Follow the Map to Early Snow

For some of us, cross-country-ski season never starts too soon and never lasts long enough. The trick in the fringe months is finding good snow, and the Internet offers some helpful tools.

The Northeast River Forecast Center posts handy maps of the New York/New England region, one of yesterday’s snowfalls and another of today’s snow depths.

But nothing beats the National Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center’s Interactive Snow Information page, where you can select from dozens of physical snow attributes, including snowfall, depth, water equivalent, density, melt and total precipitation. You can see the entire United States or zoom to a box of only nine by 13 miles, roughly the distance between the hamlets of Blue Mountain Lake and Indian Lake. Not only is historical data available, there are forecasts for up to four days ahead. NOHRSC was designed for flood forecasters but it really helps skiers too.

Here’s how it worked recently in real life. My ski legs began twitching when lake-effect snow was reported in the Adirondacks on October 24th, but I was stuck at work in Massachusetts. A quick look at NOHRSC revealed a thin layer of snow over the west central Adirondacks, with the best depths near Lowville and another good spot south of Old Forge.

On Friday, I was still at my office in Massachusetts but with NOHRSC could see that the cover south of Old Forge and Inlet had deepened while the Tug Hill patch was dissipating:

By Saturday morning I had arrived at Blue Mountain Lake and took one last look at NOHRSC while deciding on the best bets for skiable snow. Not only was adequate cover required, but it had to be accessible by car. I focused on the two darker blue sites circled below: near Limekiln Lake south of Inlet and McCauley Mountain at Old Forge. That larger area south of the Moose River seemed out of reach so I wouldn’t try to go there.

At Old Forge I found success: three to five inches of heavy, wet snow on the not-yet-open Nordic trails at McCauley Mountain. The NOHRSC website had done it again and my October skiing jones was appeased.

When and where will the snow maps lead me next?


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