By Roger Lohr
In a story posted by TSIL, the Northeast Winter Weather Summit, organized by the North American Snowsports Journalist Association (NASJA) with support from 19 other companies and organizations, saw meteorologists, ski resorts and media gather at Stratton Mountain, VT, Dec. 2-3 for the first of what many hope will be a continuing conversation between the various groups to provide information on making the best of winter.
The meeting brought together some groups and topics that don’t normally occur at industry meetings and some lively discussions ensued. There were 70 people registered; roughly half of them meteorologists/media. New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Quebec, and Pennsylvania ski areas were among the states represented. The Weather Summit was supported by Mountain Travel Symposium, MountainGuard, Prinoth, HKD Snowmakers, BEWI Sports, Dion Snowshoes, and VFC (The North Face). The attending meteorologists were from Boston, Mt. Washington Observatory, Hartford, Albany, Altoona (PA), Skywatch, and WeatherNation to name a few.
On Sunday Dec. 2, the opening seminar about How To Dress for Winter Weather by The North Face corporate rep Stan Kosmider was a big hit, with multiple questions from the audience about smart layering and technological advancements in snow sports apparel. Next, the Welcome Reception started with short introductions from NASJA President Iseult Devlin and welcome remarks from Stratton President Bill Nupp. The keynote presentation featured observers from the Mt. Washington Observatory, who gave a vivid picture of life on top of Mt. Washington, which claims the worst weather on earth (i.e., 231 MPH winds!). Did you know you can use a frozen banana as a hammer?
Eight lucky attendees joined Tim O’Neil, founder of the Team O’Neil Rally School at a Sun Bowl parking lot for some tips on driving in winter. O’Neil’s stated that his favorite position for driving was sideways, and demonstrated with some hot laps around the icy, slushy parking lot. Then participants got their turn, although not at quite the same velocity. On another part of the mountain, Vermont Lt. Governor David Zuckerman made an appearance to demo Vermont manufactured Dion Snowshoes and take a ride in the Prinoth snowcat. Zuckerman also addressed the group at lunch thanking them for coming to enjoy the incredible opportunities Vermont has to offer. He invited meteorologists to “be educators on how to tell people to dress for winter.”
Snowmaking and grooming sessions were also well attended with highlights on new technology that makes skiing and riding more enjoyable. Attendees found out about snowmaking trends explained in layman’s terms by HKD vice president Ian Jarrett and Stratton snowmaking manager Kevin Booth. Grooming trends were also part of the discussion. In a presentation on ski resort sustainability speakers included Tyler Fairbank, who spoke about Jiminy Peak’s wind turbine, cogeneration, and solar array which saves about 7 million kilowatt hours annually, Rob Megnin referenced Killington’s efforts which has reduced the carbon footprint by 50% with for example, cow power, solar power, and 47 EV charging stations, Jon Lundin of ORDA which spent $3 million in the last few years to get smarter making snow, and Margo Wade of Sugarbush, which reduced emissions by 30% since 2014. Efficiency Vermont John McMurray spoke about new snowmaking guns and energy savings. They all spoke about the extensive efforts at their resorts.
There were tips for ski resorts on the best way to tell their stories about weather and how best to contact TV stations. There was discussion of whether weather presenters believe climate change is real and whether it is caused by humans. Almost all the speakers on whatever topic, from how to dress to global warming, agreed that education is the best solution.
The NASJA event producers, who worked with Stratton’s Myra Foster to organize Summit activities, had much to be proud about toward the goal of establishing a friendly dialogue between the ski industry and meteorologists. NASJA President Iseult Devlin stated, “We’ve worked closely with Stratton Mountain and an Advisory Team for almost a year and we feel like the Weather Summit was a great inaugural for NASJA’s expanded role in the snowsports industry.” But it was so much more: in the words of Mary McKhann, the message was really about making the best of winter.