La Niña could lead the way to prime ski season
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.