On Tuesday, the Weather Channel reported that heavy snow is expected (and presently falling) in Hawaii. This report has probably caused many people to do a double take, questioning whether it really does snow in Hawaii. Indeed, snowfall is actually pretty typical in the state, though only on the summits of its three largest volcanoes: Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, on the Big Island, and Haleakala, on Maui.
On Tuesday evening and into Wednesday morning, the Weather Channel is predicting that accumulations of up to six inches of snow will occur on the Big Island summits. Snow storms have already started and there have been reports of slushy snow and ice on the roads to the summits. The road to the summit of Mauna Kea has already been closed due to the weather.
A winter storm warning is in effect for the summits, as continued severe weather conditions are expected. As the Mauna Kea Weather Center reported, "Inoperable conditions will continue to be the norm as extensive fog, ice, high humidity, overcast/thick clouds and periods of rain/snow plague the summit through the next 4-5 nights." The Center also noted that the atmosphere near Big Island will be "completely saturated" and "unstable" for several days, possibly all the way through Saturday.
According to the Weather Channel, snow in Hawaii is not rare and occurs every year. Indeed, according to CBS News, last year the summits of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa received up to two feet of snow in early December. However, according to a 2014 HuffPost article that covered a Hawaii snowstorm, Ken Rubin, an assistant professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Hawaii, said that the snow typically lasts only a few days before it melts.
Nonetheless, that does not stop those in Hawaii from engaging in snow sports, like skiing and snowboarding during periods where there is snow on the summits. Indeed, the website Hawaii Info Guide actually has a section dedicated to "Big Island Skiing." The site reports that several times a year, the islands gets "skiable/boardable mantles of snow." It also notes that skiing and snowboarding in Hawaii is seemingly for those with an adventurous spirit, as there are "no lifts, no grooming, [and] no resorts" and skiers and snowboarders instead must drive up to the top of the summit before traveling down it.
However, those who do choose to ski or snowboard in Hawaii have the opportunity to do some of the "world's highest skiing," as Mauna Kea, when measured from its undersea base, is the world's highest mountain. Mount Everest, in Asia, is the highest mountain in the world when measured from sea level.
In addition to the sense of adventure it provides, many travel media outlets report that one of the biggest appeals to engaging in winter sports in Hawaii is that you can truly "surf and ski in the same day." You can start your day swimming in the Pacific Ocean in a tropical paradise before heading up one of the islands' summits to ski or snowboard in wintery weather — a truly unique experience.
If you find the idea of snow arriving in Hawaii fascinating (as many on Twitter do) and want to observe it as it arrives, you can consider checking out the the Mauna Kea Observatory's webcams, which will show you footage of the snow as it accumulates. In fact, the cameras are already revealing evidence of snowfall. And, of course, be sure to check out social media as the snow continues to arrive, as many in the area will likely be posting photos and videos of the seemingly common, but still very intriguing, event.