Summer is peak ski season and six months is a long time to wait for skiing at home. In terms of travel, it’s also time to break out the leather and burgers. But as summer turns to fall, U.S. ski areas could be ready for the season’s first foot of snow.
According to Rich Waltman, who has served as forecaster for the Maine Ski Areas Association (MSAA) for the past 20 years, the mountain season typically peaks in late October. But in recent years, a strange snow pattern in the eastern U.S. led ski areas to start the season earlier.
This season, he’s expecting another big season. There have been a number of isolated storms pushing through the eastern U.S. between May and June, including an unprecedented burst of snow on the East Coast last week.
The storms have produced dusting amounts of snow in the Middle Atlantic states, including New Jersey and New York.
“What we are seeing is a very rare occurrence where snow has actually come down,” Waltman said. “Usually the bulk of the snow at that time of year comes down in the upper level jet stream, high up in the atmosphere. This year it’s actually been a little bit more on the land; it’s been more on the tracks that are down closer to the ocean. It’s very unusual to have snow down on the average ski areas, much less actually down on the ski areas at that time of year.”
Another storm is due this weekend, followed by a return of typical January weather.
However, the winter of 2018/19 could also be a tough season for ski areas as experts predict a drought.
“We’re expecting it to be our driest season in a long time,” Waltman said. “The winters from 2010 to 2014 were about as dry as we could have imagined.”
The Western states are also expecting a rough year. The Federal Drought Monitor released a report on Wednesday, which found 89 percent of the continental U.S. in “exceptional drought” levels. Extreme drought, which affects nearly a third of the country, was found in 20 percent of the nation.
For the eastern U.S., the report found 29 percent of the country in exceptional drought.
Cory Chiodo is the Mountain Editor of Alpine Travel Watch.