Saturday, November 20, 2010

Time to Break Out My Tools

Chain controls are up, radar images are rich with echoes, and the new storm is making news.

Today the snowfall on the High Sierra is taking it's first break until the next wave. @planetski tweets that it's snowing in the Rockies, the Alps, and the Pyrénées. 'Tis the season...

All the webcam images are great! Fresh snow everywhere and lots of it.

I tuned in to channel 31 KMAX TV to watch the latest, and the storm was the leading story. Power outtages, road conditions, high school football in the mud...what's not to like? Streaming TV on the internet...pretty handy.

So, what about Trans Sierra travelers...what resources are available for them to track road and ski conditions, traffic and weather?

Smartphone devotees have the web and thousands of apps for that.

My search for the perfect Weather Apps continues, and I'm hot on the trail of the perfect Weather Radar App.

I'm a cheap old groomer, so I don't carry a smartphone. I use an iPod Touch as my Mountain has a robust WiFi cloud, so the Touch is plenty for my needs on the hill.

Last season I wasn't that happy with the weather apps I tried...they all seemed to lag too much behind the Real-Time conditions. I want real time weather intel so I can stay a step ahead of conditions. I remember one storm when I was looking at a clear radar picture on my screen, showing the band of snowfall had passed a half an hour ago. I looked up from the screen, and out my windshield was a total whiteout...

I did find a useful tool that night. Twitter, while not a graphic view that pleases the eye, it is Real-Time Intel...if you find and follow the relevant Tweeters.

I follow @i80chains. They post chain control info for most of the Central-Sierra Highways.

The people who run the webcam site had a Twitter Account last season that Tweeted the Electronic Signs on Interstate 80. Magnifeye has been making some changes to their webpages during the off season, and I can't find their SignTweets now.

They seem to have moved the SignTweets into their regular feed: @MagnifeyeRoads. Hopefully, they will resurrect their SignTweets (I stopped following them at the end of the season)

After a few nights of following the road and chain tweets, you get an idea of the overall weather in Real-Time. You can follow the storm's progress up and over the Sierra Crest by following the level that chain controls begin. As the storm passes, chain controls rise as the snowfall tapers off and the temps rise, allowing CalTrans to clear the roads.

One caveat however...when the storm's pounding, conditions on the Interstate change fast. All the automated tweets make your Twitter Timeline move fast, and on a small handheld screen, this world can pass you by in a lightsecond. The Electronic SignTweets are very prolific, but they offer a plethora of information.

I use Tweetdeck on my iPod to tame the flood of tweets. I have a different Twitter Accounts for my different interests...Boating/Fishing, Politics, Culture, News, and @CorduroyPlanet. Tweetdeck lets me keep an eye on one account easily, while keeping the other accounts handy.

If you want to keep Twitter down to a dull roar, you can create a Twitter List just for road and ski conditions, and toggle to and from the List to your total timeline.

I explain Twitter to my uninitiated friends this way: Twitter is like Radio, except it's text instead of tunes or talk. Yes, it's 2-Way, but you don't have to broadcast (tweet) you can just listen.

I'm off to prepare the Ancestral Digs Early Thanksgiving Feast now, but I'll keep an eye on the storm...this is fun!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winter Storm Warnings

OK, Now it's serious. Winter Storm Warnings have finally been issued for the Tahoe Sierra and environs after days of talking about the coming "significant winter storm".

The forecasters are still stymied by the timing, and the latest AFD says the storm will come in as waves, one tonight and the second wave Saturday into Sunday.

The TV Weatherfolks are having a ball with this one, and they're calling for several feet for the resorts.

The streets are damp this morning in the Inland Valley, and the radio's weather and traffic reports from the Big Valley says showers are due later today.

I'll see the aftermath for myself once I strap on my BR350 and grind around my mountain next week.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Ramping Up

Tic-Tic-Tic-Tic-Tic, the clock is ticking...

The Tahoe Sierra WeatherSphere is all abuzz due to the approaching "Significant Winter Storm"

Here in the Inland Valley, I've been closely following the storm's progress since the Boss called Sunday.

I must say that given what the Real WeatherGuys are saying in their AFD's, I'm not as impressed as the TV Weather Readers...not yet anyway.

Let's remember that there's at least a moderate La Niña holding forth over the Eastern Pacific, and that the models that the NWS Forecasters rely on are a little less than stellar performers during La Niña Events.

Just to sweeten the Uncertainty Pot, remember also that the PDO has entered the negative phase (Cold Side) and that these models were developed during the Positive Phase of the PDO (Warm Side).

Finally, remember that winter storms often split in two as they come ashore when La Niña rules the roost. The split gives the models and the forecasters who run them fits...and the groomers trying to plan for a tidy opening on their respective mountains.

I remember the last La Niña Winter, and all the times a storm would hammer it's way onshore only to miss the Sierra Crest entirely! Meanwhile, the Big Valley and Foothills got pounded while the storm's energy and moisture would track Northeast as the storm center drifted Southward until it petered out leaving my Mountain high and dry once again.

That my friends is the recipe for disappointment and frustration on a ski hill.

So, here we are 48 hours from the storm's first arrival in the Tahoe Sierra, and as yet no Winter Storm Warning has been issued. The forecasters haven't seen what they need to call that yet. Timing and moisture factors are still iffy. The frigid air behind the front will make snowmakers happy all next week...and the resort operators.

There's been a lot of buzz about 2-4 feet of snowfall above 7000ft, but if you look inside the numbers, you'll see that the snow will be very dry. There's gonna be plenty of wind with the front so a couple of feet of champagne powder will be blown into the trees and drifting up alongside trails and terrain.

Two, three, feet of that wind-swept super-dry on bare ground? Don't go there...

The good news is the temps, once the front passes, will make around the clock snowmaking a reality for most of the week.

Thanksgiving skiing looks like a GO from my vantage point. The Ancestral Digs' turkey is thawing and I'll be serving the feast up this Saturday.

I'll enjoy the last leftover turkey sandwich for lunch on my first shift behind the sticks of my faithful old BR350...Whoa Nellie!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Holiday Reading

It's Sunday night and I've been toiling all week at the SturgeUrge Compound, so I'm pretty tired. (I did get up in the middle of the night to watch the Formula One Finale, so it's my own damn fault).

Tonight after my shower and dinner, I settled in to do some recreational reading online...

Since I was a teenager, my first choice in fishwrap has always been the San Francisco Chronicle. Today that means

Today's Travel Section is the annual Skiing Special. You'll find articles on "What's New at Tahoe Resorts" "Where to Eat" and "Where to Soak and be Pampered" for Spa aficionados...the paper even covers "Shopping from Gear to Goofy" too.

Just so the won't be accused of being too parochial, they have a story on Vail, CO too.

I always love the Special Travel's the Dreamer in me...Mexico, Hawaii, Provence, Japan, Skiing...Mexico, Hawaii, Skiing...done 'em all, still get to Mexico whenever I can.

The Skiing Special has been my favorite for decades's always got the "What's New at the Resorts Primer" Look at Sunday's new lifts in the Tahoe Sierra this year. Tahoe Resorts did well last season. I'll admit that I've been surprised by both seasons since the Financial Meltdown. Business at My Mountain was good both seasons. What was interesting was the gain in Midweek Skier Visits. A little midweek skiing or snowboarding takes the sting outta unemployment I guess...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wrapping Up

I woke up at 5AM this morning. I wanted to watch LIVE the final Formula One race from Abu Dhabi. Without much serious drama, the young German wunderkind Sebastian Vettle swept the weekend to become the youngest F1 Champion in history.

Vettle, driving the Red Bull Racing's RB6, won the Pole in Qualifying Saturday, and the Grand Prix Sunday in his usual fashion...he ran away from the rest of the field...twice.

A lap one wreck in the middle of the field bunched up the racers behind the Safety Car before Vettle made a crafty restart and jack rabbited away a second time.

The closest championship battle in F1 history ended with three World Champions standing on the podium. All fought to be the 2010 Champ in what many fans say was one of the best Formula One seasons ever.

Many changes are in store for Formula One over the off season. I can't wait for 2011 to kick off in March!

Another warm day is forecast for the Inland Valley, and sadly temps stayed up overnight in the High Sierra.

Snowmaking temps will return, meanwhile I'm going to enjoy another balmy November day!