Originally Posted by anachronism
Ok, so I apparently don't get it. I always thought the snowmaking infrastructure on the East Coast was due to limited amounts of snowfall. Thus my surprise at seeing how much snow Jay Peak gets.
So what's the deal? I understand thaw cycles come into play here, and I suspect that higher skier density does too, but there seems to be a glaring disconnect with most East Coast areas beholden to snowmaking on almost the entire mountain, while some get more snow than a lot of major western mountains.
First off, Northern New England resorts like Jay Peak, Stowe, and maybe a few others (Sugarbush, Sunday River, Whiteface/Lake Placid, Killington?) stay consistently colder and tend to get and hold substantially more snow than most other "East Coast" resorts. (There may also be some resorts in this category way up in the mountains in WV/NC, but I haven't skied in the Mid-Atlantic.) There is a huge difference between those resorts and the ones further south and at lower elevation. For example, back in February "Nemo" dropped a good two feet of snow across most of New England. But at my home mountain in MA it was raining a few days later. Hard. It probably got above freezing up north too, but not for nearly as long, and they didn't get as much rain.
That's really the difference: consistency of the climate. It's just not gonna get above freezing very often somewhere like Vail or Snowbird in the middle of January or February, whereas getting multiple thaws each winter is common everywhere on the East Coast. Sure, sometimes it snows in October in Boston. But it also rains in December, January, and February. At high elevations it typically stays below freezing all winter long, so you don't get as much degradation of the snowpack -- even if your total snowfall isn't as high, the base depths will be better, and it will be "packed powder" underneath rather than refrozen crud and glare ice.
At most of the EC resorts, unless you want to be completely at the mercy of Mother Nature you have to, uh, make hay when the sun shines (so to speak). Especially in the early season. Building a solid base of manmade snow pays off big when it helps the natural stuff stick better as it's falling and stay around later in the season. Out West the natural snow's gonna stick and build up without any help -- you may need snowmaking in the early part of the season, or to build terrain park features, but you usually don't need it just to ensure coverage on a reasonable number of trails throughout the winter.
just saw this:
Urban metro areas in the East are not mountainous; they're predominantly "flattish", which ties into the target demographic and recreational skier vs local argument.
Downtown Denver is almost as flat as Boston/NYC and about as far from skiing (although the skiing you get 2 hours from Denver is WAY bigger than what you get 2 hours from Boston or NYC.)
Reno and SLC are actually very close to the mountains, but quite a bit smaller in terms of population. Legitimately mountainous areas tend to be sparsely populated unless people are crammed in there with nowhere else to live (like in, say, Switzerland) or if it's been built up as a tourist area (in which case the year-round population tends to be small but it can increase a lot with visitors.)
Edited by Matthias99 - 4/22/13 at 11:59am