Weather Hysteria Hurts Ski Resorts
Super storm. Polar vortex. Bomb cyclone.
These are just a few of the hyperbolic terms meteorologists are slinging around to scare the bejeezus out of us and gin up ratings during weather “events.”
If you think their main concern is public safety you’re hopelessly naive. An arms race is on among weather forecasters. Those with the wildest predictions get the most traffic.
We in hurricane country are accustomed to excitable weather guys who become breathless at the first sign of a tropical depression off the coast of Africa. By the time the storm is 200 miles away from landfall they’re hyperventilating.
But even worse than the we’re-all-going-to-die forecasters are the disaster chasers with $200 haircuts who parachute into town on the eve of a storm hoping to witness widespread destruction. Once here they scold us for not evacuating.
Then they lash themselves to lampposts where they’re buffeted by 15 mph winds, while ordinary people walk their dogs in the background.
Like this dude, from The Weather Channel before Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Similar scare tactics - about low temperatures - are reportedly killing the ski industry. When extremely cold temps hit the East Coast over the Presidents’ Day weekend, there were tumbleweeds blowing down some mountains.
Skiers were scared away, owners said, by hysterical meteorologists who sternly warned folks to stay indoors lest they freeze to death.
A piece in this week’s Outside online - “Over-Hyped Weather Forecasts Are Bad For Skiing” - claims that ski resorts everywhere are suffering from an overblown fear of the cold.
“Local stations... seldom report the actual winter temperature any more, relying instead on more dramatic wind chill or “RealFeel” (a method developed by AccuWeather using factors including temperature, wind, humidity and others to describe how it feels outside) figures.
“Normal winter weather is treated like a crisis.”
These weather worrywarts seem determined to turn us into a country full of hot-house plants. Terrified of windburn and chapped lips.
Ski operators point out that modern cold weather gear can keep folks warm in the lowest temperatures. Yet cold-weather cautions, based on ridiculous wind-chill numbers, scare skiers away.
“According to meteorologist Russ Murley, who generates forecasts for dozens of resorts, from Sugarloaf to Telluride, for Precision Weather Service, wind chill doesn’t take into account direct sunlight and is typically based on the highest forecasted wind gusts. Most of the time, he says, the wind only achieves its maximum gusts for a few minutes at a time.
“Plus, wind chill is only capable of estimating the effects of weather on bare skin. Apart from the occasional closing-day bash in the spring, almost no one is skiing around naked. “
With layers of Gore-Tex and a dose of common sense skiers can hit the slopes on single-digit days without dying of hypothermia or losing fingers to frostbite.
While an argument can be made that hurricanes are deadly and it’s smart to pay attention even to overly dramatic forecasters, frigid temperatures in the mountains are really just, well, weather.
Someone needs to tell these mad meteorologists to chill.