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Winter Woes

by Mark Lahtinen
January 9, 2019

Here we are almost half way through winter and very little or no snow on the ground. Officially there is a trace of snow on the ground at the Minneapolis – St. Paul Airport. Can’t ski on a trace.

Coming into this winter chances are we were going to have less snow than normal as El Nino was setting in. El Nino winters in the Twin Cities have about a foot less snow and about 10 fewer ski days (2 inches + on the ground – 70 days or 10 weeks is average) than an average winter. We are already a foot short of normal snow as of January 8, 2019 (11” this season, 24.9” normal). We have had 20 ski days so far from November 29 through December 18. Thank goodness for the manmade although I’m getting a little bored with the Elm Creek loop which usually doesn’t happen ‘til February or so for me.

Are we headed for a sub 20 inch snowfall winter? I don’t know. There have been 6 in the historical record going back to 1884-85. Two were before daily snow depth readings were kept – 1888-89 (14.7 inches) and 1894-95 (16.2 inches).

The other 4 were: 1930-31 (14.2” – 13 ski days), 1958-59 (19.1” – 9 ski days), 1967-68 (17.5” – 35 ski days) and 1986-87 (17.4” – 13 ski days). The average ski days for these 4 winters was 17 ski days.

I don’t remember the first two of the above winters. The winter of ’67-’68 was my second year of high school skiing but I can’t recall how many of the meets may have been cancelled or changed. Looking back at the records there was one inch on the ground from December 30 through March 1 and 2 inches on the ground from January 2 through February 5 which encompassed the race season. The City meet would’ve been the first weekend in February and then State Meet was at Chester Bowl in Duluth where there was more snow. We made tracks then by skiing them in at Wirth and there wasn’t any XC snow- making. We weren’t as worried then about the wood ski bases as we are now with the p-tex bases. Roller skis were not around then so we must’ve done a lot of running stairs at the high school and running hills with poles.

I remember skiing a lot on Lake of the Isles in 1986-87 until that melted and turned to ice much like what happened here with the last melt. That winter was an El Nino winter also.

Looking at some other records I saw that there 10 winters on record that had no snow on the ground on Christmas Day and also on January 7 like this winter. Those winters had an average of 27.3 inches of snow and 27 ski days.

We have had a warm December (+6.1 F) and a warm January so far (+11.4 F and continuing) which followed a cool to cold October and November (-3.1 F and -5.5 F respectively). Three of the top years on record when this has happened before are 1959-60 (31.8” – 46 ski days); 1991-92 (84.1” – Halloween storm – 125 ski days) and 2014-15 (32.4” - 52 ski days). In ’59-’60 the ski season didn’t start until January 2. In ’91-92 we got the big Halloween dump which melted by November 23 but then we got more snow a couple of days later. The groomers at that time weren’t ready for all that early snow. In 2014-15 there was an early start on November 11 but that was gone by November 22.

Top 20 warm Decembers combined with warm Januarys have had an average of 33.7 inches of snow and about 40 ski days on average (range 13-84).

Bound for less than 20 inches I can’t say…but it doesn’t look good and again thank goodness for snow making. Back to The Creek I guess.


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