Saturday, February 9, 2013

Alert, full-on rain with high winds

For those of you skiers and riders who did not make it to Girdwood on Thursday or Friday, I am so sad for you. You missed some great powder days because today it is pouring rain and quite windy. The temperature is 35° and the water is flowing in the streets again. Driveways and parking lots will turn to ice once more so keep your cleats handy.

My husband drove to the Valley from Girdwood this morning, he said it was incredibly windy along Turnagain Arm on the Seward Highway, so be cautioned large vehicles.

Rain. Again.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Beautiful partly sunny day perfect temperature

The sunrise this morning was glowing off the Chugach Mountains. Sweet sunny kiss for another lovely day of skiing and riding. The temperature at the T in Girdwood is 32°, lets hope it does not get any warmer. Snow is already falling off the trees, but no running streams down the streets like last week. Western Prince William sound is in the calm space between two low pressure systems right now. The forecast for today is mostly sunny, then some more snow this weekend. Going to be great skiing! All the nordic trails have been groomed as well as the mountain. Come enjoy some classic Alaska outdoor winter activities in Glacier Valley, then stop in The Grind for a warm steamer of your favorite coffee beverage.

Next week is Valentine's, not like we need an excuse to pick out lovely pieces of art for our loves. After lunch at the Bake Shop, pick out a beauty at Girdwood Center for the Visual Arts. There has been some nice additions to their collections this winter.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Super powder day in Girdwood for skiers and riders

Snow allows a pleasant silence. All the places I have lived in here in Girdwood have been right off the Alyeska Highway. The road noise can be loud at times, so when it snows, the quiet is quite enjoyable. Although the quiet of the snow is calming, the quiet belies its potential danger. Drivers not accustomed to the slippery conditions could encounter trouble such as those that ran off the road in Anchorage on Wednesday. This week’s snow is not the first of the season which we all are wary of, so it was surprising to see drivers not acting more safely and having accidents. 

Rain and snow can both be hazardous when falling as heavy as this snow is today (I imagine from weather cams on the Seward Highway there could be white out conditions). Yet the sound of rain makes the conditions more nerve-wracking. The snow is virtually quiet, at least from watching it through a window. However, if you want to go skiing, that is a different story, the snow speckling on your goggles and ski jacket. 

I do encourage any avid skiers and riders to head to Alyeska today, its another powder day here in Glacier Valley. At the T we have received at least 5 new inches of snow this morning and it is still coming down. Check Alaska 511 before making a long drive, the highways will be snowy too.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Snow returns to Glacier Valley

I awoke to the silence, an alarming surprise
and a glorious sight to my weary eyes
The snow piled up, nearly twelve inches high

The air was filled with tiny white flakes
Soon they would turn to large puffy shapes
Earth and trees I knew would rejoice
And skiers alike will think the day choice! 

If you can ditch work, today is the first best powder day to do so. Not that there hasn’t been fresh snow this season, but this is a decent layer of the good fluff. It is Wednesday, Alyeska is open until 6, but make plans for Thursday when night skiing runs until 9 pm. 

The temperature is holding at 30° thank goodness. The eaves have stopped dripping. And suddenly today there is a blizzard warning for Western Prince William Sound. The estimate was 3 to 6 inches of snow, but Girdwood has received at least 9 inches at the T. Yipee!

Bird Notice:
Yesterday while in Anchorage, I observed some Common Redpolls visiting bird feeders. Redpolls are small finch size songbirds that spend their winter in our range. Here is a link to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology with an image. If you are interested in attracting birds, or helping them obtain food during the winter months, putting out a feeder is a simple way to do so. You can even just set out a tray of seed, a fancy feeder is not necessary. The benefit of the feeder is in keeping larger birds from eating all the seed quicker than smaller birds. Feeders have varying sizes of dispensing holes and perches. It is really hard for a magpie to get seed out of a thistle feeder. Speaking of magpies, they have been very active in Girdwood lately. Be aware of placement of your feeder as it will attract moose. Bird feeders also attract bears, as a result many folks remove and store their feeders in the summer. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Melting snow freezes up again -and- the sun is just around the bend!

We all long for the sun, and we say it every winter, and we know what winter is like here in Girdwood. After so many days of grey, and rain, and warming trends, Glacier Valley is truly feeling like its lost in the clouds. I hear from folks that come to Girdwood from Anchorage that it is colder there, and a little more sun shines in the bigger city. Today, I drove to Anchorage just as the sun was rising. There was a little bit of cloud cover, but not too dense. After completing my few first missions in the big city, wow, there was the big sun! Bright sun and blue sky with a few little whispy clouds. It is typical mid winter, nice crisp air, snow still on the ground. And the weather is not too untypical, except for the lack of snow in Girdwood. But once I stepped into that bright sun light, my skin warmed, and the synapses fired to remind me what I had been missing for nearly a month. 

It never ceases to amaze me that around just a few bends, usually not even an hour away, the weather can swing one-hundred and eighty-degrees! That is one aspect of what makes this state, this geography so intriguing. The mountains divide space up so well, creating their own environments. Of course Anchorage receives so much more sun that Girdwood because the larger city is open to the south and west. Girdwood, on the other hand, is snuggled up to Mt. Alyeska and Max’s Mountain which block most of the winter sun. Old Girdwood is quite a sunny spot year around due to its openness out to the water. That proximity to the water lent it to the beautiful frost coverage earlier in the winter. 

For now, all of Girdwood will remain just below freezing. All the running water had frozen over this morning and remained so all day. Driveways, parking lots and sidewalks are thick ice. Remember to wear your ice cleats. According to the forecasts, it looks like there might be a day or two of warm air again this week. There are still ice falls along the Seward Highway. The ice falls have been evaporating as the winter has gone on due to the wind and warmer temperatures. If you concentrate, you can see a hint of peach from the sunset on the face of this ice fall. 

Not everyone has the ability to run into Anchorage regularly. So for now, enjoy this sunset and know there is more to come, just around the bend. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Rain mixed with little snow today, cold air in tonight

Ditto from yesterday, grey, slippery walkways and driveways, and a little rain. There was a glimmer of hope this afternoon around 1 pm, skiers reported the skies attempted to snow. For a brief moment, the rain relented. Shortly thereafter, all precipitation stopped. The skies, however, remained cloudy. There were dark looming clouds over Max’s and to the south, clouds that looked like promising snow. There is a forecast for some tonight, especially further south toward Turnagain Pass. 

The photos I have posted today are of Glacier Creek. I find it challenging to take good images with depth and color due to the constant grey skies. I have tried some special effects today. These photos have been altered with film-grain filters, lightened the contrast and tried to make them more enjoyable to view. 

Today I want to present a lesson for those of you who come to Girdwood to ski or ride and think your friend is going to teach you how. Please take a real lesson from an accredited instructor at Alyeska’s Mountain Learning Center. Today was Military Monday which is an appreciation day for military families at the Resort. Many of the service men and women that come to the slopes have never skied or ridden a snowboard and think just because they are in the service they can go to the top of the mountain and make their way down. Today there were over 15 calls to ski patrol for injuries and assistance down the mountain. Broken clavicals, back injuries, head trauma, assistance down, twisted knees and more. Don’t let the medic unit be your ride back into town. Wether you are in the service or not, learn to ski and ride properly before you head for the high ground. 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Still grey in Girdwood, Be aware of conditions around important trees

Grey and white, grey and white, grey in the sky, white mid-way down the mountain, grey on the ground. Above is a photo of Max’s Mountain. In the center of the photo you can see slide debris from an avalanche triggered this morning by the Alyeska Snow Safety crew. The tops of the mountains received 9 inches of snow Saturday night. If you have been wondering why the HIgh Traverse has not been open, this is one reason. The same area seen in the photo above that slid, has done so earlier in the season on its own. Be patient, let Snow Safety keep the trails safe for everyone to enjoy.

Due to the fresh snow every night for the past few nights, the mountain tops continue to be bathed in glorious white light. Conditions were wonderful for more experienced skiers who chose to ride chair 4 and chair 6. As for the rest of us, we were down in the grey. The grey of rain and drizzle, the grey of melting water running down the roads toward Glacier Creek, and the grey of gravel coated ice making it safe to walk on the ice. Below is a photo of Max’s from Saturday the 2nd of February. Except for the avalanche, you will notice there is no difference in the weather. The temperature continues to hover around 35°. 

Below is an environmental issue anyone who planted trees last year should be concerned about. Frankly, any of us with trees on our properties in the Glacier Valley or western Prince William Sound should be aware of the bases of our trees this winter. With all the days of warm temperatures and melting snow, many bases of trees have been exposed. I have mentioned this before and cautioned:  if the soil remains exposed, the roots could be subject to freezing air when the temperature drops. Of course we are all hoping now that one of our snowiest months is here, February, the soil will be blanketed again protecting the health of our trees.

There is another poor condition I have seen as well, smaller trees that did have snow build up around them, now have pools of water at their bases. The snow had melted and then the surface froze creating a little bowl at the base of the trees. With the continuous rain, these bowls have filled up with water.  If these trees sit with their bases in water too long, there is the potential the tree will drown. If you have a bowl of water at the base of your tree, get a shovel or ice chipper out and break the wall of the bowl so the water can drain away. 

Here is a link to BioScience, published by the University of California Press, this link is on the University of Alaska Fairbanks website. The first article is a research paper discussing how climate change will affect yellow cedar in the Pacific Northwest. The research article includes important information we in the rainforest area of Alaska should be aware of.