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It’s the time of year where skiers eagerly wait for that first big snowstorm so they carve some tracks down the mountains. And, Mother Nature delivered one of the first blizzard warnings of the season last weekend — but not in a place know for ski resorts.
To get to the white stuff, skiers would need to go to the Hawaiian volcano peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.
That’s right. While most people picture a Hawaiian vacation with sun, sandy beaches and surfing the ocean waves, there are people who were likely very excited by the foot of snow or more forecasted by the weather service this past weekend.
Even most of the contiguous 48 United States haven’t seen winter warnings like this, yet, according to the National Weather Service:
Blizzard Warning for Hawaii, and before most of the continental US? Snow accumulations of 12" or more and wind gusts over 100 mph are expected on the summits of the Big Island this weekend. A look at the number of days since each NWS office last issued a blizzard warning. pic.twitter.com/tDNIMwZQu2
— NWS Eastern Region (@NWSEastern) December 3, 2021
Snow in Hawaii is not as unusual as many think, especially in the higher elevations of the islands. With volcano peaks rising well above 10,000 feet, snowfall happens from time to time.
And when it does, it’s so beautiful!
Photos of the freshly fallen snow were shared of the Mauna Kea mountain peak by Twitter user @KahunaWhite.
“#Hawaii has snow!” the post read “Beautiful! The keiki [children in Hawaiian] will have fun tomorrow!”
— white kahuna (@KahunaWhite) December 5, 2021
The snow didn’t affect highly populated areas, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesman Adam Weintraub told The New York Times.
For those willing to trek to the peaks of Hawaii’s volcanoes, skiing can be an unforgettable experience. YouTuber Ulderico Granger posted a video last year from the slopes of 13,803-foot Mauna Kea — you can see the volcano’s observatories in some of the shots. It looks like crusty, icy skiing, so an storm bringing fresh powder is probably celebrated by local skiers and snowboarders:
With this recent storm, Christopher Langan, a retired firefighter, has his skis ready for him and an extra pair for a friend when the snow falls on the volcanic peaks.
“I’ll do 10 runs easy,” Langan told The Wall Street Journal.
Skiing on Hawaii’s volcanoes isn’t a typical day on the slopes. Snow quality is not the fine powder many resorts offer. Without resorts or grooming machinery available, the snow is all natural, and the jagged volcanic rock can be unforgiving when someone slips and falls.
There’s also the problem of getting up the peak to ski down. Chair lifts and gondolas are not available. So adventurous skiers find their own way up the mountain.
“We consider our vehicles a gondola,” Langan told WSJ. He will either have a friend drive back down the slope to get him at the end of a run or, if both are skiing, they’ll find a ride back up to the top.
While die-hard skiers were excited about the freshly fallen snow on the peaks, many residents in the lower reaches of the islands were bracing for torrential rains, with up to 24 inches of rain expected in some areas.
“We’re watching with considerably more concern the rest of the storm system because it’s got the possibility to produce flash floods and landslides,” Weintraub told the New York Times.