TUESDAY FEBRUARY 20 - GREETINGS FROM BLUE MOUNTAIN


To some people's delight, and to other's disappointment, the end of winter is in sight. If you're in the latter group, and would like to see the cold and snow hang around as long as possible, you might come here - to the slopes. And that's where well be the next two weeks, at Blue Mountain Ski Area, about 60 miles north of Philadelphia.

When it comes to natural snow, ski areas have at least two things going for them: elevation and sloping terrain. First, it's typically colder at higher elevations. The summit here is above 1500 feet, and that extra altitude is often just enough to tip the scales toward snow. Second, to make clouds you need to have the air rise. And that's exactly what happens when the wind runs into a mountain. In fact, the snowiest places in the world are found in mountainous areas. In the U.S., for example, Mount Baker Ski Area in Washington State once got 95 feet of snow - that's more than 1100 inches - in one year. Here at Blue Mountain, the average is around 50 inches per winter - that's about double the average in Philadelphia and Wilmington.

Here's one other point about where ski resorts typically are located. Most are on north-facing slopes. That's because when the sun's up, it spends most of its time in the southern half of the sky - in the winter, it spends the entire time there. This means that north-facing areas simply get less direct sunshine. And that of course means the snow has a better chance of survival.

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