Virtual Snow


There’s nothing more depressing than looking out the window during the winter and seeing grass. You’re dying to know when the next big dose of freshie is going to arrive. Then, after it arrives, you’ll have a race the next day and be staring at your drawer full of waxes wondering which one to apply.  Well, in the immortal words of Homer Simpson: “Oh, so they have the internet on computers now!”  I’ve figured out two sweet websites that can help deal with these snow topics: When’s it coming and how cold is it going to be on race morning?

The first good website is called “Weather for Nordic Skiers in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes Regions” and lives at  This is a great website for figuring out when the next snow delivery will arrive. At the top of the home page, there is a white field that includes a text paragraph that summarizes snow events in the region:


That summary is a pretty good “plain English” description about weather for the whole region, but what about your area? There are so many links on this page it’s a little overwhelming.

Over time, I’ve zeroed in on two of the links to really get a good idea of “How much?” and “When?”  In the white field, there are 4 pictures that link to snow forecasts. My favorite is the one called “John Dee’s snow forecast”. It’s the simplest to interpret and he seems to avoid hyping the amounts like the TV news. It seems to give a realistic view of amounts and times. The second good link is the text at the very bottom of the white field labeled:  Probability of Heavy Snow (4, 8, or 12 inches) or Ice (1/4 inch) Accumulation: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3.   Pick your day and click. You’ll know you’re in the right one when you’ve arrived at this link:  It’s a map that shows probabilities and seems to match reality.  Don’t like these links? Explore this page. You’ll be amazed at how many websites are geeking out on snow.

So what website do you check when you’re trying to figure out the wax? Usually, the weather forecast you get just says a High and Low temperature.  Hey, my Birkie Wave starts at 0840 and I’m skiing for 3 hours to a whole different town. So, how about some better data? There is a great “Hourly Weather Graph” put out by the National Weather Service to get you the info you need. And it’s a picture. Picture good.

Go to the National Weather Service website ( and there is a window in the upper left to input your city and state for a Local Forecast. Once you input a town (for example, Cable, WI) it sends you to a standard looking “High and Low” forecast. Go to the lowest right-hand corner of this page and there is a subheading labeled “Additional Forecasts and Information.” There will be several links there.  Click on the one that says “Hourly Weather Graph.”

The graph that pops up depicts the arc of the temperature as the hours go by. Definitely good information when it can swing 20 degrees F throughout the day or when a cold front is going to smack your area right at race start. You can even tailor the chart to show relative humidity to further hone in on whether you need a fluoro wax or not. With this chart for a skate race (classic’s tougher to wax for) you can usually pick a pretty good wax the night before and be at least in the right neighborhood. This way, in the Cable to Hayward example, I can see that the temperature will go from 5F to 21F during my race window at Cable. At Hayward, the mercury will go from 8F to 22F.  I think this is a lot better than just knowing the High is 34F for the day in both towns. Besides, in my case, it’s my wide butt that’s the problem, not the wax!

So, the next time you’re hoping for a fresh coat of white and wondering what paraffin to iron in, think of Homer Simpson and start clicking the mouse!

About Eric Chandler

Husband. Father. Pilot. Cross Country Skier. Writer. Author of Outside Duluth and Down In It.
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