Saturday, February 16, 2013

Moon over the Headwall, only available in a blue sky!

This morning began colder than we have felt in a few weeks, it was 15° at the T in Girdwood. Water in the streets had frozen, slush under the fresh snow solidified, and water had stopped dripping off the eaves. Soft fresh snow which had coated walking and driving surfaces was misleading. Though the snow was fresh, the surface which the snow coated was craggy. As a result, walking must be done with caution. Because the slush under the snow froze up in rugged, uneven chunks of ice, soft snow gives way to uneven ground to walk over. 

Most of us in Glacier Valley are glad for the colder air and snow that is not melting, therefore we adapt. I saw a resident on cross-country skis working her way over the walking path heading toward Moose Meadows. Keeping your skis on, no matter what kind, was not an option in the past few weeks. For a brief moment, really for a few hours, Girdwood was under the influence of high pressure. From the looks of the weather surface map, we were on the edge of that high. The photo above captured the glory of the blue sky. Notice the wind kicking up dust on the left of the Headwall. 

Today was the first day this season Alyeska opened Max’s Traverse. Here is a great photo of a line of trekkers heading over to take advantage of the high fresh face. The red arrow points to a dotted line of skiers which from my vantage point always look like ants! Marching marching marching in a neat row, dutifully following each other to the feeding prize! I am sure they all had fun and we at the base were glad to see the new open space. 

Slowly low pressure has moved  back over to influence western Prince William Sound. The forecast for this evening and Sunday is more snow.  Accompanying that snow will be temperatures that stay below freezing! Yea! No wet or sloshy snow this weekend. What a nice treat for a long holiday weekend.  Below is the view toward Turnagain Arm of the sun being shrouded in the haze of moisture signaling the edge of the weather system.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Snow, fabulous snow!

Happy V.D. everyone. For your heart, nature is blessing Girdwood with snow all night. It snowed a great deal during the day, but the temperature was slightly above freezing. The roads were extremely sloshy and motoring on the slightest incline was difficult. It was not until about 7 pm that the temperature dropped to 32° and it has been snowing for hours. The ski slopes will be awesome Friday so come enjoy the powder and glory that is 2000+ feet of smooth sliding. 

Always check Alaska 511 for highway conditions before driving on the Seward. There was avalanche mitigation at the resort this morning. I would not be surprised if the DOT needs to check conditions near Bird Flats on Friday. I will be driving the other direction and as always, checking the highway web cams and NOAA’s forecast.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Fleeting spots of alpenglow pastels brighten the valley

I can never be tired of alpenglow. Alpenglow is especially rewarding during the winter months in my very snowy home of Girdwood. In the winter, Girdwood can receive around 600 inches of snow (mostly on the mountains, about 200 inches at the base). With so much snow covering everything, the environment tends to be black and white, or dark green and white, or maybe a little blue shows up in the sky with white and dark green. When the temperatures are above freezing, all that snow turns to slush or is mixed with road gravel to turn grey. In other words, when the ground is covered in snow, there is not much color from vegetation to decorate the landscape. Skis, snowboards, and puffy jackets are good accents however. In evenings or mornings when Glacier Valley is free of clouds or fog, alpenglow shines to bring a burst of color to the day. The warm pink, fading red, even salmon shades are invigorating to my eyes. Above is looking up glacier valley toward Eagle and Raven glaciers.

Alpenglow is derived from a German term, obvious to some of us. Alpen from alps, or mountains as Americans know them; and gl├╝hen which translates to glow. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Contrary to what our brains what to believe, the sun is not shining directly on the mountains to create the pink wash. The sun is near or below the horizon and the light scattering in the atmosphere reflects onto the snow covered mountains. (Wikipedia) Above is a view toward Raggedtop Mountain.

This is Max's Mountain at the Alyeska ski resort standing watch over the Girdwood Fire and Rescue building. Being surrounded by the Chugach Mountains in Girdwood gives me great opportunities to enjoy alpenglow, both in the evening and in the morning. The pastel colors are quite pleasing to my eye, pink and blue just play off each other so well. Nature always seems to mix colors in complementary patterns. 

Looking up Glacier Creek the setting sun highlighted the snow covering the gravel bars.

What was giving Girdwood the warm glow this evening? Here is the lovely sunset I saw while walking down the path toward "downtown" Girdwood. This evening there was a soft glow over the sun created by moisture in the air over Turnagain arm. 

The sun setting behind the Kenai Mountains across the Turnagain Arm from Glacier Valley.

Fresh powder, great afternoon for skiing and riding

Attention all skiers and riders, today is the day to be on the slope at Alyeska! About 4 inches of fresh powder snow has dusted the base this morning. The flurries seem to be tapering off around noon. With a few blue patches showing in the sky, the snow may be done for the day as the forecast calls for sun this afternoon. The forecast also calls for more snow tonight and into tomorrow. The temperature in Girdwood this morning is 29° and is expected to hold perfectly for snow in the next few days.

At this point in the season I would advise skiers and riders to change your work schedule. Glacier Valley seems to be in a repetitive weather pattern, great snow during the week and sloppy on the weekend. Very similar to the huge weekly storms south central Alaska experienced in the 2011-2012 winter season. One slight difference, last season was epic, I believe this is an appropriate instance to use that descriptor. 

Here is my view of Max’s Mountain from two blocks away, the air is full of small, light weight flakes. Check the highway conditions and make a short run to the mountain this afternoon, the conditions will be well worth the trip.