In this business, we’re constantly checking the weather and asking ourselves: What’s the temperature going to be? Can we make snow? Is there snow in the forecast? How much snow is in the forecast? When is the next powder day? And this list goes on…
Luckily for us, we can answer these questions with a good amount of confidence because we know who to go to for the answers.
Meet Russ Murley – Sunday River’s very own contracted meteorologist through Precision Weather Service. He’s the man with our twice daily snow plan and he’s here to talk about a change in weather pattern.
First of all, tell me about your weather background and what brought you to the Sunday River area?
I grew up in the Lakes Region and became interested in weather at a very young age. I followed that passion and got my degree in meteorology at Lyndon State in 1986. My career has been a mix of radio, television, and private consulting work – which is mostly what I do now. I started skiing (by accident) at Sugarloaf back in the 70s and have been in love with the sport since then. My habit has taken me all over the world, but my home mountain has been Sunday River since the late 80s. I moved to West Bethel last year in pursuit of 100-day seasons!
What service do you provide Sunday River and how long have you been working with us?
I started doing some consulting with Sunday River in the early 90s, but have been doing the day-to-day operational forecasting for about 15 years now.
We’ve been hearing a lot about a major pattern change – what exactly does this mean?
Well, we [typically] see several major pattern changes during the course of every season – the most recent change was the arrival of some consistently colder weather back in December. We’ve seen a bit of a break from the cold weather these past few weeks, and we’re eyeing a more significant pattern change that will bring us back to more consistent cold – and at times snowy weather – for what could be the majority of the next two months. The majority of the tools we use for long-range forecasting are on board with this big change, and I feel it will hold for quite some time.
What does this mean for Sunday River skiers and snowboarders?
This means that we’ve yet to see the best of the season. I feel we’ll see a good deal of snow going forward. The drought has broken and the longer range stuff I’ve been studying is consistent with a strong finish to winter. I think this will be a lot like the 92-93 season, which had no great shakes up until we got dumped on in February and March. The grand finale was a huge March blizzard that season!
Is this latest storm the beginning of this weather pattern shift?
Yes, this is the start of the “end of the thaw” and it’s a nice way to finish off two weeks of above normal temps.
What exactly is causing this weather pattern shift?
We’ve seen a big drop in the Southern Oscillation Index – which is a pressure pattern in the subtropical Pacific – and almost always telegraphs to a colder pattern in Eastern North America. In addition to this, we’ve seen what’s called a sudden stratospheric warming over the high arctic. This flip in the upper levels of the atmosphere will almost always lead to a much colder pattern over the eastern half of the country this time of year!
Give it to us straight – can we plan on more powder days ahead?
Absolutely – plenty more!
Now some easier questions; what is your favorite type of weather event to cover and why?
Snowstorms are my favorite – despite the low sleep factor. I also like tracking severe thunderstorms here in New England!
What is your favorite Sunday River trail to ski?
Where can we find you on a powder day?
If you could have any job here at Sunday River, what job would you want and why?
Ski Patrol – for all those choice first track powder runs then get. Product testing!
Après beverage of choice?
Depends on the weather, but usually a malted barley type of beverage.