“Atmospheric River” is a term that weather forecasters seem to use a lot lately. In a way, I know what it means. But, I don’t really like to hear “river” when a winter storm is being forecast. All I know is that a promising weather forecast can make my heart skip a beat, especially when I have a few days off coming up.
I’ve always found pleasure looking at different weather forecasts. I ingest all of the data and make my own predictions based on their historical accuracy, my own knowledge of weather islands, and what I’m secretly hoping for. There are a multitude of forecasts available – N.O.A.A., Open Snow, Sierra Avalanche Center, Snow Forecast, NOAA Satellite, The Weather Channel, Weather Underground and many more. The more information, the better. I want to see graphs, data, charts, satellite imagery, and anything else that may help me predict when and where the storm is going to be centered.
A big storm at Kirkwood may leave South Lake with only a trace. Rain in the lower elevations may mean puking snow along the Sierra Crest. Each storm has it’s own identity to try to understand. But, my favorite storms are the sneaker storms. Sneaker storms are something that dreams are made of.
Anticipation is something that can lead to great disappointment. Do you know how many times I went to bed dreaming about the forecast, expecting to wake up to feet of freshies, then looking out the window to blue skies? But, I’ve also had it happen the other way. Those mornings waking up to a surprise blanket of snow often make the best powder days. And, those days are usually reserved for only the die hard riders that would’ve been content with a dust on crust. Instead, they’re blessed with a bottomless day often with free refills.
So, here I am in the pre-dawn hours looking at the upcoming weather reports. Quietly, I’m hoping for another sleeper storm to hit the Sierra. But, I can’t deny the excitement of an upcoming “atmospheric river”. After four years of drought, any storm is appreciated. So, let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow!!!
Special guest blogger, longtime South Tahoe local and die-hard mountain man