Just like in the 1954 movie classic 'White Christmas,' a lack of snow has Central New York ski resorts worried. The only difference, nowadays they could make their own snow, if it gets cold enough.
At Fayetteville's Four Seasons, there's a small patch of white on the ski hill, what's left of snow that was made ten days ago. The rest has melted in our rain and 70 degree temperatures.John Goodfellow says they've been getting calls from people who want them open, but that the resort needs cold weather to make snow.
The snow guns are poised on the slopes, and can kick out six inches an hour--covering the slopes in just over a day--if the temperatures are right. 20 degrees is ideal, says Goodfellow, and they're helping along the conditions by cooling the resort's spring-fed water source. A bubbler aerates the normally 44-degree water, bringing it closer to freezing so the snow making is more efficient.
Even when they make snow---as they did in last winter's 'dry' winter, Goodfellow says a little snow in people's back yards helps remind that it's ski season. And having snow for Christmas is critical: it's 30 - 40% of the year's business. Right now, with no snow, 60 seasonal workers at Four Seasons alone are without jobs.
Our Weather Center has also been watching the snow drought. Meteorologist Peter Hall says that unless we get an inch of snow on the ground tonight (unlikely) we will move up to #2 for the longest number of days of no measuable snowfall. The record is 275 consecutive days. They've been keeping records since 1902. And, another record is threatened: last year we went til December 17th before we got that inch of snow. The record is December 22nd, just a bit over a week away, set back in 1998.
Does it mean that weather patterns are changing? Hall says before last year, we had ten consecutive seasons of above normal snowfall, so perhaps this correction is overdue.He also says there's a better than even chance that we'll see a White Christmas. Short term, no big weather changes, but there are signs, he says, that as we head to the Christmas holiday the storminess could be picking up.
And, that's good news not only for the ski resorts, but also for people who sell snow-fighting equipment. At the Home Depot in DeWitt, there are rows and rows of snow brushes, shovels, and snow melting product. Manager Jason Clark says people buy snowblowers early, knowing 'their' brands sell out, but they wait til there's snow on the car to buy the other winter equipment.