Saturday, January 19, 2013

Nice powdery snow layer with more to come

There has been a nice 4 inch layer of powder on the ground for two days now with a little sprinkling this afternoon. The temperature was around 23° all day in Girdwood and humidity was high. There is a winter storm warning, but as of 9:45 this evening, there is no heavy snow and no wind in Glacier Valley. I have high hopes for the morning because there is a heavy radar image right now.

The nordic trails in Girdwood were groomed yesterday and I took advantage of them this evening. Nice conditions even with the ice just 4 inches below, its hard to walk so skiing really is the best.

Here is a fine example of how nice the snow and trees look right not. The trees really light up under the lights on the walking path along Arlberg Ave.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Cold under light clouds, surprises from our local helicopter flight seeing business

The clear skies last night opened up the ceiling to release the warmth of the earth and drop in cold air. It is 17° in Girdwood this morning at the T. As you can see, the clouds have returned, yet the cold air still sits with us. In the streetlights, the frost on top of the snow sparkled until the flat white light replaced the sharp light. 

Yesterday I mentioned I had seen some birds taking up freshly spread gravel on the road. After much research, I am pretty sure the larger grey bird was an American Dipper. I had seen this bird before and ID’d it as such. But without a photo, I am still not 100 percent sure. I’ll be going back to see if I can set up a tripod and catch it for sure.  Here is my view of Max's Mountain today.

Glacier City is home to all kinds of interesting goings-on. Yoga with Erin at the Four Valleys Community school is a quality class. For a good core work out, I highly recommend it. It is obvious Erin has had professional training. If relaxing yoga is your preference, there are several other instructors through Four Valleys, check their classes page. 

Even more exciting things happen at our local heli-flight seeing and back country skiing businesses. Alpine Air Alaska is the utmost in professional helicopter services including maintenance. Last fall they provided flight services for some Coors Light commercials. Well Coors is back this winter and Alpine Air is one of the service providers. I was not asked to sign any confidentiality agreements, so I hope everyone is ok reading this. They are not the only service provider but they are the locals with great respect in the community of Girdwood. Visit their website to see some clips of the filmed commercials. Support Alpine Air by recommending them to your friends and family when they visit Alaska. Alpine Air donates a good deal of support to the community in Glacier Valley. They have donated a time to the development of the Girdwood Nordic Ski loop, to repairs and work on the hand tram over Winner Creek, and to local remote weather stations on high peaks. Get a group of your friends together for a heli-glacier landing. There are so many glaciers so close to us and a helicopter trip gets you to them quick and easy. There is nothing like seeing the beautiful Alaskan landscape from a helicopter. 

Look, these glaciers are just a 20 minute hop over the mountains, actually through Winner Creek valley, and they are gorgeous. Yes, we can see 5 or 7 glaciers from Girdwood depending where you are, but you can actually hop over and walk on them! Above is the toe of Knik Glacier, head of the Knik river. Below is approaching Colony Glacier, and last is standing on Colony. Wow, just right over there! 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Blue bird skies and birds active this bright day

This is the day here in Glacier City, blue skies, fresh snow, and decent cold air. There is about 4-6 inches of fresh powder, not wet snow any more! The temperature is 23° and the blue sky has lots of clouds floating through. The clouds at the lower elevations seem to be moving quickly to the south. 

I took a nice walk down to Glacier Creek near the Girdwood library and fire department. It was amazing how fast the temperature dropped on Tuesday freezing the water on the ground in nearly two hours. The fresh snow is on top of ice and in some places the water was running under the ice. As a result, when walking on the snow, footsteps sink and “whoomp” down because there is nothing under the thin layer of ice to hold me up. An interesting balancing act to keep the ankles from turning in or out. 

On the walk, I heard a raven talking to someone, in one of its many voices. This was not a voice I recognized. While looking for the raven I actually saw an eagle in a tree near the library. Quickly realizing the raven was probably talking to the eagle, sure enough, it was trying to convince the eagle to find a new resting place. The eagle, of course, was not fazed at all. It did, however, duck and squirm when the raven attempted to dive-bomb the larger bird. Luck of the draw capturing this move. 

Today I am using a new camera. I recently was given a Nikon CoolPix that is waterproof, shock proof, and cold hardy. It has a zoom function, but it would have been nice if I had the SLR for this chance meeting. Oh well, It is handy in its own respect. 

Also while out-and-about, I saw the small flock of LBBs in an intersection harvesting the fresh gravel that was spread on the road. There were other folks and dogs out so the little brown birds kept flittering back and forth into the trees. They are some type of sparrow, will be going back to see them again. There was also one larger brown bird with them, I have seen this one before and just cannot ID it in the books. It must be someone on the move before spring? 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nice fat flakes falling today

Snow, glorious snow! Snow is falling heavily in Glacier City today! And probably all around the Arm and Western Prince William Sound. Thank goodness, just in time to cover all the slush that froze within two hours yesterday when the temperature dropped in the morning. Currently, the temperature in Girdwood is 29° perfect for snow conditions and for it to continue all day. Nice fat flakes gracing Girdwood and the ski area today!

Its not easy to see in the photos, but the long range view shows that it is near white-out! Normally in any of these views, you would see mountains–how could you not, it is a valley after all! The tall photo is toward Max’s Mountain, I am barely two blocks away, and I cannot see it at all this morning. Very nice! 

Our local conspiracy of raven were checking out Alyeska Highway today. They were so low flying across the road we thought they were cats running across. Thank goodness they were not. 

Tonight's yoga class is at the Girdwood School, Yoga with Erin. There are classes throughout the week, not only yoga but all kinds of work-outs, art, and fun. Classes are for everyone, children to adults. View their classes at Four Valley Valleys Community School. Activities for those of us too far from Anchorage to try to drive in for some fun education.

Today's special dinner is the weekly burger at Jack Sprat on Olympic Mountain Loop. Every week chef prepares a different themed burger. Additionally, they grind their own beef for the burgers, a great deal and a fantastic burger. Jack Sprat's Menu

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Sun today and red squirrels on the move

We are entering our third winter of this winter after passing through the second spring break-up. I wonder if that is what global warming will be, just random weather, no set season lengths. The snow continued to melt off the roof overnight, but by 9am this morning it was 27°. I’ll expect the roads and walkways to become ice again. The skies are blue in Glacier Valley today, should be a nice view from the top of Alyeska for those planning on riding chair 6. 

The forecast looks like we have a couple of clear days in south central, maybe a little snow tomorrow, but for the most part very cold. Most of us are just observers, not experts, however I can’t help but think with so many making the same observation, there must be some accuracy to the comments. I spoke to another Girdwood resident a few days ago who has lived here over 20 years. They made the same comment that this has been a strange weather year. The late snow, the deep cold spells cycling with warm spells, and the low amount of snow. Cars have been getting stuck in the slush in parking lots and driveways. Conditions I would expect at a lower latitude. 

This little fellow brightened the day, I am so glad most of the utility poles and lines are insulated. He was circling the top of this power pole making me quite nervous. It is a little red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). The red squirrel is a small tree squirrel, smaller than the plump grey squirrel that inhabits most of north America. The red variety lives mostly in the northern areas where it tends to be cooler although they are found in the Appalachians (my guess is higher up the mountian!) They like the higher elevations and cooler climates because their favorite food is the seed of cones from conifers. When you are hiking in the woods in summer and come upon a conifer with a pile of shredded cone pieces at the bottom, that is an indication a red squirrel has been there dining. The piles are called middens. The squirrel does have other tastes, fungi, berries and unfortunately it likes to poach bird eggs. Squirrels do serve a purpose in the environment, spreading seeds, breaking down wood matter and eating some insects. And they are just plain entertaining. Unless you have outdoor potted plants. How can you protect your outdoor plantings from squirrels? They love to dig in soft soil and are usually on the lookout for tasty roots or grubs. If you do not want them digging in your pots or garden, cover the open spaces with hardware cloth or chicken wire. I did this successfully with large outdoor containers and it stopped the squirrels from destroying my arrangements. Save your hardware cloth each winter to re-use the next planting season. By the way, this also works to keep cats out of your garden. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

A break from rain, for now, temperature still warm

Its verging on blah today, however, the absence of rain puts the enjoyability of the morning one step above. It is 35° in Girdwood at the T this morning. The snow is still slush and it is still dripping off the roof. The forecast is for the temperature to rise to 40 before plunging into the 20’s tomorrow. Even with the increased temperature, NOAA has cancelled the flood warning. Since there are so many microclimates created by the mountains and the ocean, we should all still be aware of the surprises that can occur outside where it is hard to make a blanket forecast.

Here is a photo of Max’s Mountain this afternoon. Alyeska snow safety was performing avalanche mitigation this morning which they do to induce slides to alleviate dangerous conditions for skiers. On the north side of Max’s, facing the resort, you can see evidence of a slide. Since mitigation usually starts before daylight, it is not known if this was caused by that, the warm air, or possibly the earthquake on Sunday. This is just to show that the snow and the environment is always “alive” and active even though we don’t see it as a “living being” such as us. Use caution in the back country this week, it has been a strange weather season.

Looking up Glacier Creek this evening. The water is flowing well and thankfully not flooding!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

South Central Alaska still under the influence of a tropical front

Almost a ditto on weather from yesterday. Temperature at the base was 33° most of the day. The precipitation varied between rain and wet snow. The roads in Girdwood are still sloppy, but the skiing went on. 

The forecast is for the same tomorrow, Monday, it may even be warmer. Today the DOT was performing Avalanche abatement along the Seward Highway. If you plan to drive out tomorrow, check their website for the status on road work. 

Due to the warm air and continuing rain, there is extensive flooding potential through out south central Alaska. Those in flood prone areas, please be aware of the low lying spots in your neighborhood. Streams that were frozen thaw quickly and those spots where you may have driven over or walked on last week will be slushy this week. If unsure of the water level, turn around don't drown. Check NOAA's Alaska region headquarters for current warnings. Here is a link to NOAA Alaska's stream and river hydrology forecast that gives estimates of flood events, time and water levels.