Winter Weather Outlook For 2016 -2017 From Powderchasers
Last season we nailed deep powder by chasing throughout the West sometimes getting skunked by strong winds and lift closures, and other times high snow levels making for rain at the base and cement at mid mountain. It’s all part of the Powder Chase according to Steve Conney founder of powderchasers.com “We all put hype on El Nino or La Nina forecasts”. “The reality is to expect the unexpected” Our Climate prediction centers do a good job of forecasting El Nino/La Nina but storm tracks can vary significantly. Also, the majority of the northern Sierra, Wasatch, and Colorado don’t bear impacts sitting towards the middle of southern or northern influence.
Last season forecasted the “Monster El Nino” and all the hype was focussed in the south. “Strong El Nino developed but pushed moisture further north than what we may have seen in previous years.” Central California benefited significantly. The Tahoe basin (Kirkwood, Squaw, Heavenly and others) came up at nearly average where areas north of Interstate 80 were slightly above average. Mammoth who sits further south came up just short of average but still pulled out several “Epic” Powder days last season (We chased there 3 times from Utah and scored multiple deep days).
The Pacific Northwest pulled out a respectable season with near normal moisture and slighter warmer than average temperatures Larry Shick from “Open Snow” nailed his forecast last year by emphasizing that history has shown that some El Nino years have produced big numbers when most predicted a much drier winter. We chased to Crystal and nailed the 7 day storm cycle of nearly 100 inches in December. The northern Cascades extending into British Columbia had respectable snowfall
Near normal snowfall fell in many areas of the Rockies last season. We were a bit surprised how well Jackson fared with a few 15-18 inch overnight dumps that we missed! “I managed to chase to Sun Valley thanks to my long term forecaster Luke Stone and nailed a 24 inch storm completely burying bumps and brining one of the most epic days of my season”
Most of north-central Colorado (Vail, Steamboat, Aspen) and Utah edged out respectable seasons (Near normal) where areas in the south (AZ, NM) came up short.
Whats the 2016/2017 season looking like?
Showdown Mountain Resort- Montana 9/7/2016 Skier: Curtis “The Weather Dude”
Originally NOAA was forecasting a Moderate or perhaps strong La Nina that often follows El Nino. The signature of La Nina is cooling of the waters near the equator which has happened over the past 2 months. The latest Climate Prediction Center data is showing slower cooling or perhaps a trend back to neutral (Equal chance of above or below average moisture in most areas of the West). Cooling did occur in the past 60 days but only slightly below normal. There is no evidence at this point of a strong La Nina developing.
I am buying into this trend which to many means “No Hype” for any particular region but instead an “even chance of normal snowfall” to many areas this year including the Midwest and New England that may benefit from colder temperatures. There are higher chances of colder temperatures in the northern regions of the Rockies, Interior Canada, and perhaps the Northwest this season. “Neutral” while not optimal for the southern Sierra and areas south like “Big Bear” is certainly better than a strong La Nina. The majority of the Rockies this season may experience near normal snowfall (Steamboat, Vail, Breckenridge, Park City) with slightly less in the south. Tahoe is my wildcard.
This Fall has seen cooler than normal temperatures in the north and several snow events falling from interior Canada through Montana and northern Wyoming. Show Down Resort in Montana logged 8-10 inches on September 7th bringing out die hards hiking to earn turns. The Wasatch in Utah just picked up a foot of snow above 9500 feet! Another very moist pattern is setting up for the end of this week which will likely bring high elevation snow to the Pacific Northwest by Saturday and into Wyoming by early next week.
While early snow in the Rockies is creating hype there is no correlation between a wet fall and a wet winter. I will say that in the past 2 months data has shown a weak La Nina which could explain the northern push of colder air and moisture? Remember, thats expected to weaken to neutral as winter approaches so all bets are on the table this season for many areas.
“Let the hype begin as we are less than 2 months away from the official start of winter”. Snow will be falling much earlier so look for us on the chase. It is always snowing somewhere!
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