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Will El Nino Snow Hit South America?

If you’ve ever experienced an El Nino snow storm then you understand why the weather-forecast rumor mill has been working overtime. Whispers of El Nino have been circulating among weather junkies as well as skiers and snowboarders this spring, and one question is on all our minds: will El Nino bring above-average snowfall to South American ski resorts this season?

We’re feeling a little more confident that South America’s ski season will be great; there has been a ton of early-season snow! Yesterday Valle Nevado reported 15 inches of new snow and Portillo tallied 20 inches. In May two big storms passed through the Andes, dropping two feet of snow as well.

Weather forecasts are nearly impossible to predict more than a month out, but we’ve compiled some facts and opinions of trusted experts to get closer to consensus on whether El Nino snow totals are in South America’s future. First, let’s start with the basics.

What is El Nino?

According to NOAA, El Nino is a climate cycle that’s characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. Consequences vary by geographic region, but for South America—and Chile in particular—El Nino means more precipitation, which means more snow for Chilean ski resorts like Valle Nevado and Portillo.

Will El Nino snow hit South America?

The chance of El Nino occurring this summer exceeds 65%, according to a diagnostic discussion posted last month by the Climate Prediction Center /NCEP and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society.

Joel Gratz, founder and Colorado meteorologist at OpenSnow, told us that “El Nino is once again at the doorstep.” We like that confidence, but what does that mean for our favorite ski resorts in South America?

“For Chile, El Nino can create warmer and wetter conditions, which should mean more snow at the elevation of Valle Nevado,” Gratz told us. “Forecasts for one to three months in the future are not very reliable, so we don’t know what will happen this winter. But based on previous El Ninos, there is a chance for above-average snowfall.”

The blue dots on the map below show areas of above average precipitation.

Open Snow El Nino Snow Chile

The Legend of South America’s Santa Rosa Storm

If you’ve skied in South America, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the Santa Rosa Storm. According to legend, a massive storm passes through the Andes every year—right around the Aug. 30th Festival de Santa Rosa in Lima, Peru—and drops so much snow that travelers become stranded wherever they may be.

This legend goes back to 1916 when Isabel Flores de Olivia (also known as “Rosa de Lima”) is said to have caused a mighty storm to stop pirates from attacking the city of Lima. The reality is that during this time of the year, there’s often a clash of warm, spring wind with cold, winter fronts, much like the big March storms we see in North America.

The myth is not too rooted in reality as the Santa Rosa storm has only occurred 16 times since 1861. However, as powder chasers ourselves, we like to give the legend a little credence, and perhaps El Nino snow will bring the Santa Rosa Storm to life this year.

Chase El Nino snow in South America

While you keep doing your snow dance for South America, start planning a summer ski trip. Speak with a South America Vacation Specialist at 800-610-8910 or chat now.

[Update: this sweepstakes is now over.] If you’re feeling lucky, enter to win a trip to Valle Nevado by participating in our #GoggleSelfie photo contest. Find more details here >>>

Alex Boyd

Director of Online Marketing at Ski.com
When I’m not crunching campaign reports or waxing poetic about recent storms, you can find me skiing on Aspen Mountain, lunching at Bonnie’s or hiking with my dog.

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About Author: Alex Boyd
When I’m not crunching campaign reports or waxing poetic about recent storms, you can find me skiing on Aspen Mountain, lunching at Bonnie’s or hiking with my dog.

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