Snow and Snowsports on the Big Island of Hawai’i

If you thought Hawaii was all about palm trees, white sand beaches, and hula dancing, think again. On March 3, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a Winter Storm Warning for Hawaii County, HI.

From the lower altitudes, the summit of Mauna Kea could be seen draped with white snowfall. In the prior month of February, reported that 13 inches of snow fell over a 48-hour period from February 17 to the 19th. The icy weather continued at the summit with reports of thick fog, snow and icy road conditions, high humidity, below-freezing temperatures, and whiteout conditions.

snowy observatory on top of mauna kea on hawaii island

While Big Island residents are accustomed to heavy rainfall in winter months, this most recent cold front brought high winds up to 100 mph along with snowy conditions atop Mauna Kea. These conditions have forced a shutdown of the facility for 21 straight days – a long time to lose for researchers who are on shorter contracts.

The recent snowfall has created quite a stir among locals and tourists as well as it’s not every day that you get to hit the beach in the morning and go skiing at 13,000 feet in the afternoon.

Skiing and Snowboarding on the Big Island

For the brave-hearted, the most recent snowstorms present an opportunity to take a trip to the summit at 13,796 ft. There are no ski lifts to the Mauna Kea summit so adventurers need to take an all-wheel drive vehicle up to reach the summit. While it is an incredibly unique sight to see, the windy conditions can create hazards that force the road to the summit to close. Prior to planning a trip, ski/snowboarders will need to ensure the road is even open.

skiier going down mauna kea

With no ski lifts available riders can plan their own trips up and down the summit or go along with a planned tour group such as SkiHawaii or Hawaii Ski Club. Conditions can change on a whim and high wind is known to create icy ski terrain so it is best to check the snow forecast for temperature, wind, and terrain conditions.

That being said, if conditions are permitting, imagine skiing down a mountain while taking in breathtaking views of the ocean – that’s the kind of experience you can expect on the Big Island.

Building Snowmen on the Beach

While skiing and snowboarding may be more traditional winter activities, the recent snowfall on the Big Island has inspired a more unconventional activity: building snowmen on the beach. That’s right, locals have been taking advantage of the snow by driving it down to the beaches to build snowmen. It’s not every day that you get to build a snowman on the sand, so it’s no surprise that this activity has become a popular activity among tourists and locals alike.

hawaiian snowman on the beach on hawaii island

If you’re looking to build a snowman on the beach, you’ll need to bring a cooler or two to transport the snow. Once you’ve got the snow, it’s all about getting creative. You’ll need to remember the snowman essentials like a carrot nose and some clothing to adorn your creation. Beyond that it’s up to you.

The beach provides the perfect backdrop for your snowman creation, so let your imagination run wild. Some of the best beaches for building snowmen due to closer proximity to the summits include Hapuna Beach, Mauna Kea, and Spencer Beach, but really any beach will do.

Safety First

While skiing, snowboarding, and building snowmen on the beach can be a lot of fun, it’s important to keep safety in mind. Snowfall in Hawaii is rare, and the conditions can be unpredictable. It’s important to dress appropriately for the weather, wear proper gear when skiing or snowboarding, and be cautious when driving on the mountain roads.

If you’re planning to hit the slopes, make sure to check the conditions and get the proper equipment before heading out. Remember, even if the snow is light and fluffy, accidents can still happen. It’s also important to be mindful of other skiers and snowboarders on the mountain and to follow the posted rules and guidelines.

Let’s Chat

Give me a call at 808.938.3910 or email me if you are interested in learning more about snow in Hawaii or anything in general about life on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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