This last week has been brutal, weather-wise. One day, it’s been warm and sunny, with temperatures in the 30s. Then, it’s been snowy and chilly. The last few days have been bitterly cold and windy. How do skiers adjust? They “weather the weather.”
How do you weather the weather? Know what coming, dress accordingly, choose the right equipment and activity and carry extra stuff.
Know the weather forecast — first of all, pay attention to the weather report so you’re prepared with the right clothing and equipment. Ask anybody at a ski area, alpine or Nordic, and they can tell you the weather for that day and maybe five days out. They know it’s wise to have a “heads’ up” about what’s coming so they can prepare for it.
“Where do you get your weather information?” I asked my friends, relatives, and fellow skiers. My husband and I are joined by Jackson’s ski instructor Laurel Smith, snowshoe guide Rob McConaghy, and Gorham Bike and Ski’s Steve Piotrow in using the Mount Washington Observatory website: tinyurl.com/y4ycsdqd.
Peter Minnich also likes weather maps from the Weather Underground site (wunderground.com). For a quick check, Rob, Marianne Borowski, John Higgins and I use the Weather Channel app (application) that was installed on our phone. It seems to be pretty accurate for the places we type in.
Deb Deschenes, Jackson Ski Touring Foundation’s events/sales manager, Marianne and Steve consult NOAA (National Oceanic Atmosphere Administration) site (wow.weather.gov). Weather Underground was also mentioned by Ken Lidman, Jackson skier, and Steve Piotrow. Accuweather (accuweather.com) was on Marianne’s, Laurel’s and Steve’s lists as well.
There are several “local” weather stations people use. John Higgins of Glen has one at his house (higginslocation.com/weather). Ken and Steve use a Jackson weather station they find listed under Weather Underground.
For TV sources, Connie and Dave Kinsman like Keith Carson on Maine’ WCSH (Channel 6). They say he “nails it more than anyone.” Marianne consults Channel 9 (WMUR in Manchester) and Channel 6, and the 6 p.m. news. Peter and I like WMUR’s Chief Meteorologist Mike Haddad. John Higgins watches CBS WGME’s (Channel 13) Charlie Lopresti.
Many of us listen to local radio stations, too, like WMUR, NHPR, MPR and WMWV morning forecast and rating to find out what’s coming weather-wise. Everyone I consulted used more than one source for their weather information. I like Steve Piotrow’s personal source, “Sometimes I go outside and look at the sky.”
Once you know what the weather is supposed to be, you can plan accordingly, knowing weather forecasts are only predictions. Meteorologists can get it wrong or weather systems can change course.
In the mountains, weather is especially fickle. When I commuted through Pinkham Notch, I quickly learned about the “Notch effect.” Depending on which side of the notch you were on, you could have drastically different weather on the other side, so you had to prepare for a variety of conditions.
Dress for the weather — last Sunday, I was glad I prepared for the weather. It was snowing lightly when I left home, but got heavier when I got to Jackson. It snowed all morning, and changed to something like sleet in the afternoon. Fortunately, I knew it was going to be a “damp” day, so I layered-up my top with a silk tank, zippered wicking turtleneck and a wool top. In the bottom of my gear bag, I had an extra full zippered top I could put on if I got cold.
On the bottom, I wore my heavy weight long johns and water resistant softshell pants. I wore wool socks and kept extra pairs ready if my feet got cold or wet. On my head, I wore a wool hat and a light neck-up. I searched my sunglass collection for the ones with clear lenses to protect my eyes from the snow. On my hands, I wore power-stretch gloves covered with a lobster glove, but, like the socks, I kept extra dry pairs ready to swap out when those got wet. Considering how wet those mitts got, I probably could have used a waterproof cover.
The best decision I made that day was to wear a hooded storm coat over my staff jacket. That kept my head and back dry and shielded my face from the constant snow. There’s an old Scandinavia saying, “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.” That day, I got it right and the weather wasn’t a problem.
Monday, Mount Washington recorded a peak wind speed of 171 mph! The average temperature on the summit, figuring in wind chill, was minus 38 degrees! That’s cold! It wasn’t that cold in Jackson, but it was cold enough. The winds picked up as the day went on and it got more frigid. Fortunately, my cross-country students were also alpine skiers and knew how to dress for it, with storm jackets, goggles and warm gloves and mittens. Even the little kids were well outfitted. I pulled out my heavier clothes, too, including that trusty storm jacket and weathered the weather.
As an instructor, my challenge that day was to keep everyone moving and warm. We quickly went from activity to activity, not staying still long. I checked with everyone, especially kids to make sure they were warm. I looked for places to teach that were sheltered. When the wind came up, we turned our backs to it. I made it through the morning, but was glad no one signed up for afternoon lessons. I was stressed out from enduring the weather!
Choose your equipment and activity wisely — if it’s snowing all day, don’t try a long skate ski, especially when snow is very sticky. If it’s windy, you probably won’t enjoy being out in the open skiing — head for the woods. Back country skis, skins and adjustable poles will work better and give more control if you’re skiing ungroomed, icy or steep terrain. If temperatures are below zero and you’re breaking trail in deep snow, it’s time to bag the trip and turn around. Being stubborn in the face of bad weather makes no sense. Live to try another day.
Carry extra stuff — It’s always smart to be prepared for little and big problems along the way. In my fanny pack, I carry a headlamp, power snacks, water, extra gloves and mittens, balaclava, cell phone, a whistle (in case, cellphone doesn’t work), compass, sunscreen, cell, etc. If I’m going for a long ski, I always have an extra layer to put on.
In case the snow is sticky, I carry Maxiglide or F4 to put on skis when snow clumps up underneath. My tongue depressor is a great tool for removing that snow that clogs the bottom of my ski boots. Hand-warmers are there in case my hands get cold. If snow is blowing, I might carry goggles or a snow visor to shield my eyes. A cap with a brim helps, too.
February is finally done, but March comes next with its roller-coaster weather. Pay attention to the weather, dress for it, choose the right equipment and activity, and carry something extra. Weather the weather and get out and play in the snow.
Great Glen Trails: Tuesday Nordic Meisters and Fatbike Meisters, through March, 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m. for Nordic Meisters, 4-6 p.m. for Fatbikers.
Sundays, Bill Koch Ski League, young skiers from 1-8 grade, 1:30-3:30 p.m., through March.
Jackson Ski Touring Foundation: Friday Gliders, Sliders and Easy Sliders, through March, 1-3 p.m., 2-hour social ski followed by snacks and beverages.
Bretton Woods Nordic Center: Thursdays Ladies Loppets, on March 7 and March 14, 10:45 a.m. to noon, activity based, social group working on improving techniques.
45th annual Mount Washington Cup 10K Freestyle Race at Bretton Woods, Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m. mass start.
Bretton Woods Nordic Marathon Classic, 42K, Sunday, March 3, 9:30 a.m. start.
Third Ski, Shoe and Fatbike to the Clouds 10K., Great Glen Trails, Sunday, March 3, 10 am.
Granite Backcountry Alliance Mount Washington Backcountry Ski Fest, March 8-10. Go to: tinyurl.com/y63xjvbr for more information about clinics and events.
Great Glen Trails Charity Day, Saturday, March 9, 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m., donate $25 per person ($15 age 5-12) to your favorite charity and enjoy free skiing, tubing and buffet lunch. Donate $50 ($30 for kids) and get chance to ride snow coach, too.
Jackson Ski Touring Foundation skate clinics, Sunday, March 10, V1 plus hills, 10:30 a.m.-noon, V2 plus balance, 1-2:30 p.m., $25 each, or both for $40. Call JSTF (603-383-9355) to register and get details.
ESSC Snow Day Activities, Thursday, March 7 (makeup, March 14), at various ski areas.
Baxter Winter Triathlon, Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, Saturday, March 16, 9-11 a.m.