Mountain Weather Forecast

Mountain Weather ForecastPlan­ning a day in the moun­tains takes more than strong mus­cles and a sol­id partner—you also need to watch the teleme­try. Moun­tain weath­er demands healthy respect, and learn­ing how to read fore­casts can make or break the suc­cess or your next adventure.

Iden­ti­fy Your Concerns
As you’re watch­ing the weath­er and plan­ning your trip, think care­ful­ly about spe­cif­ic con­di­tions and how they’ll affect you. For exam­ple, hik­ers and boaters (who are able to toss an extra lay­er in their pack) may be less con­cerned about snow or rain, but pre­cip­i­ta­tion can end a day of rock climb­ing. Wind speed and direc­tion, on the oth­er hand, might have cat­a­stroph­ic con­se­quences to kayak­ers or canoers while not affect­ing in-bound skiers much at all. Tem­per­a­tures affect every­body dif­fer­ent­ly, depend­ing on your team’s abil­i­ty to mit­i­gate the cold. And the one fac­tor that affects every back­coun­try trav­el­er? Elec­tri­cal storms. Nev­er take chances when there’s light­ning around.

Cross-Ref­er­ence Your Sources
On the Nation­al Weath­er Ser­vice web­site, you can click an exact point on a map (or enter lat­i­tude and lon­gi­tude coor­di­nates into the search bar), which can be more accu­rate than sim­ply using a fore­cast for the near­est town. Moun­tain Fore­cast gives easy-to-read moun­tain-spe­cif­ic fore­casts for more than 11,200 major peaks, and lists pre­dict­ed teleme­try, tem­per­a­tures, wind speed, and wind direc­tion at var­i­ous alti­tudes on the said moun­tain. Moun­tain Weath­er com­piles satel­lite and radar maps for sev­er­al moun­tain­ous states. Check hourly fore­casts for detailed data, and check in with local forecasters—the kind you can find on the evening news or in local papers or websites—who can pro­vide use­ful infor­ma­tion, too.

Track Pat­terns
Keep an eye on the long-range fore­cast in the week lead­ing up to your adven­ture so you can start to get a feel for local pat­terns and trends. Be wary of times when dif­fer­ent fore­casts for the same loca­tion con­tain sig­nif­i­cant vari­a­tion, or when fore­casts change dramatically—especially for the worse.

Ask A Local
Still in doubt? Check in with some­body who knows, watch­es, and under­stands the weath­er pat­terns in your des­ti­na­tion. Does a climb­ing area tend to be warm and dry in the morn­ings, then prone to thun­der­storms in the after­noons? Does wind fre­quent­ly blow up at a cer­tain time of day, and from what direc­tion? What has the snow­pack been doing over the course of the sea­son? Every micro­cli­mate has quirks dri­ven by the local small-scale topog­ra­phy, and recruit­ing the help of a local expert can be invalu­able as you plan your trip. To find one, call a local climb­ing gym, out­door store, ski resort, or guide service.

Be Adapt­able
Once you’ve com­mit­ted to a day out­side, pay care­ful atten­tion to the weath­er. Watch the sky, keep tabs on the clouds, and cross-ref­er­ence what you’re see­ing with what the fore­cast instruct­ed you to expect. If the weath­er is mov­ing in from a place you can’t see—the oth­er side of the moun­tain, for example—be extra cau­tious. Remem­ber: you can always come back anoth­er day.