Ski Industry News

Lake-Effect Snow … It’s Not Just For Buffalo Anymore!

by Tom Horrocks | November 29, 2017

Buffalo, New York is the undisputed king when it comes to lake-effect snow. But unfortunately, a significant lack of vertical in Buffalo means it’s all work and no play when Mother Nature delivers the goods.
Fortunately, there are a number mountain resorts that benefit significantly from lake-effect snow along the Wasatch Front in Utah, and Lake Champlain in Vermont. Vermont? Yes! Commonly referred to as the Jay Peak Cloud, a lake effect storm pummeled this gem of a resort tucked along the spine of the Green Mountains and nestled along the Canadian border this past weekend with 22 inches of snow. One look at Jay Peak’s Facebook page will leave you smitten with fat ski envy.
So how does this lake-effect thing work? Unfortunately, it’s a very efficient process. When storm systems move over warm open water, moisture is pulled up and then the orographic lift kicks in and air rises, it condenses, and BAM! – falls as r@!n or snow.
Why is this unfortunate? As our winters continue to warm, Lake Champlain, which is due west of Jay Pak, completely freezes over less frequently. In winters when it does completely freeze over, it’s happening later and later into the winter season. That’s good news for the Jay Peak Cloud, but bad news for our overall winter situation as a one-degree temperature change can make the difference between busting out the fat skis or busting out the Speedo and heading to Jay Peak’s Pumphouse Waterpark.
Jay Peak averages 349 inches of snow annually, more than all other Vermont resorts and rivaling many other major ski destinations across the country, including Vail, Telluride, Deer Valley, Sun Valley and Heavenly. In fact, Jay Peak lead the country in snowfall during the 2014-15 season with close to 380 inches of snow, including 200 inches in February and March. Go figure though as Lake Champlain officially froze over on Feb. 17, 2015, only the second consecutive year the lake has completely frozen over since record-keeping began in 1816.
But back then, they didn’t call it the Jay Peak Cloud. It was called walking uphill, both ways, to school! In the snow!

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