|A satellite photo of a Pineapple Express weather system moving a river of warm, water-laden air from Hawaii to the West Coast. Photo courtesy of NASA|
I'm not the only one with the questions:
1) Where can I find good snow?
2) What does the weather mean for the snowpack?
Alas, there are no straightforward answers, but a little research can tell you quite a bit. One of the best sites I've found for snowpack data is the National Resource Conservation Service SNOTEL site.
NRCS's mandate is to, "measure snowpack in the mountains of the West and forecast the water supply." This is not for the express purpose of promoting recreation, but it sure helps. SNOTEL snowpack data includes: snow depth, snow water equivalent, snow temperature and accumulated precipitation. This can tell you not only how much snow is on the ground at a sensor site, but if the snow is accumulating or melting, and if the snowpack is dense or light and fluffy.
|The colored dots represent the "snow water equivalent as percent of normal" snowpack data. In other words, each dot shows if the SNOTEL site has received more or less precipitation than average for today's date.|
The SNOTEL data and the weather data are both available on hillmap.com. You can plan your route in advance, and then check back a day or two before you leave to see snow and weather conditions at your location.
|Check SNOTEL on hillmap.com on the Data & Analysis Tab|
|Check weather at a particular point on the Points tab|
|Checking weather at a particular point will take you to the weather.gov forecast for that point|
- SNOTEL site, snow water equivalent explanation
- Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain, an excellent book by Bruce Tremper that includes detailed, interesting and very readable information on how to interpret snow pack. This is where I go when I want to interpret SNOTEL data, or data I've gathered myself from digging avalanche test pits.
- Cliff Mass's book, The Weather of the Pacific Northwest- if you're in the PNW and interested in understanding the weather, this is the book for you. Also, check out his blog for updated forecasts and comments on PNW weather.