Originally posted by Sally Francklyn for Mountain Reservations
Despite initial uncertainty, this winter’s snowfall patterns have already indicated that we’re in the midst of a La Niña year. This means above-average snowfall will continue for coastal resorts and, generally, status-quo snowfall for the interior. Read on to learn what forecasters are saying about where it will snow in 2017.
In order to determine if this season will continue to be a powder-packed one, we have to take a few steps back and look at multiple factors, which include the temperature, elevation/slope, frequency, type of snowfall and location. Location, location, location. It’s the most important thing when it comes to forecasting long-range snowfall during a La Niña year, as this weather event tends to affect the same, specific regions whenever its in play.
Expect big snowfall along the Northern Coasts of the U.S. and Canada
This season, Joel Gratz, the founder of OpenSnow.com and a meteorologist based out of Boulder, Co. said the “[Pacific Ocean] water temperatures are significantly cooler than average” and there will be more moisture in the Pacific Northwest and northern U.S.
“Given that the air temperature and moisture content matter when considering the snowpack and likelihood that it will snow, we tend to look at the absolute genesis of those systems,” said David Engdahl, a snow-safety forecaster at Copper Mountain. Winter forecasting goes back to the root of it all, or the “genesis,” i.e. ocean waters and its temperature.
“Locations closer to the ocean will generally receive heavier, wetter, denser snow,” says Gratz. This means that it’s very common for resorts like Mt. Bachelor and Whistler Blackcomb to get wet, heavy and ample snow (great for base-building). Will Borg, the forecaster for Big Sky Resort in Montana, agrees. “Maritime regions like Alaska, British Colombia and the Cascades receive greater amounts of snowfall. This snow is dense and heavy, yet those areas also run the risk of receiving rain because it is too warm- that’s not great for skiing.”
Intermountain resorts to receive normal snowfall + East Coast resorts should enjoy above-normal snowfall
Although, the intermountain resorts in the Colorado Rockies, Wasatch and Tetons, are expected to receive normal or slightly above normal snowfall, it will be drier and fluffier than their coastal counterparts. Also, La Nina means colder temperatures and ample snow for Northeast resorts, like Stowe and Mont Tremblant, resulting in above-average snowfall.
Of course, snow forecasting isn’t exact science and there always a lot of factors at play, but if Mother Nature fails, snowmaking will succeed! Plus, a base made of man-made snow typically lasts longer.
Resorts that typically make out best for La Nina season
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com managing the website and blog content, I couldn't be happier. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.