La Niña could lead the way to prime ski sea­son

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By John Meyer John Meyer: jmeyer@den­ver­post.com or @john­meyer

Skiers and snow­board­ers who carve Colorado’s north­ern and cen­tral moun­tains have rea­son to be ex­cited about the prospects of good snow­fall this win­ter, based on re­cent re­ports by Cli­mate Pre­dic­tion Cen­ter.

The CPC, a depart­ment of the Na­tional Weather Ser­vice, has is­sued a La Niña watch, say­ing “La Niña con­di­tions are fa­vored” for fall and win­ter in the North­ern Hemi­sphere. The pre­dic­tion is based on be­low-av­er­age water tem­per­a­tures in the equa­to­rial Pa­cific Ocean.

That means it could be a good sea­son to shred in Steam­boat Springs, Win­ter Park, Vail, Aspen and the Sum­mit County re­sorts.

“What we see when we move into a La Niña is, typ­i­cally the north­ern and cen­tral moun­tains do re­ally well for snow,” Kyle Fredin, a me­te­o­rol­o­gist for the NWS in Boul­der, said. “Sta­tis­ti­cally the bias is that the south­west moun­tains are a lit­tle bit drier than av­er­age, and lo­ca­tions east of the Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide tend to be near to be­low nor­mal snow­fall for the sea­son.”

When the wa­ters in the trop­i­cal Pa­cific are warmer than nor­mal — known as El Niño — win­ter storms tend to ride a south­ern track that fa­vors the San Juans. Those storms also can wrap around the moun­tains to pro­duce big up­s­lope storms in the Front Range ur­ban cor­ri­dor.

“Flip that around for La Niña, when you have more of a per­sis­tent and a colder north­west flow aloft, that Pa­cific mois­ture can some­times give the north­ern and cen­tral Rock­ies days, even weeks of per­sis­tent light to brief mod­er­ate snow,” Fredin said.

“For the north­ern and cen­tral moun­tains where most of our ski ar­eas are, La Niñas do pretty well. It’s the type of win­ter where a place like Steam­boat can get feet of snow.”

But you may need to wait a lit­tle to use those — cough, cough — pow­der “sick days.”

The big dumps in the moun­tains may not start com­ing un­til af­ter the first of the year. Above-nor­mal tem­per­a­tures with nor­mal pre­cip­i­ta­tion lev­els are likely over the next three months, Fredin said, adding that he doesn’t see any­thing that would in­di­cate sig­nif­i­cant snow­fall over the next seven to 10 days.

Ara­pa­hoe Basin is set to open on Fri­day and Love­land is ex­pected to open next week.

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