This update provides some great winter data, predictions from Woolly Worms and more…and even an appeal for prayer. Read on!
As promised, we are now updating SkiNC and SkiSoutheast more regularly as we fast approach the ski season! Autumn colors are looking spectacular right now across the higher elevations. I was up around portions of Beech Mountain and Banner Elk late Sunday after driving back into town from Linville and the fall foliage is nothing short of awe inspiring right now.
WE TOLD YA! A few weeks back we advised you guys to ignore the so-called botanists and "experts" who were predicting a rather dull Autumn. Nothing could be further from the truth. I took a ton of photos and some video and I’ll try to post some this week.
THANK YOU GOD, FOR THE RAIN!
We’re really feeling for those souls in Southern California who are being evacuated due to the wildfire on the left coast. Portions of the United States have been really fighting the drought conditions, while those in Texas and portions of Mississippi have been flooded with one torrential downpour after another. Most of us are p-r-e-t-t-y blessed to have so few problems to deal with. While much of the Southeast has suffered through a prolonged drought, the mountains of the Southeast have not been nearly as affected. I have only needed to water my grass once during this past summer and it could not be healthier or more green and full right now. That’s sign enough that those of us who call the mountains "home" have certainly had it better than most.
…and now comes some wonderful rain. Rain is in the forecast around here for the entire week – through Friday and that is great news. It rained all day Monday and thus far Tuesday. Rain is good.
ARMSTRONG WINS THE RACE!
Banner Elk and Beech Mountain, North Carolina has been known for "Armstrong Spottings" over the years as our steep vertical climbs (especially Beech Mountain Parkway, between Banner Elk and Beech Mountain) have been used as training grounds for the famed bicyclist, Lance Armstrong. However THIS particular "Armstrong" was a fuzzy, little critter that earned its owner – eleven-year-old Olivia King of Raleigh, NC and her father Tom – $1000 and some publicity as the winner of this year’s Woolly Worm Festival races that were held in Banner Elk this past Saturday and Sunday.
I’m a bit disappointed because after years of coming close to having a winner I thought I had the best off-season training for my entry that I’d ever had. I had one of the best recruiting classes in years (rated 2nd by Sports Illustrated) and I just new that my entry "Shlomo" would win. My training? I kept my woolly worms in a chicken coop for the three weeks prior to the races. Heck, I figured any worm that could outrun and/or outsmart some hungry chickens, would be fast enough to leave the other 1400 or so caterpillars in their dust. Little did I know that Schlomo would mistake his time away from the chicken coop and on a string as some sort of vacation! Oh well, wait til next year.
Disclaimer: No woolly worms were harmed during my pre-season training…because I made the whole thing up. Really, your Honor!
SCHLOMO STILL GETS A SAY! (He happens to agree with "Armstrong".)
Since I do a little writing now and then for this website, and since I was out of town and didn’t really get a chance to enter Schlomo in the official races, I decided to reward him for all of his hard work. Hey, YOU should try strapping on a bag of chicken feed and dodging twenty chickens for three weeks!
Okay, really I just happened to be walking around in the forest on Sunday and spotted "Schlomo". I handed him to my eight year daughter, snapped a couple of photos and thought to myself – "Just for the fun of it, let’s see how old Schlomo’s prediction compares to the official winner."
According to woolly worm experts, "Mountain folk" use the brown and black stripes on the woolly worm to predict the severity of the coming winter. Tradition says that the black stripes predict cold and snowy weather while brown stripes point toward milder conditions. I remember about three years ago when Tommy Burleson and Roy Krege of the Woolly Worm Festival had to use a magnifying glass to come up with some black fuzz on the winning worm. Thankfully MOST of this year’s worms were black on either end with mostly dark brown in the middle. Come to think of it there didn’t seem to BE as many woolly worms around this Fall. Maybe the drought had something to do with it. That’s pure speculation on my part. However, after getting a good look at Armstrong and Schlomo…and the few worms that I did see this year, I got to thinking. I don’t believe I have EVER seen a woolly worm that had alternating black, dark brown, black, light brown "fuzz configurations". So I’m sticking with my previous claims that the woolly worm is a cool little marketing tool that the very smart town of Banner Elk promoters have snookered us with for 30 years to get people to the town for one, very busy weekend.
No problemo though…because it’s ALWAYS fun, entertaining and cool to experience the sights and smells. It’s also always held on or about the peak weekend of Fall Foliage season.
SO WHAT’S THE FUZZY CRITTERS PREDICTING?
According to Armstrong, the first four weeks of winter will be cold and snowy. The 5th and 6th weeks will be cold, while weeks 7 and 8 will be cold with light snow. Armstrong says to expect a mild spell during weeks 10 and 11 with a cold an snowy close to the winter in weeks 12 and 13.
Now my daughter Madison and I failed to see the small nuances of weeks 7 and 8. Old Schlomo predicts colder and snowier weather for the first four weeks of winter which begins December 22nd this year. So December 22nd through about January 19, 2008 should be colder and snowier than normal. Then the next six weeks from the 20th of January through March 1st will be normal cold and snow, and the last two weeks from March 2nd through March 16th will be colder and snowier than normal.
2007-2008 WINTER FORECAST
Here we go again my friends. For the last few winters we have posted the Woolly Worm forecast, Ray Russell of Ray’s Weather, the Old Farmer’s Almanac, NOAA’s data and the prediction put forth by our ever-trusty weather dartboard. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac our dartboard forecast would have beaten their winter prediction for 2006-2007 by about 1%. I am a subscriber to the Old Farmer’s Almanac because quite frankly they have been more accurate than any other source that I have documented over the past eleven years. The Woolly Worm, although very cute, cuddly and FUN…has not been close to accurate. Sorry guys…but that’s the truth. Ray Russell provides way more technical insight than most of us novices ever need to hear, but he also provides some good information. According to Ray’s most recent Winter Prognostication the 48 year normal temperature for Boone, NC as compared to just the last ten years will surprise the heck out of all of the Global Warming enthusiasts. Check this out:
For the last ten years the average HIGH temps is actually only .09° higher than the average high over the last 48 years! The average full day temp during the winters of the last ten years has actually been nearly one-half degree COLDER than that of the last 48 years and the average LOW temp for the last ten winters has actually been .98° COLDER than those of the last 48 winters. So much for things getting warmer in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
BUT WE HAVE BEEN IN A BIT OF A SNOW DROUGHT…OR HAVE WE?
Several sources have been documenting the fact that our mountains have been in some sort of a "prolonged snow drought". Not so fast my fair-weather-friends. The amount of natural snowfall differs from one area to another in much the same way that temperatures do around these parts! Now before I get a ton of email from people wanting to argue with me…yes we DID have less natural snowfall last winter IN SOME AREAS…but not nearly as crazy as some would want you to think.
For example, Ski Beech and Beech Mountain, North Carolina only saw about 40" of natural snow last winter (about one-half their normal), but they saw 66" during the 2005-2006 season and 84" during the 2004-2005 winter season. So it would be more accurate to say that the last three seasons have fluctuated from slightly MORE than normal to about half-to-two-thirds as much.
Cataloochee Ski Area saw 24" last season (they average nearly 40" per winter), but 67" during the winter of 2005-2006 (way more than normal) and 50" during the 2004-2005 season (again TEN INCHES more than normal). So if you are from around Maggie Valley you’d say that two of the last three winters have provided CONSIDERABLY more snow than normal.
Not convinced? Try this:
Wisp Resort in Maryland had TWENTY-FOUR more inches than normal last season (they had 124" and they average 100" per winter). They had 118.5" during the 2005-2006 season (18.5" more than normal) and 121" of snow during the 2004-2005 winter season. So the last three winters up at Wisp has been WAY snowier than normal.
I could continue providing data for every ski area in the Southeast or Mid-Atlantic that reflects much the same thing. In summary, I don’t think we’ve necessarily been in a prolonged snow drought…it’s just been up and down. By the way, isn’t that where AVERAGES come from? (Both the snowy and not-so-snowy-years.) For the record, you guys can go to EACH of the individual pages that we provide for every ski area and see the snow they had last season and the previous seasons and do some comparisons of your own. We are the only source that provides that data for every ski area. We keep up with it all season long.
SO THE WINTER FORECAST IS….
According to the Woolly Worms: Cold and Snowy at the start and end of winter and kind of snowy in the middle…with about two weeks of mild weather. OUR CRITIQUE: This one is a bit too positive for reality…although we HOPE it’s correct!
According to Ray Russell: We’ll see temperatures that are 1-2° WARMER than normal, Drier than normal and only about 60% of normal snowfall. Ray says to expect only about 51" of snow up on Beech Mountain and 28" around Sugar. OUR CRITIQUE: Bah! We think this one’s very pessimistic and probably about as inaccurate as the Woolly Worm’s.
According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac: They sort of agree with Ray with the temps being 1-2° above normal for much of the Appalachian Mountain, but they add that the mildest periods will be in November and March. They add, "Precipitation will be near normal, but the cold periods in midwinter will allow for above-normal snowfall in much of the region. The coldest periods will occur in mid- and late December, mid- to late January, and early and mid-February. Heavy snowfalls will occur in mid-December, mid- to late January, and mid- and late February." OUR CRITIQUE: Ummm, you’ll get NO argument from us!
According to Our Trusting Weather Dartboard: After a few beers and several complete board-misses – we hit on a forecast that is REMARKABLE similar to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Temperatures will be about normal for WINTER. Notice that the Old Farmer’s Almanac spoke of November being mild, but WINTER does not begin until December 22nd. The almanac does speak of cold and snows in December…and our dartboard agrees. We think the temps will be colder than normal for much of the real winter and milder early and late. That will make for an average of slightly milder than normal for the Thanksgiving to April timeframe. Precip will be WETTER than normal and snowfall totals will be in the NORMAL range. (Some resorts will see slightly less, some will see substantially more.) OUR CRITIQUE: Do you really expect us to critique our own forecast?
LET US PRAY
Okay, enough with all of the techno-data and hopeful wishes. Instead of "thinking snow", let’s pray for it. All of you who believe in gods of wood, brass, gold, sun, moon and air…do us a favor and leave the room. Your petitions are not requested. Okay I DID pray that my last throw finally hit the dartboard…but I prayed to God, not the dartboard!
Hopefully all of the freaks have left the room and we are now left with true believers in the one and only TRUE GOD, CREATOR OF ALL THINGS. With that said, let us pray together, please:
Oh Lord, let it snow, and snow and snow,
From mid November to April let it blow.
May the temps be so cold to keep us all shaking,
and perfect humidity for optimum snow making.
Let the winds be calm during each snowfall,
Causing silent wonder and fun for us all.
Guide the groomers to make lots of sweet corduroy,
Allowing runs top to bottom of absolute joy.
Keep the roads safe for those without four wheel drive,
Get us to the snow, keeping all of us alive.
Give us knee deep powder whenever You plan,
Once or twice will be fine…or MORE if you can!
Until Next time…
Be sure to visit www.SkiSoutheast.com for more stories and skiing in the Southeast!
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