Snow With a Side of Chili

October 13, 2016
Winter Skiing

Welcome to New Mexico, the land of sunshine, delicious chili and snow. Snow! SNOW! According to the New York Times, we're enjoying some of the best ski conditions in the country.

Let me explain. I grew up in stormy Buffalo, New York, where “Lake Effect Snow” is a dirty word. Occasionally the cold stuff piled up to the windowsill of my second story bedroom.  I escaped to sunny New Mexico and now live 300 miles from the Mexican border. I did not choose to live in the “best snow” in the USA. Nevertheless, here it is—five-foot piles of snow in my yard.

Meanwhile, New Mexico’s central mountains are gleaming white and covered with tourists. My little village is humming as thousands of tourists  trundle down from the slopes, looking for good Margaritas, inexpensive food and, maybe, a chance to go country dancing. For a brief moment, the local economy is sparkling as people get temporary jobs serving the ski resorts and keeping the visitors happy.

Even the local playgrounds are busy. Most tourists go to Santa Fe and Taos for luxury. However, with the nation so snowless, (the first week of January was the nation’s driest on record), visitors are even skiing on the smaller, neighborhood slopes. Our little hill, where the teenagers hang out with their snowboards, and everyone knows each other, had four thousand skiers in a single day. Other tourists found the Native American resorts, like “The Inn of the Mountain Gods” and mixed skiing, casinos and a bit of culture at the same time.  

It has been a strange winter. For most of the season, the cool La Niña in the Pacific, which is supposed to bring cold, stormy weather to the North and warm, dry weather to the South, did just the opposite. Florida had a freeze that threatened its fruit and vegetable crop. Drought-stricken Texas was hit by heavy rain, snow and tornadoes. Desert New Mexico and parts of Arizona have wallowed in snow. There was more December snow in El Paso, on the Mexican border, than in Toronto, Canada!

How much December temperatures departed from normal − (1˚C = 1.8˚F) Red means temperatures are more than 9˚F (5˚C) warmer than normal and dark blue is 9˚F (5˚C) cooler.  SOURCE: USDA/FAS/OGA

The good news is that it is beginning to snow up north. The cold will kill insects, so that your gardens are safer. The snowmelt will bring badly needed moisture to the Midwest. The peculiar winter of 201½012 is starting to act a little more normal. That is good news.

Meanwhile, you are welcome to come skiing in the weird New Mexico weather. The snow is powder and the chili is hot!


About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.