Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hot Dog!

Getting up for work, I looked at the remote sensors. Snowmaking tonight!

I'm pretty sure that never in my 30 years on My Mountain, have I looked forward to snowmaking so much!

Another first...the NWS has issued a Fire Weather Watch for the Sacramento Valley, Sierra Foothills, and (Gasp!) Western Slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains...that's us!

The Weather Service says the Fire Weather Watch will last two days, thanks to Northeasterly winds, dry conditions and a lack of snow cover.

Here's where the dry conditions came from...

The AFD says we get snowmaking temps for the weekend, then it warms back up next week.

Most everyone forgot that we had seven weeks of clear bluebird weather last season followed by 500 inches of snowfall. After a slow start, The Alps are getting pounded now. Our turn is coming...a couple more weeks...c'mon, Artic Oscillation...turn over and Let the Flakes Fly Free!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Pleasantly Surprised

I was dreading what I'd find on My Mountain after my all too balmy three day weekend. Temperatures never reached the freezing level up there as high temperature records fell across the Tahoe Basin.

Local media is having a field day with the story, it's almost impossible to escape the din of this's consuming everyone in the local sliding world.

It seems that I've developed a bunker mentality over December's dry days, and along with it a sort of hyper-vigilance concerning all things wet and weather.

When I got out of the car at work last night, I noticed a couple of things. It was warm, probably 40F. I carried my slicker instead of putting it on.

The second thing was weird...though it was warm, I didn't hear the sound of running water.

Afternoon temps were in the high 40's, if it had been springtime, meltwater would be running everywhere under the snowpack, and would be making a bunch of noise as it found it's way into the drainage system around the access roads and parking lots. Again last night it was quiet...too quiet.

My guess is the meltwater is going straight into the's been so dry that the ground never became saturated, hence zero runoff to hear.

Fortunately, the swing shift guys were upbeat, but realistic...bunker mentality on display...

I slowly ground my way up the shop road, now a dark brown colored melange of snow and dirt with gravel and stone "sprinkles". Once on the mountain proper, coverage was about like last week...good, not great.

For the most part, we've lost nothing since last week when we lost the top of the mountain. From about Mid-Mountain down we're holding steadfast, slowly improving what we have open. Post-Holiday crowds are one third of the Holiday Crush, so the piste isn't taking the total pounding it did over the Christmas Holidays.

Slowly I made my way around the mountain. The snow is what we call sugar acts just like dry sand. Given a few hours, it will freeze to itself, but structurally, it's a far cry from fresh snow.

I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the worst spots...those high-traffic/hardly any snowmaking yet spots, where we're fighting a losing battle. I pushed bladefull after bladefull several hundred yards and spread it over the frozen meltwater "ponds" in the middle of the trail.

In the end, I made things better...we all did. The Reno AFD says snowmaking temps will return for the weekend...not a minute too soon! Real snow looks to be a couple more weeks away. We'll be doin' what we do in the meantime...

Those of you so inclined, feel free to do a Snow Dance!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Hard to Ignore

This week's heatwave is getting impossible to avoid. In my Facebook News Feed this morning it came in the "worth a thousand words" flavor from the Reno NWS Office:

I'm preparing to be shocked when I get out on My Mountain tonight...

4PM Update:
Organizers of  the Reno National Championship Air Races held a news conference today. Organizers plan to hold the 49th Reno National Championship Air Races September 12-16, 2012

Just what I needed...hope with a long view. The Air Race Community is exactly that...a Community. We're still hurting in the wake of Jimmy Leeward's horrific crash last September, but we believe the best medicine is to continue air racing in Reno. Crash Victims want to see the races continue too.

Many hurdles remain before the planes and pilots take to the sky over Stead Field next September. The NTSB Report on the Leeward/Galloping Ghost Crash won't be issued before October. FAA Waivers, Insurance, and a whole boatload of details must be herded like cats before a single lap is turned in anger.

RARA CEO Mike Houghton has assembled a Blue Ribbon Team to soldier forward with. Today's presser can be viewed in it's entirety here thanks to Reno NBC Affiliate KRNV4. I found it cathartic...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Quick Phobos/Grunt Update 6

I finally managed to view Phobos/Grunt Tuesday morning when it's orbit brought the distressed Russian Mars Probe right over my town. The near dawn time frame was perfect...the waxing moon had set, and nautical twilight was just beginning in the East.

I walked down the street a hundred yards, and stood in my neighbor's driveway where the forest gave way to a large swath of the Southwestern sky. At the appointed minute, the Mag.1.3 satellite came racing overhead. The spacecraft continued to the SSE, disappearing into the twilight. No twinkling, flashing, dimming or intensifying was observed. The probe seemed to be flying straight and true.

This morning, @ralfvandebergh tweeted a link to his astrophotographs on Space Safety Magazine that show Phobos/Grunt traveling in a low drag attitude. This is the favored attitude to avoid orbital decay, but in this configuration the solar panels don't track the Sun. The resulting lack of power generation must have bedeviled efforts to contact the spacecraft.

Astrophoto: Ralf Vandebergh
Just a few minutes ago, @PhG_Reentry tweeted a link to @ThierryLegault's extraordinary video of Phobos/Grunt passing over Nice, France on New Year's Day morning.

@PhG_Reentry tweets the latest reentry estimate:  "Still tracking for 17 January ± 2 days solar flux still reducing"

CorduroyPlanet's Phobos/GruntWatch will go LIVE when the time comes...Stay tuned!


My three day weekend ends tonight. Over my weekend, I made a conscious effort to not obsess about our weather...It turns out I obsessively avoided digging into the forecasts, webcams, and remote sensors. The truth is, it was nearly impossible to avoid the seat-of-the-pants temperature observations while walking around town. Save for the low angle of the Sun, it could have been a warm April the afternoons anyway...

It wasn't easy avoiding the obvious...everywhere I went, total strangers couldn't wait to make weather small talk, or whine about our lack of snow...admittedly, I gave as good as I got...My Twitter stream and the TV Weather Reports trumpeted the record high temps, which the Reno AFD says will continue for another few days

My weekend wasn't short on diversions, there was some great College Football played in the various Bowl Games...the Rose Bowl was great, then faded into the background noise floor as the Fiesta Bowl went into overtime! Whatta heartbreaker for Stanford's place kicker...Ouch!

Though temps were balmy, the night time skies were problematical for astronomical observations as clouds associated with the cold fronts that didn't visit screwed up the seeing every night save for Tuesday morning.

I was up for the Armstrong and Getty Radio Show (their first day back from two weeks of Christmas Vacation) and surfing the Web for something new on Russia's Phobos/Grunt. Waddya know, a visible pass was minutes away! I popped up and threw open the front door...nothing but stars above! I pulled on some sweats and a long sleeve T-shirt and shoes, grabbed a AA Maglite, and my compass, and hit the streets.

I walked down the street a hundred yards to the neighbor's driveway where the trees didn't obscure the Southwest sky. A minute and a half later I found Phobos/Grunt speeding overhead. 71 degrees above the horizon, she was stable, and her reflected light showed no variation, she's not tumbling. Phobos/Grunt came over at Magnitude 1.3, and traveled to the SSE where she disappeared into the morning twilight. 

By most accounts, Phobos/Grunt has about ten days left in orbit. I'll fire up CorduroyPlanet's Phobos/GruntWatch next week, or when reentry looks eminent...Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Crisp The Redeemer

The snow came, the snow went...all told it added up to a couple of millimeters...3...4 tops. Americans, that's just a little shy of an eighth of an inch.

The road up to My Mountain was Gretzky City. I parked and walked crunching on the melted frozen snow, to the shop. There was a little dust showing, and the old snow sparkled with freshly formed surface crystals.

The swing shift guys were in pretty good spirits...snowmakers too. They hadn't blown any snow, but they were ready...guns, fans, and hoses were deployed across the mountain waiting for the thermometer to lose a couple more degrees...

The swing shift groomers tag-teamed a big winch project...Robbing Peter to pay Paul. The winchcat pulled a couple of feet off a trail fat with manmade snow up to it's problem child neighbor, and spread it over all the outstanding obstacles...boulders mostly.

I arrived at the scene of the crime about two hours after swing shift finished working their magic. All the misery of my previous night dissolved into almost...the temps began to fall once the last of the clouds passed. I pushed the bounty around for three hours...a little of it I pushed uphill a couple of hundred yards to some other trouble spots. Finally laying on the corduroy, the trail looked like a debutante at her Coming Out Soirée. Snowmaking fired up around 0400...

As it turns out, the snowmaking was a psychological victory more than a strategic victory...still the hard freeze did wonders for every acre we're currently offering to our guests.

I even had to regroom our best trail after snowmaking made some pastel brown snow on top of my early shift corduroy...I was happier than a Pig in Poo to be re-rolling it! Last night fades into diffuse memory...never to gain a discreet place at my table again!