The winter that was, part 1

The winter just past was pretty terrible, was it not? After a promising early snowfall that teased us downstaters, it seemed like every subsequent storm left the mid- and lower-Hudson valley with rain. The fact that up north, particularly the White mountains, wound up with a large snowpack was cold comfort.

And then the coronavirus hit, and the wheels just came off the bus everywhere starting in late February. The entire series of cross-country ski World Cup races in North America (first in the US in almost 20 years) were cancelled, ski centers closed in accordance with state public health directives, and locales previously welcoming to tourism rolled up the welcome mat. In some cases, locals put up barricades and downed trees across roads.

If that weren’t enough, the budgets for sports teams are being cut and it looks like we’re due for a global recession at least as bad as the one in 2008. Many of us have big matters on our minds. All the more reason we need…

a little distraction

Since a lot of us are stuck inside, we’ve probably gotten busy cleaning the house. While you’re at it, take some time to clean the skis and prep them for storage. Scrape them down, brush down the p-tex, and swipe on a nice coat of base wax. Then join me in the nerdopolis for assessment of the ski conditions for this season. With two years of data, I’ve revised calculations again to fit the observer’s perspective.

Here’s a preview: the five ski areas we should have been going to this season for the most reliable and convenient skiing:

  1. Lapland Lake
  2. Prospect Mountain
  3. Brattleboro Outing Club
  4. Garnet Hill
  5. Notchview Reservation

Why those? To find out, hang in there for part 2.

March endnotes

[Updated Sunday March 29]- Trapp Family Lodge called it a season yesterday, but Bear Notch is seeing things thru to the end. Jackson XC is in the funny place of not really being open, but posting 49k of trails and ‘courtesy grooming’. Osceola is posting weather but not trail conditions.

Basically, no one wants visitors from outside the area, but are more welcoming of locals who just want to get out for a bit.

Rain seems to be happening across much of the northeast today. Snow cover is going… going…

Snow depth northeast US 2020-0329
Snow depth northeast US, March 29

[Updated Friday March 27] See the update

There was enough snow in some parts to go skiing in the southern Adirondacks and even in the Minnewaska area briefly- although with a general ‘shelter-in-place’ order (or PAUSE), only those living in the immediate area could take advantage of it.

These next few quotes are intended to transport your thoughts away from where ever you are, if only for a minute:

Minnewaska and the local area received a few inches of new snow yesterday. It fell as finer flakes first and finished in the evening with a much heavier, sleet-like precipitation. Not as much in the valley, but at the higher elevations it is sufficient for skiing… Minnewaska should be skiable this morning and into early afernoon at least.

Posted Tuesday 3/24 on the Mid Hudson Valley Cross Country Ski Google group

The southern Adirondacks got 9 inches of fluffy powder yesterday, which consolidated overnight to 6 inches of sticky dense snow.  I decided to end my cabin fever by skiing this morning on an old logging road that I discovered by accident.  It hasn’t seen a logging truck since WW2 and it’s little known even to those of us who live in the area. 

Posted Tuesday 3/24 on the AMC-SKI NY/NoJ Google group

Good News Cross Country Skiers. We received 9″ new snow Monday night. Our snow base was still intact before this new snow. Temps rose right after storm so snow became moist. Cool temps set up the snow overnight. Good news because now we can groom it. The result is a very nice machine groomed loose granular- powder mix.

Bear Notch Ski Touring, Glen NH

Cross country skiing across the nation (at a minimum 6′ separation)

From FasterSkier comes this list of open or ‘courtesy groomed’ areas, for those lucky enough to live right by certain trails:

Bear Notch Ski Touring, NH

Methow Trails, WA

Pineland Farms, ME

White Pine, UT

Paul Smiths VIC, NY

Cross Cut, MT

Aspen Snowmass, CO

Great Glen, NH

Nordic Heritage, ME

Jackson Touring, NH

Crested Butte Nordic, CO

Jackson Hole Area, WY

Sun Valley, ID

Tahoe XC, CA

Trapp Family Lodge, VT

Enchanted Forrest Cross Country, NM

Fort Kent, ME

Telluride Nordic Association, CO (projected close date:  April 5 )

FasterSkier, via Cross Country Ski Areas Association

Then there’s the reality:

Due to the order from the Governor of Vermont, the Outdoor Center is closed until further notice. However, we are open for xc skiing and snowshoeing! When conditions allow, we will be courtesy grooming.

Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe VT

30 degrees and at least 1/2 of yesterdays (6″) snow is already melted.  With all that is going on, I have had a chance to get started on ski merchandise inventory.  I should have totals in the next day or so.  If you have ever thought about getting into the ski business, I will have a great offer in the next few days.

Osceola Tug Hill XC Ski, Camden NY

Even if we can’t be out in it, we can take a look at the snow cover will probably be gone in a few more days:

Snow depth with ski centers marked, 2020-0325
Snow depth with ski centers marked, March 25

And what the heck, I even updated the ‘State of the touring centers‘. Stay safe and healthy. Thanks for reading.

And then there were two

Now that we’re under NY State PAUSE (‘shelter-in-place’ by another name), I’m only doing the updates for the data.

Trapp Family Lodge and Bear Notch are hanging tough, despite the weather and the coronavirus. Osceola may yet open its trails if they get the snow they’re expecting.

Craftsbury called out the congregations of skiers and lack of ‘safe distancing’ (six feet) among reasons they’ve closed the trails. I suspect something similar contributed to Jackson XC ceasing to groom or report on trail conditions, even after closing their public facilities last week.

Another factor for rural areas appears to be concern that they might attract people from outside their locality and contribute to transmission. Closer to home it’s related to fears that NYC folks will try to leave the city as well as fears of depleting county resources for its live-in residents. In case you were thinking about holing up at the second home in Sullivan county, an excerpt from this message specifically for us:

 Please DON’T travel here from another county or geographic area (including the five boroughs of New York City) which is experiencing community transmission of COVID-19… Please DON’T have an expectation that resources will be available to you here that are not available to you in your home town.

Sullivan county government, Wednesday, March 18, 2020

As a quickie exercise, using the map in this article on Lohud and population data, Sullivan county has 13 ICU beds for 78,000 people, or a ratio of 1:6000. It’s a rough gauge of the county’s hospital capacity. By comparison, Westchester has 1:6800, and NYC counties collectively have 1414 ICU beds for a ratio of 1:5900. That’s before counting the additional 2000 beds expected by converting the Javits center and the arrival of the hospital ship Hope. With those beds, the NYC ratio becomes 1:3500.

Which is not to say that care is convenient in rural counties that may have only one or two hospitals at most, and fewer doctors or nurses of any kind to draw on in an ongoing crisis.