Skier, boarder, and lovers of mountain snow… here we go! Welcome
to Ski Season 2012-2013.
But what about the season overall? Every fall I get asked “should
I buy a season’s pass this year?” People just cut right to the chase. What I
want to say back is “I don’t know, will you use it? Will your wife/husband/SO
get mad if you do? Will you get mad if you don’t?” All things I can’t answer
and really don’t care about, and besides, I know what they really mean is…
WILL IT BE A GOOD YEAR ON THE MOUNTAIN????
To which I say, this year, YES! I think it will be a good year for
the Northwest snowpack and for the West in general. Maybe not as strong
as two years ago, when on April 15 Timberline had 203” of snow, but then again
most years aren’t.
What’s happening? First, the El Niño that seemed to be developing
in late summer and early fall has stopped developing. I wasn’t too worried
about this anyway, because indications were that it would be a weak El Niño,
and we’ve seen some amazing snowfall in years with weak El Niño But the
fact that it’s not developing and is not expected to developing the months
ahead, is generally good news for Northwest skiers. There are some other
patterns of climatic variability I look at, but El Nino/La Nina seems to have
the best correlation to northern hemisphere winter weather. But here comes the
disclaimers, and no it's not about calling your doctor if it snows for more
than four hours.
Each El Nino, or no Nino in this case, is unique. And, there are
probably other climatic patterns that we're missing. And perhaps the biggest
disclaimer is that skill in long range winter forecasts isn't great.
That said, I see no reason to believe this won't be a good year.
I expect our typical amount of variability, meaning we can go from big
snowfalls with a 1,000 to 2,000 foot snow level, to pineapple express and ski
slope rain. Hey we all know it happens, and there's no reason to believe it
won't this year. Warm happens even in a “cold” year. Likewise, even in a “warm”
year, and I'm not saying this winter will be a warm one, but even in a warm
winter there can easily be a two to three week period of excellent skiing.
Full disclosure... we're planning on taking a trip to Whitefish,
MT this year on the ski train. Not that I think that will be THE only place
with great snow. But I don't see any reason it'll be a bad year for the
northern Rockies. Or for the great Northwest!
Moving forward I plan on issuing powder alerts when the storms
begin to line up, in hope of helping you plan your outings for primo
conditions. I'll also post when there's anything interesting to report. And you
can follow me on twitter @Zaffino, where I tend to post more immediate tidbits
regarding weather and skiing.
Happy Trails and Turns,
KGW Media Group