Christmas weekend weather and conditions forecast

Summary: We had a great weekend for cross-country skiing, and yesterday was pretty good too. You were wise if you also got out early today (Tuesday). Even though it’s starting to get thin in the downstate region, areas that received enough snow and are just a bit cooler (northwestern NJ, the Hudson Highlands and Catskills) can still have decent trails into tomorrow.

Snow depth graphic below for the area within daytrip distance, and ‘state of the touring centers’ updated.

‘Pause’ button for the end of the week

Potentially heavy rain will arrive across virtually all the northeastern US on Christmas Eve. The amounts forecast plus the warm temperatures from the daytime will almost certainly result in unskiable conditions for Friday. By Saturday afternoon, some touring centers may be able to groom enough to be worth opening. Backcountry conditions could be too thin or icy or both.


Weather forecast:

Possible snow showers Tuesday, mainly in central New York State and the mountain regions of northern NY, VT, and NH. Winds shift southerly in midweek, bringing warmer weather and moisture. Temperatures will be on a rising trend until Friday.

Rain arrives Christmas Eve. In the north country this could start as snow showers. But with high temps for Thursday into the 30s and even 40s even in the north country, this will likely turn to rain. BETA is expecting rain in Lake Placid. In the NYC metro area the daytime temp could reach almost 60 degrees.

The rain moves eastward on Friday, pushed by a cold front arriving from the west. The cold front will change precipitation to snow or snow showers through the course of the day going from west to east. Temperatures will go back below freezing for much of the northeast US for the weekend.

Lake effect snow will fall in central NY State Friday evening, and snow showers may spread across the north country and parts of New England on Saturday and possibly into Sunday morning.

By Monday Dec. 28 we may see light snow showers to north and west of NYC metro area, and light rain showers along the coast.

What can we expect for skiable terrain?

Friday is probably a lost day- where the snowpack survives it will likely be waterlogged after Thursday and need to drain. Regardless, the cold front will make things icy or solid ice, requiring some aggressive trail maintenance to make it comfortable skiing.

The downstate NYC metro area isn’t going to fare well, but it might be worth checking on High Point, Minnewaska, or Pine Ridge on Saturday just in case. Areas further north might fare better, but it’s hard to say right now.

Timing of grooming schedules and snow showers may make Sunday the best day of the weekend, assuming you can drive a few hours to Lapland Lake or the Tug Hill plateau. Monday might be even better, should additional fresh snow cover an icy base.

Weekend and holiday week conditions forecast

Summary: get out and ski the areas close by while the getting is (very very) good! Despite warmer weather coming, the large amount of snow could hold areas within longer daytrip distance through Christmas Day at least.

Best bets: High Point in New Jersey today (they also have enough cover to possibly have skiable conditions on Christmas); Fahnestock for this weekend; Minnewaska and Mohonk up through the earlier part of next week at least.

In a turnabout, the latest snow depth with placemap markers by skiing conditions shows the excellent skiing to be had most everywhere except for the Northeast Kingdom and the Tug Hill plateau:

Snow depth northeast US, Dec. 18 2020
Snow depth northeast US, Dec. 18 2020 (NWS)

‘State of the touring centers’ has been updated to reflect conditions today and expected for the weekend. For everyone living south of the North Country, this is the weekend we’ve been hoping for.

Holiday week forecast

Starting Sunday, daytime temps will progressively rise above freezing for places within daytrip distance from the NYC metro area, to about 50 degrees in NYC on Christmas Eve.

Clear weather expected until Sunday late afternoon, when possible snow and rain showers may arrive somewhere within a window of time from Sunday night through Monday. Light westerly breezes give respite from precipitation on Tuesday, but more moist weather comes in starting late Wednesday.

From this far out there is no exactness to the weather forecast, but it looks like on Christmas Eve there will be moist air from the south meeting a cold front from the west again. This time around however, the air won’t be cold enough for it to fall as snow except in central and northern New York plus Vermont and New Hampshire.

Thanks for reading, now go out skiing.

Cold and moisture to meet Wednesday

Snowstorm watch for Dec. 16-17

[update Wednesday 12/16]: The snow-generating band is now expected to be a bit north of predictions earlier in the week. The Catskills should now get significant snowfall, while New York City has only about a 50% likelihood of getting more than 8″ of snow from now through Thursday afternoon.

I would expect Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk resort to have ample amounts of snow, High Point should get a very large dump, and Fahnestock should get sufficient snow to groom. High winds tonight could make things a bit tricky unless they can move some of the drifted snow onto the trails.

Total new snow forecast by December 17 2020, 1pm
Total new snow forecast by December 17 2020, 1pm (NWS)
24hr probability >8" snow by Dec. 17 2020, 1pm for NY/NJ metro area
24hr probability >8″ snow by Dec. 17 2020, 1pm for NY/NJ metro area (NWS)

[original post follows]

Get your shovels and gravel, and go find those windshield brushes and scrapers. After being snubbed all last season by storm tracks that laid snow down a hundred miles north of us, the first real winter storm of this season is due to hit downstate NY and especially eastern PA right in the kisser.

Winter is Coming

As is typical for winter weather in the northeast US, a cold front from the north will meet warmer wetter air from the south moving up along the coast. There can be a lot of uncertainty in the horizontal and vertical movement of air and moisture, and exactly when and where the two fronts meet, but in this case the National Weather Service has begun to make snowfall predictions days in advance- and that means they’re pretty sure.

The track of greatest intensity in our area will be on a northeast heading running across northern New Jersey and the lower Hudson valley. Accumulations could be 18 inches in southeast Pennsylvania, over a foot in northern New Jersey, and about a foot just north of NYC. Depending on exactly where the warm front moves, the city could get anywhere from a few inches to nearly a foot of snow.

Total new snow forecast for Dec. 17 2020, 7am
Total new snow forecast by Dec. 17 2020, 7am (NWS)

What’s this mean for skiing?

The good news is the snowfall will come at a perfect time with respect to the weekend: just far enough ahead that roads can be cleared and grooming can take place. Even better, the weather is going to be cooler than last week, with night time temps in the low- to mid- twenties. That will help keep the snow from melting.

Unfortunately the snow will fall on bare ground without a preexisting base. If you went skiing on the new fallen snow, your skis could sink down and scrape the ground. Gravel or pavement needs a snowfall of 6-8″ to keep skis from hitting bottom. On grass however, a cover of 4-6″ will suffice. And once compacted over several hours (or by someone else’s skis) it will be fine. Check out my nearby parks and trails and maybe use your ‘rock’ skis.

Groomed trails will always be easier to ski on. And in conditions where the snow is already compacted, you can think about breaking out those brand new skin skis or skate skis.

Wonder of wonders, the track of greatest intensity will go right over High Point in northwestern New Jersey and Fahnestock near Cold Spring. They should get enough to groom, and given that the snow will stop Thursday morning, they could have some nice trails ready for the weekend. The further north, the lesser the accumulation however. Minnewaska State Park and Mohonk resort near New Paltz are likely to get a decent amount of snow, but will it be enough to ski on or groom? Stay tuned.

If you haven’t already gotten your wax kit out and prepped your skis, there’s no time to lose.

Brushing freshly waxed skate skis
Anticipation is brushing glide wax to a buttery-smooth finish