You heard it here folks, La Niña is in full effect for the 20-21 winter season and according to NOAA, “La Niña = Skiers Delight over the Northern United States.”

Related: RSVP – Refundable Ski Vacation Packages

In its most basic form, La Niña is the meteorological interface between temperatures in eastern and central equatorial Pacific Ocean and temperatures in the atmosphere directly over those portions of the Pacific Ocean. The female version of this romantic relationship between sea and sky, La Niña is signaled by low temps in the equatorial Pacific, which in turn, tends to move the jet stream’s positioning further north, bringing with it moisture and cold temperatures to the northern half of the Western United States.

La Nina Winter 20-21 Forecast
Powder turns in Jackson Hole | Photo Credit: Barclay Idsal

Generally speaking, La Niña events favor the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Northern/Western Colorado in terms of snowfall.

Forecast for November – January [NOAA]

NOAA Winter Temperature and Precipitation Outlook

“La Niña conditions are present and are likely to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter (~75% chance).” – NOAA


Average snowfall during La Nina

La Nina Winners


Montana’s northern orientation is about as favorable a location for snowfall during a La Nina winter than anywhere else in the lower 48. Big Sky and Whitefish Mountain Resort both benefit heavily from a northwest flow and should see plenty of powder this upcoming ski season.


Sun Valley can be the place to be during a La Nina winter. On big years, any skier will tell you that Sun Valley is up there with the best ski resorts in the world and is home to both a vibrant history as well as impressive vertical totals. When La Nina was in effect for the 2016/2017 winter, Sun Valley saw a whopping 359″ of snowfall.


Oregon and in particular, the higher elevation resorts such as Mt Bachelor are often powder capitals during La Niña events and if the Pacific turns on the hose, it’s is typically pointed directly at the Cascade Range from November through March. During that same 16/17 La Nina that saw big snow in Idaho, Mt Bachelor saw 469″ of snowfall.


Jackson Hole has had some of its best winters on record during La Nina events. In particular the 2010/2011 winter will go down as nothing short of ridiculous as the Rendezvous Bowl snow plot saw over 600 inches of snow during the season and if they’d been able to stay open through the end of April, could have seen upwards of 700 inches.

Northern/Western Colorado

Aspen Snowmass, Vail and Steamboat are typically favored for above average snowfall with Steamboat often receiving the lion’s share due to its close proximity to the I-80 corridor which is usually a popular path for the jet stream during a La Nina season. During that same season Jackson saw big snowfall so did Steamboat, with the resort reporting 393″ of total snowfall on Storm Peak.

British Columbia + Alberta

The mountains of British Columbia and Alberta also benefit from La Niña with Whistler Blackcomb favored to see EPIC snowfall. The same is generally true for interior British Columbia as well as the Canadian Rockies, including Banff.

What About The Rest Of Ski Country? 

Central Rockies:

The Central Rockies including most of Colorado and Utah typically sports equal chances for average precipitation during La Nina years. This means you can expect snow as normal, just maybe not as abundant as locations whose latitude is further north.

The Southwest:

The Southwest including Arizona, New Mexico, and Southwestern Colorado can receive below average snowfall during a typical La Nina season.

The Midwest:

The Midwest typically gets the tail end effects of La Nina and as such, Midwesterners can expect below average temps and above average snowfall.

The Northeast:

The Northeast isn’t as directly affected by La Nina as the Western mountains in terms of snowfall outlooks. However in general, La Nina events can bring colder than normal temps to the East Coast but moisture predictions drop off when you get east of the Great Lakes, whom tend to see above average precipitation.

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