Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why are these races all filling up?

It's got to be the snow. For the first time in nearly two decades, the Twin Cities are experiencing their third "good" snow year in a row. Assuming we don't have a total melt-down in the next couple of weeks (a rather fair assumption, given the snow depth and upcoming models) we should hit 70 days with good snow (3+") on the ground. That happened nine out of ten years in the 1970s, but only five times in the '80s and four times in each the '90s and '00s. The last time there were three such winters in a row was 1991-1993. Since then, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2004 and the last three winters.

So, since the early 1990s, people would have a good winter of skiing, get in to it, register for a couple races the next season, and be all pumped up and ready to go for a third when—it would be brown for months on end. For the serious skiers amongst us, we'll rollerski and run in December and January. Or drive to downhill areas. For many others—they'd sit inside and sulk. Like we probably wanted to (Trollhaugen is just not that fun day in and day out).

But the last three years, there's been good snow from early January through the first part of February. But take a look at recent winters:
The yellow-red lines are the generally mediocre winters from 2004-2007. The blue lines are the three most recent. Notice how, especially in January, especially, the recent winters far outperform the past ones. And notice how our current winter has pretty much outperformed the last five in snow depth; especially recently, when, even in good winters, the snow amounts have crashed. And when lines disappear off the bottom—no snow. We'll see if we get a nice March snowstorm this year, but in 2005-6 and 2006-7, most of the snow came from big storms in March. Which don't do too much good for skiing before then.

So it's good. Might it get a lot better?

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