The annual contest tasks amateur forecasters with predicting what conditions winter will bring to the Linville park located one mile above sea level. Guessers must answer 10 questions, plus a tiebreaker, for a chance to win free admission for six to Grandfather Mountain with lunch included at Mildred's Grill.
Grau correctly answered three of 10 questions and came close on two others to earn the best ranking of the 244 people who submitted answers.
He correctly guessed that Grandfather Mountain would see snow on 17 days; that the temperature at the Mile High Swinging Bridge would be at or below zero seven days; and that February would be the month with the most snowfall. Grau also guessed January's average low temperature within 1.25 degrees and February's snow total within 1 inch of the correct answer.
Grau, who is originally from Germany, said he has an affinity for mountains. He said he tries to take his family, including his dog, to Grandfather Mountain at least twice a year and loves to practice his photography hobby there.
"I love to drive up there to the mountain," he said. "It feels like at home. I really love it up there."
The somewhat unusual 2014-15 winter season caught many forecasters by surprise, as evidenced by the contest.
Every person missed the first question (When will Grandfather Mountain receive its first significant snowfall of 6 inches or more?) because the mountain never recorded a six-inch snowfall at the Entrance Gate. The greatest single snowfall recorded there this season was 5.6 inches on Feb. 17.
Winter in review
Between Nov. 15 and April 15, Grandfather Mountain recorded only 20.2 inches of snow at the Entrance Gate, an unusually low amount. In fact, more than four-fifths of that total fell in February alone.
The coldest month was February, when the average low temperature was 11.1 degrees and the average high temperature was 30.6 degrees. The month was marked by extreme cold, including six below-zero days. The coldest day of the season was Feb. 19, when thermometers hit a low of -16.36 degrees at the Mile High Swinging Bridge.
The mountain also recorded wind gusts of 60 mph or higher on 46 days, and the highest wind speed charted this winter was 97.6 mph.
All snowfall measurements were taken at the Entrance Gate. All wind and temperature measurements were taken at the Mile High Swinging Bridge.
1) When will Grandfather Mountain have the first significant snowfall of 6 inches or more? None (5.6 inches on Feb. 17)
2) How many days will Grandfather Mountain have at least a trace of snow? 17 days
3) How many inches of snow will Grandfather Mountain get this winter? 20.2 inches
4) What month will have the coldest average low temperature? February
5) How many days will the temperature be zero or below? 7 days
6) What will be the average low temperature for the month of January? 18.62 degrees
7) What will be the coldest temperature this winter on Grandfather Mountain?
-16.36 degrees on Feb. 19
8) What will be the highest wind speed this winter using Grandfather Mountain's anemometer located on the Mile High Swinging Bridge? 97.6 mph on Feb. 14
9) Which winter month will bring the most snowfall to Grandfather Mountain? February
10) How many days will the anemometer on the Mile High Swinging Bridge record a three-second wind gust of 60 mph or higher? 46 days
Tiebreaker: How many inches of snow will Grandfather Mountain have in February? 16.6 inches
The nonprofit Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation strives to inspire conservation of the natural world by helping guests explore, understand and value the wonders of Grandfather Mountain. For more information, call (800) 468-7325 or visit www.grandfather.com to plan a trip.
4704: Grandfather Mountain staff clears snow and ice from the Mile High Swinging Bridge on a snowy day in February. February was the snowiest month in the Linville park. Kellen Short | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.
4655: Grandfather Mountain's upper reaches sit covered with snow in February, the coldest month of the 2014-15 winter season. Kellen Short | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation.