South America has already experienced a couple of El Nino storms and we’ve been chomping at the bit to discover what’s in store for North America this winter. We’re happy to report that climatologists have determined that North America’s upcoming 2014/15 winter will be affected by El Nino. Here’s the latest from NOAA:
“MOST STATISTICAL AND DYNAMICAL MODELS CONTINUE TO SUGGEST THAT EL NINO CONDITIONS WILL EMERGE IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF MONTHS. THE CFS PREDICTS NINO 3.4 SST ANOMALIES TO INCREASE TO AROUND +1.0 C BY LATE FALL. THE MEAN OF THE STATISTICAL TOOLS IS JUST SLIGHTLY BELOW THE DYNAMICAL TOOL MEAN THROUGH THE FALL, WITH BOTH PEAKING JUST BELOW +1.0C DURING THE WINTER.”
In laymen’s terms, Pacific ocean temperatures are predicted to continue to rise into the winter. Warmer oceanic waters coupled with high air pressure in the western Pacific result in an El Nino Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, weather pattern. Historically, a strong El Nino produces above-average snowfall for southwestern U.S. during the colder half of the year, October through March.
According to OpenSnow.com forecaster Joel Gratz, certain resorts in ski country typically benefit more than others during a strong El Nino winter.
Still deep in one of its worst droughts on record, California skiers, and farmers, could really use a snowy El Nino winter and it’s looking like that could be the case for the 2014/15 ski season. During past El Nino winters, Mammoth typically sees the most snowfall, but Heavenly, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Squaw Valley and Kirkwood, could also experience above-average snowfall.
Top-to-bottom powder runs have never been easier at Taos. The New Mexico ski resort may be in for one awesome EL Nino winter, especially when combined with the opening of their new chairlift to the top of 12,481-foot Kachina Peak, formerly a hike to zone. Typically during El Nino winters the arid state is anything but dry, which is much welcomed by skiers and and chili pepper farmers alike. It’s said that the extra precipitation makes the peppers even spicier.
According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, 20-inch snow storms on Colorado’s Front Range, which could affect Winter Park and Keystone ski resorts, are almost twice as likely to occur during El Niño years as neutral years. Most monster storms tend to hit during late fall, early winter and spring, while mid-winters can be relatively dry. Southwestern Colorado ski resorts usually benefit the most from El Nino winters, especially Durango and Telluride, but ski resorts such as Crested Butte, Powderhorn, Aspen and Snowmass often profit as well, because of their central and directional location.
Southern Utah is generally more affected by El Nino than the Salt Lake City area. However, the power of the “lake affect” snow should not be underestimated. The Great Salt Lake’s warm waters amplify snow storms in the area. The lake effect is usually strongest from mid-fall through mid-winter, when lake waters are warmer and land temperatures are cold enough to support snow. With annual averages around 500 inches, Big Cottonwood Canyon ski resorts, Brighton and Solitude, and Little Cottonwood ski resorts, Alta and Snowbird, typically see the most snowfall in the Salt Lake City area.
We tapped Mountain Vacation Specialist Liz Everett to provide helpful tips on how to take advantage of an El Nino winter.
Mountain Vacation Specialist Since 2004
If you’d prefer, you can also start a chat with one of our Mountain Vacation Specialists. They can help you book everything from flights and lodging to lift tickets, equipment rentals and lessons.
Latest posts by Leah Fielding (see all)
- What makes Crested Butte the last great Colorado ski town? - December 19, 2014
- 12/15/14: Where did it snow last weekend? - December 15, 2014
- 7 surprising things you didn’t know about Crested Butte - December 12, 2014