It's a blue bird day at Teacup Lake Nordic area and the sun lights up the snowy peak of nearby Mt. Hood. I push off on a crust of perfectly groomed Nordic track on my classic skis, trying to catch...
So what's the snow like?
Or rather, what is it going to be like?
Those are the questions skiers and snowboarders are perpetually asking about Mount Hood, and they are not easily answered. Mount Hood gets a lot of snow—more than 400 inches per year—and it accumulates in many different varieties, from windblown pow with sastrugi ridges up high, to good old Cascade Concrete melting down from the Pineapple Express down low. Freezing levels can plummet from 10,000 to 3,000 feet in a flash, winds rip through at 100 miles an hour, would-be snowstorms disintegrate into monsoons, minor flurries go rogue and dump three feet of fresh, and it is not at all unusual for one side of the mountain to be cloaked in impenetrable white fog while a few miles away on the other side of the mountain the sun is shining. There are many nuances to the Mt. Hood snow forecast, and Temira loves them all.
At least eight solid sources exist for Mt. Hood snow fanatics, but there is only one Temira. Temira Lital has been running her blog The Gorge is My Gym for 10 years, and she is the quirkiest, most honest snow forecaster on the mountain. She has the writing skills to entertain as well as inform, and her random morning thoughts are well known to thousands of outdoor sports junkies.
Temira grew up in Tacoma, windsurfing American Lake and skiing Crystal Mountain. She learned to ski at the age of 12, but her favorite sport was always windsurfing. That's why she moved to Hood River after college in 1997.
"I couldn't even jibe when I first moved down here," she says. "I would just fall in and turn around. But I had always wanted to be a pro windsurfer, so I worked really hard, kept trying things over and over, and eventually started competing."
For year she spent her winters in Maui and her summers in Hood River, living a lifestyle that revolved around wind. The deeper she got into windsurfing, the more she wanted to understand wind. So when the local radio wind forecaster in Hood River who did Bart's Best Best for windsurfers gave up his slot on the radio, she immersed herself fully to fill the niche.
"Bart was really good," she says. "He did this great show on the radio, and it was funny and entertaining, and we would all listen to it every morning. And then he wasn't on the radio any more, and I asked him how he did his forecasts, and he showed me a couple of models. I was terrible at it at first. But when I get into things I really get into them. I really want to understand all the nuances. So I ended up doing a forecast every day and sending it out to friends, and there were like three people on the list, and then six and then 10, and then by the end of the summer there were 120, and I was like, I guess I'm a wind forecaster.
"I've spent a lot of time over the past 10 years looking at models, reading books, refining. The most important part for me is going back at the end of the day and going okay, what did I screw up? What did I get right? And then refining."
One of Temira's early subscribers worked for the local radio station in Hood River, and he invited her to take on an early-morning slot on the air. That gig led to another early-hours job with the Mt. Hood Meadows snow line, which enabled Temira to expand from Gorge wind into mountain snow. As with her wind forecast, she saw a niche in the market, and she worked with determination to fill it.
"I realized that there was no forecast to tell skiers what they really wanted to know," she says. "Is it going to snow overnight? In the morning? And what's the snow going to be like? NWAC is amazing, but what they give you is water value. So we're going to get an inch of water value. Okay, and...? What does that mean? Are we going to get two inches of snow, or 10 inches of snow? I just saw this forecast that was missing, and I already had the website. So I thought I might as well try a snow forecast too, and see what happens."
As with the wind forecasting, Temira has worked hard to refine her snow forecasts. She approaches her writing with a sense of humor and with an understanding that sometimes ambiguity is unavoidable, because it is better to be honest when you don't know than to pretend that you do know.
Keep in mind that Temira is not a morning person. Nonetheless she routinely begins her day at 4 am, writing up her own forecasts, recording the snow phone recording for Meadows and writing a daily conditions report for Meadows e-mail subscribers. She also runs a house cleaning business in Hood River and routinely drives into Portland to pursue a graduate degree in counseling from Portland State University. Her website doesn't pay all of her bills, but it does help, with advertising revenue and a steady stream of much appreciated donations from readers and subscribers. "It's really heart-warming for me, to put something out there for free, and have so many people say they want to support it," she says. "Every time I get a new donation it just makes my day."
As for the future, she says her mission is unchanged: "to get people to have more fun in their busy lives." Even after she earns her degree and makes the professional transition into counseling and therapy, Temira has no plans to stop cranking out her homespun forecasts.
Oh yeah, and in case you're wondering what the snow is like on Mount Hood right now and what it will probably be like tomorrow, you can read Temira's thoughts on that subject by clicking here.