Wagering on Winter II: Locals call it
November 29, 2005
No sooner than I write a column about our lack of snow, Mother Nature and her old man, Winter, as they are want to do in these parts, blew through with a big storm.Undoubtedly, it was the column about our newsroom wager over whether it was normal or not to have a good bit of snow on the ground – and therefore resorts open – by Thanksgiving that triggered the first good snow of the season. My opinion was that it isn’t a given to have much snow. Others here at the Sierra Sun begged to differ.So last week, as we surveyed the dry landscape, the editorial staff was split over the question. That’s when we decided to have readers of the Sierra Sun weigh in on the debate.So without further delay, here are some of the responses in all their unedited e-mail glory. And of course, look to the marmots, squirrels and pine cones for the answers – or not…• • •Here is my 2 cents worth, as a resident b-4 any stoplights, and Safeway was located where Mtn. Hardware is now. In my 30 yrs, having any type of coverage on the slopes is a great “BONUS” between the 2 holidays. In 1977, Squaw valley couldn’t open until the last week of December.In either 1987-89, not sure, I was actually sunbathing at my house in Glenshire on Thanksgiving Day, in a swimsuit, it was 70 degrees !!This is my 5th time, riding my bike on T-Day in 12 years. So, my answer, you guessed it, no snow on T-Day is the norm.Chas Grant• • •I’ve heard it all. Since beginning to ski here in 1975, I think I’ve heard every prediction possible about winter and snowfall. But here’s the facts. About 50 percent of the time, there’s significant snow prior to Thanksgiving. About 50 percent of the time, there’s not. Notably, in our recent past, the winter of 1992-1993. There was no snow for Thanksgiving. Ski areas were singing the blues. Sort of like this year. Although it seemed colder that year. December 10, 1992, the skies opened up. And it didn’t cease until April 1. We’d much rather have a winter like that than one where it doesn’t snow during the heart of winter.Let’s look at a few other winters. 1990-1991. It snowed heavily in early November. It melted in mid-November. It snowed about a foot in mid-December. That melted a week or so later. It didn’t snow again until late March. At that point, the ski areas couldn’t open. Many had been closed all season long due to a lack of snow. With 15 feet of snow falling in late March, we were screwed. There were no employees left to work the lifts, and nobody cared any longer. That was a brutal year. 1985-1986 had good snowfall for Thanksgiving. In fact, I was skiing on opening day at Boreal on 5-feet plus of fresh on November 12. Downtown Reno received 3-feet plus of snow November 10-11, 1985. But after December 9 of that year, it didn’t snow again until mid to late February.There have been a lot of winters that start off strong only to fizzle out. But here’s some statistics and folklore for you. Statistically, a dry, warm autumn is a harbinger of a dry, warm winter (factual). Rex Reid once told me that if you see the ponderosa pines putting out a lot of pine cones, that means there’s a big winter brewing (folklore). The rodent theory states that if you see a lot of squirrels committing suicide on our local roadways, that means there’s a big winter brewing (folklore). The rabbit theory holds that if you see a bunch of rabbits in autumn running wild, that means there’s a big winter brewing (folklore). As I recall, and I could have this wrong, there’s the yellow jacket theory, which states that an abundance of summer & autumn yellow jackets will lead to a dry winter, and a lack of those pests during the summer & autumn means we’re in for a significant winter (folklore). Finally, let’s tally the facts and folklore. It’s been a warm & dry autumn; the ponderosa pines have been putting off a fair amount of cones; squirrels are killing themselves at an average rate from my observations this autumn; rabbits have been virtually hiding or maybe I just haven’t seen them at all; our yellow jacket trap didn’t come close to even filling up this year. Seems to be about an even split. But I forgot the ice breaker – we ordered snow removal service for the first time in 20 years. Sorry about that, but it looks like we’re in for a long, dry, warm winter. Michael Golden• • •In response to your question about snow at Thanksgiving, it has been my experience over the past seven years as a full-time Truckee resident to have my first day on skis the same day as my office Holiday Party … the first weekend of December. There is snow, but not enough to get terribly excited about. In the twenty five years I have been skiing, I have never skied at Thanksgiving and I would say skiing is historically only fairly decent around Christmas (of course the crowds effect the conditions then as well). Ski season really begins in January, the rest is simply pre-season training.Julie Mill Peters• • •Seems to me that Boreal running Accelerator during Thanksgiving is more normal than not, usually with snow supplement. And I’m not talking about the frantic, pitiful thing they are doing now. GLOBAL WARMING!!! or maybe it’s just the weather. Of course, my daughter in Seattle isn’t complaining. They’ve been boarding powder for many days now.Jim GrafSo there we go, the definitive answer from our local experts. Looks like I’m going to be $5 richer.Jamie Bate is the editor of the Sierra Sun. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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