November has been much more reluctant to give in to Ullr as October was so long ago this fall. Nearly 3 weeks of dry and seasonally warm weather have shrunken the valley’s white winter coat and chased it back into the forest and mountains that surround the valley. The wealth of wintry bounty that October left us with is much smaller and older, but still provides opportunity to get out sliding on the trails for some fresh air and sunshine. To find good and reliable snow, skier’s have had to retreat to the usual early season haunts that are higher in altitude or more protected and shaded from the sun’s power. The Deadhorse loop, as an example, is skiing fairly well on the south side but the Spruce Creek portion, having been recently cleared of deadfall, will have to wait for a healthy dump or two before skis will be safe from p-tex grabbing rocks along the currently bare south-facing stretches. The long period of freeze-thaw conditions have created a morning crust off-trail that is supportive enough to hold a skier’s weight after cold nights. Powder is not entirely out of the question and while it is well on the way to becoming more granular and stiff than light and flaky, it can still be found in small hidden pockets where steep creekside ridges protect it from solar radiation.
Many of the back roads that wind through our local woods remain open to vehicles for hunters to access their hunting grounds, so the snow has become quite thoroughly packed into icy uninviting tracks. We will have to wait until after the Christmas tree harvest season has past for these trails to come into their winter prime.
The Jet stream, which had been carrying northern storms up and around us to put the east in a deep freeze is due for a change. While the south anticipates its first significant storms, we appear to be in line for some more of the less organized systems to provide waves of intense snow that adds to coverage modestly. These may dominate the pattern right up to the Holiday, hopefully resulting in some significant accumulation.
Not too far back in our memories, some will recall approaching Thanksgiving with a barren landscape, with only the white strips of manufactured snow of the resort representing the coming season. Having had several weeks of sliding behind us, and knowing that people have been traveling from around the state to start their season on the manicured trails of our own Snow Mountain Ranch, nordic skiers have plenty to be thankful for this coming season.