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Ambivalent forecast in Gulmarg

By Sam Lozier, Boston.com Correspondent 

Ski blogger Sam Lozier is spending a chunk of this winter in Kashmir, India with his friend Allen Taylor.

 

Gulmarg has finally got some good weather in the forecast. After an unbelievably dry early season (only two storms so far) it looks like the jet stream is shifting south over the Arabian Sea, where it will pick up a lot more moisture than it does when it swings in over Asia. With combined force of the jet stream, the karmic assistance of our Kiwi friend James, who is leaving just before the storm, and the help of Allah (all the locals insist we trust in Him to bring the weather), we should end up with a bit of snow here in town.

 

Forecasts are all over the place, and have been known to under report in the past, but more than 20 inches of snow seems like a fairly conservative bet up high. Since it hasnít snowed since New Year's, this is both good and bad.

 

When newly-fallen snow is left exposed to the air for long periods of time, in certain conditions it will form a type of ice crystal called facets. Facets are cup-shaped crystals that feel like sugar in the hand, and donít bond to each other. When new snow falls on top of facets it creates a situation where avalanches are highly likely. Currently Gulmarg has facets a few feet deep on just about all slopes that currently hold snow.

 

If this next big storm that rolls in is big enough, the weight of the new snow will set off natural avalanches on the faceted slopes and sort of reset the snowpack. If the storm doesnít come in big, weíll be in a lot of trouble. There will be heavily, snow-loaded, avalanche prone slopes, and a whole town full of powder hungry skiers from all over the world.

 

As Allen pointed out, our safest bet after the storm may be to ski slopes that donít currently have any snow (and by extension, facets). Everyone is excited for some snow, but quite nervous about what this storm might bring with it.

 

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