American home so I volunteered to host. Mike and I showed Kumiko around, and spent time with some other folks who were also hosting visitors. Over and over again, there were comments on the warm temperatures, lack of snow and crazy weather.  I’m sure our new friends from Japan were thinking "These people are really nice but must they talk about the weather all of the time?!" 


We tried to explain but I think the true meaning might have been "lost in translation." Enjoy the weather, whatever Mother Nature may throw your way. And don't give up on skiing just yet!
We couldn't take Kumiko skiing so we took her for a typical American breakfast. The Cat Eye delivers!

Alex goes big!