There’s always a buzz of anticipation in the air the night before a snowstorm, but if you’re a skier, the effect is magnified. And if you’re a skier and a meteorologist? The build-up to a blizzard verges on obsession. “It has a Christmas Eve feel,” says New England Cable News meteorologist Tim Kelley, who has a ski home right on the mountain at Stowe Mountain Lodge. “You’re watching the radar; you’re looking out the window. Every little change in intensity of snow makes you wonder: Is it getting heavier? Is it getting weaker? You just can’t wait to get up.”
When there’s fresh powder in New England, Kelley’s sleepless night turns into an invigorating morning out on the slopes. He often wakes up hours before the sun rises so he can book it to the front of the lift line, in hopes of scoring every skier’s holy grail: first tracks. “There’s a certain pride you feel if you can get the first tracks—to be the first one,” he says. “If you’re on a groomed trail after a few inches of new snow, it’s almost like you’re floating.”
The 49-year-old Cape Cod native’s love for skiing emerged out of a fascination with storms. “For me, the excitement is in chasing the weather,” he explains. “When you’re at the top of the mountain, you’re closer to the storm, and you can get as much of a thrill from what the weather is doing as you can from gliding down the mountain.” When Kelley was growing up, he religiously tuned in to the local weather report every morning and evening and kept a daily journal tracking weather patterns. (He still updates the journal to this day, believing it helps hone his intuition). He went on to pursue a degree in meteorology, and then embarked on his 25-year career in the field, first as a TV weather forecaster for WMUR in New Hampshire and then WLNE in Rhode Island. He joined NECN in 1991 and currently works the weekend shift, logging 17-hour days on Saturday and Sunday.
While he feels pressure year-round to get the forecast right, the intensity peaks during the winter, when people plan their day around the snowfall. So if Kelley predicts four inches but we only get a dusting, he’ll have peeved Bostonians to answer to. The other tricky part of predicting winter weather is staying neutral when his inner snow fan is hoping for a winter dump. “My accumulation maps might be an inch higher than most people’s—there might be a little wish-casting,” he admits. “I have to stay focused and not get carried away. You don’t want to be the guy who cries wolf about snow.” So fellow ski addicts, take this good news with a grain of salt: Kelley predicts a snowier season than last winter, with “real intense storms.” Skis at the ready!