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Bryan Allegretto, founder of Tahoe Weather Discussion.com, has earned a reputation as Tahoe’s most spot-on storm tracker
By Pete Gauvin
For the past couple seasons, thousands of avid skiers and riders in Tahoe, as well as the resorts that depend on them, have been tuning in to an accountant to get their weather forecast.
And as you would expect from an accountant — if not necessarily a weatherman — Bryan Allegretto gets his number’s right, for the most part.
You see, BA, as he is known on his blog, Tahoe Weather Discussion.com, is not your average 31-year-old accountant. He’s ﬁrst and foremost a snow-loving snowboarder who loves a good storm, and all the investigative work and calculations that go into calling one before it hits.
And it’s on that famously shaky precipice that he’s made a name for himself in the Tahoe region over the past couple years, particularly for his knack in making accurate long-range forecasts. All this, despite his lack of a meteorology degree.
From calling last season’s epic La Niña to predicting how many inches would fall at multiple locations around the Tahoe region from speciﬁc storms, BA has earned a reputation in the ski community as Tahoe’s most accurate, reliable and detailed weather forecaster.
But that’s not what he calls himself.
“I call myself a snowcaster rather than a weathercaster. All I care about is snow. I could care less what the weather is going to be. I just want to know when it’s going to snow next.”
It’s that sort of attitude that helps put him in alignment with the many fellow snow-obsessed outdoor enthusiasts that read his blog with regularity.
But it’s plainly evident that Allegretto brings a lot more to the table than just enthusiasm and an armchair-interest in weather. While he may lack credentials, his meteorological jetstream stretches back many years.
Allegretto has taken an active interest in weather since he was a grade school kid growing up in Ocean City, New Jersey, watching storms pound the coast. His father was responsible for calling in the local snowplow drivers when winter storms were brewing. It was helping his dad collect reliable data that young Bryan got his ﬁ rst taste of forecasting.
He was hooked from then on and went on to major in meteorology at Kean University outside New York City. But after two years he took some time off to travel around the world, and having witnessed so much poverty in third-world countries, decided he should get a degree in economics instead, which he did from Rowan University.
“The National Weather Service guys are not allowed to take the risks I do with long-range forecasts because they are so worried about accuracy … I don’t care about taking the risk. I can fall ﬂat on my face, and it’s happened.”
When Allegretto landed in Tahoe in 2006 to work as an accountant for Booth Creek, the former owner of Northstar-at-Tahoe and current owner of Sierra-at-Tahoe resorts, he found his weather nirvana.
“That’s when my ﬁnance career started to overlap with my weather interests … In Tahoe, snow falling from the sky is like dollars falling from the sky.”
Soon, he was doing forecasts for the ofﬁ ce and the sales and marketing divisions for Northstar and Sierra. “Eventually one of the marketing managers asked if I’d be interested in doing a blog on the Northstar site.”
That’s when things really started to, well, snowball. “There were people who didn’t even ski Northstar going to the Northstar site just because it offered a good forecast.”
It was this response that convinced Allegretto to start Tahoe Weather Discussion.com in December 2009. Last year was my ﬁ rst full season and it was a doozy.
“Last season I honestly felt like quitting because it went on for so long … It started before Thanksgiving. I was blogging from October until the middle of June.”
Visitorship shot up fast. His site averaged about 3000 hits per day, and jumped to 8,000 during storm cycles. “I’m now up to about 10,000 visits per day,” he says.
His forecasting for ski resorts also grew. Last year he did forecasts for Northstar, Sierra, Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley USA.This year, Allegretto, who is married and has two young kids (ages one and three), is expanding his forecasts well beyond Tahoe by doing weather for Unofﬁcial Networks, including their websites for resorts in the Rockies and the Northeast.
If that sounds like he’s going to be spreading himself thin, maybe too thin for his loyal followers in Tahoe, Allegretto says not to worry. “I’m always tracking everything (across the country) … The only place I haven’t really got a handle on are the Rockies because I’ve never lived there to experience them ﬁrsthand, but it shouldn’t take long.”
One reason why Tahoe Weather Discussion has become so popular is that Allegretto writes his blog in fairly plain English so readers don’t need a climate science dictionary to get a sense of what’s going on. “It takes a little more effort (to put it in lay terms),” he says. “It’s almost like translating from Spanish to English.”
But it’s his long-range forecasts that really set him apart from professional forecasters, such as those that work for the National Weather Service, an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“The National Weather Service guys are not allowed to take the risks I do with long-range forecasts because they are so worried about accuracy and people relying on their forecasts,” Allegretto says. “I don’t care about taking the risk. I can fall ﬂat on my face, and it’s happened.”
He cites the mistake he made last January, or “Juneuary” as many referred to it, when an extended six-week dry spell set in in the midst of the feisty La Niña winter.
Allegretto predicted the high-pressure ridge parked over California would break in a couple weeks.
“I put a lot of faith in the MJO (the Madden-Julian Oscillation index measuring seasonal circulation patterns), which acts kind of like a pseudo El Niño when it moves into the western Paciﬁc … and can juice up the jetstream,” he says.
“My big mistake I made last January is that I thought the MJO would pull the ridge back (and the storm door would reopen). But what I learned is that when the La Niña is that strong it trumps the MJO and the MJO really has no affect on our weather.”
Last year was one of the strongest La Niña’s we’ve had and certainly the strongest Allegretto had experienced.
“When I make an error like that, I try to make a discussion out of it that explains, ‘Here’s why we were wrong.’ … But I’ve been blessed because I’ve been right eight out of 10 times.”
If he does go out on a limb and then recognizes that his prediction may not come to fruition, “I’ll slowly change the language in my writing so it’s not so abrupt. It’s kind of a writing trick.”
Though young, Allegretto considers himself an old-fashioned weather forecaster who looks at the oscillations and sea temperatures and other “teleconnections,” instead of just relying on computer models. “There are so many variables to consider,” he says. (There are links to all these forecasting tools on his website.) “Teleconnections are a way to take a chaotic atmosphere (and look for clues.) The weather is just chaos, but in this chaotic atmosphere we’ve been able to ﬁnd some things that actually have some rhythms and patterns that happen over and over and over again.”
One constant is that when storms do come barreling straight off the Paciﬁc, the Sierra is optimally positioned to make the most of them. “The cloud deck is not very high, often as low as 500 to a 1000 feet or so,” says Allegretto, “and as the clouds get lifted they cool. The cold air can’t hold as much moisture” and they get squeezed as they climb up the Sierra.
As soon as the clouds start dropping elevation and warming, precipitation amounts decrease. “That’s why in Truckee we can get a foot at Donner Lake and an inch in Glenshire only a few miles to the east,” he says.
That dynamic is repeated over and over again as storms march across the country. But as the ﬁrst major range in line, the Sierra gets ﬁ rst dibs.
“The West Coast is the biggest snowfall producing region in the world,” says Allegretto. “Anywhere from British Columbia down through the Paciﬁc Northwest and Tahoe is going to get the biggest dumps in a season.”
It’s a recipe for 400 to 800 inches of snow a year — and a snowcaster’s nirvana.