A Record Breaker in the Making?

Conway — January 30, 2009 — Light, powdery — and abundant. That’s been the snow story so far this winter in Mount Washington Valley. A storm this past Wednesday’s storm dropped an additional 12.2 inches of powder at local cooperative weather observer Ed Bergeron’s snow stake off West Side Road, bringing the total as of Jan. 29 to 81.9 inches of snow since November.

That’s 24.4 inches above the total of 57.5 inches that the area had received as of the same time last year — a year that went on to see 146.7 inches fall, making it the second snowiest winter in 49 years of record-keeping. The snowiest was 1968-69, with a total of 163.5 inches.

“The total on the ground is 32 inches, which is 3 inches more than last year at this time,” said Bergeron Thursday, a sunny day when he could see the trails of Cranmore Mountain Resort beckoning in the distance from his North Conway office at HEB Engineers. Bergeron, an avid skier, had to work, but many power enthusiasts took to the region’s ski touring and alpine trails.

Bergeron confirmed what rooftop shovelers had already noticed this winter: Without accompanying rain, this year’s storms have left light powder that has been easier on roofs and easier on shovelers’ backs.

“This winter has very definitely been averaging 2 or 3 degrees colder than average for January, and that has translated into some very dry snow as the storms so far have not had the rain that we often also get,” said Bergeron.

The monthly comparisons so far show that 7.5 inches of snow fell in November 2008 compared to 1.7 the previous November. A total of 35.7 inches were recorded in December 2008 compared to 30.8 in December 2007. The January total so far this year as of Jan. 29 was 38.7 inches, compared to 25 in 2007.

Past may be prologue, snow lovers hope: Last February, 54.2 inches fell; and 22.2 inches were recorded in March.

“We’ve got plenty of winter left,” said Bergeron, saying that skiers love it — and non-winter lovers just grin and bear it (and shovel).

Mike Finnegan of the Mount Washington Observatory said the summit received 12.2 inches from Wednesday’s storm. The summit received a peak gust from the west of 114 mph at 1:29 a.m. Thursday.

“I had some issues up here, so I didn’t get to get out there today on my board, which is too bad, because the wind is light at 20 mph and it’s about 4 degrees, so pretty nice,” said Finnegan.

Looking ahead, the 1932-founded observatory is planning to celebrate the inclusion of an article on Mount Washington and the facility in the current issue of National Geographic with an exclusive slide show Feb. 19 at the Grand Summit Hotel by photographer Jose Azel of Lovell, Maine.

Observatory executive director Scot Henley said this week only 600 tickets are available for $20. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with a reception (cash bar and light hors d’oeuvres), followed by an observatory presentation at 7:30 p.m. and Azel’s presentation at approximately 8. A raffle will be held, featuring a top drawing of a framed black and white image from the observatory’s Bradford Washburn Gallery.

“All attendees will go home with a special gift from National Geographic. All proceeds from the event will benefit the observatory,” said Henley.

For further information, call 356-2137 or www.mountwashington.org.

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