Orographic (ôrəˈɡrafik) precipitation:  rain, snow or other precipitation produced when moist air is lifted as it moves over a mountain range.

This is your trivia word of the day, lucky skiers and riders.

You thought Steamboat was proud of its western heritage, its beautiful vistas and its killer fireworks — and we are proud of all those things — but get a local snow lover talking, and what we are most proud of is our orographic effect that, most years, brings us more than our fair share of powder.

What happens is this:  When storms come in just perfectly from the northwest,  they lazily coast over the high plains between the Wasatch Range in northern Utah, building up energy and storing their water until they run into Buffalo Pass and good ol’ Mount Werner, our beloved ski hill.  Like waves crashing on a rocky shore, they loose all their energy and moisture over our mountain before moving on to carry what’s leftover to other parts of the state.  If these storms come in slowly, that effect is compounded when our mountains hold the clouds hostage, wringing all the precious moisture possible from them as the clouds fight to rise up and over these ridges and ranges.

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So don’t pray for snow.  It’s here. It’s, dare I say it, nuking.  (I am generally loathe to use popular ski bum lingo; don’t even get me started on the word epic.)  We really haven’t seen it snow quite like this since, oh gosh, Thanksgiving? The snow started this morning, around 8:20 to be exact.  I got to the top of the gondola at 8:15, and it wasn’t snowing at all.  But there were low clouds — covering Sleeping Giant, Buff Pass and the northern reaches of our terrain — in all the right places indicating it was coming.  I had a wicked strong cup of coffee, and by the time I went back out to make turns, there was already an inch on my skis.  The groomers are fast and fun this morning, still soft underneath as it stayed pretty warm overnight. The visibility is nonexistent, but folks are hooting and hollering like its a 12″ day.  It’s just gonna get better as the day goes on, and if the orographics are indeed in our favor, tomorrow could be a good one.

I’ll leave you with my not-so-professional pics from this morning. All I can say is I couldn’t take photos of skiing because there’s just too much white stuff getting all over everything, and all my skiing pics just looked … snowy.

Orographics! Say it loud, and say it proud!

Have fun and bundle up.   And happy Chinese New Year!!


Ali Givnish, Alpine skier

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