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Mid-Winter Low Snow Blues

by Mark Lahtinen
January 24, 2017

No, it’s not a country song. Are you suffering from the desire to use blue wax (grip and/or glide) blues? Seems like it’s been either real cold with lots of kick and not much glide - green or colder stuff - or the present January thaw for the warmer waxes and fluoros. Tired of going round and round at Hyland, Wirth or Elm Creek? I thought we wouldn’t become Sid Hartman’s proverbial cold Omaha (I think he said that before the now defunct Metrodome was built) after building all the stadiums. But here we are.

I didn’t mean to jinx the winter when I previously mentioned that winters following warm Novembers have fewer natural snow ski days than normal. I thought we may have broken that trend when we had 4 inches going into Christmas which is about normal. But then we started with 4 inches on Christmas morning and 1 inch left after the thunderstorm on Christmas night. Go figure. Then we had cold with no snow but the manmade and then got another 4 inches that lasted for a week and a half.

The big January thaw ate that and now we’re down to a trace of snow officially. There is some hope tonight and tomorrow with a few inches to the south it looks like and maybe an inch or two in the northwest metro.

We are about mid-way through the natural snow ski season in the third week of January. The snow depth should be about 6 inches on average. So what can we expect historically (or is that hysterically) for the rest of winter?

For 28 of the 116 years on record with 1 inch of snow or less on the ground on January 21 there has been an average of 34 natural snow ski days (about one half of the normal of 70 – range 9 to 82). We have had 24 ski days so far with 15 in December and 9 in January so far. The total snow in those winters has averaged 32.8 inches or some 20 inches below normal. The average ski days following January 21 in the low snow years has been about 3 weeks with normal about 5 weeks (range 0 to 61 with only 3 of the 28 years above 35 days). Not looking good.

On the maximum end of snow depth – if we had 24 plus inches on the ground on January 21 (1982 – got to a max depth of 38 inches a day or two after 1/21 - and 1917) the average ski days was 116 for the season. A problem in 1982 was too much snow as the Northwest Championships (prior to the old Twin Cities Championships) were at Wirth and a few of us had to ski in the trail to break down the drifts so the snowmobile could get through to set the tracks in those classical only days. Ah….to have that problem now.

Misery loves company. If you’ve seen clips from the FIS World Cup races in Europe and Scandinavia, you’ve noticed that most of them have been on short loops on ribbons of manmade snow also.

One can hope for a good snowfall to get it going again. Thank goodness for the manmade loops and there is good snow up north.

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