La Niña and West Coast Skiing

Telluride is a popular Rocky Mountain ski resort in Southwest Colorado that is expected to receive a fair share of the snow this season. (Creative Commons)

Ski season is in full swing as we transition into the new year. Most skiers will agree that a successful trip to the slopes includes fresh powder, blue skies, and a great social atmosphere. Fortunately, this season may provide in all of these areas; meteorologists and critics alike seem optimistic about the snow forecast and ski resort experiences for this ski season in particular.

When looking at the snowfall this season, the outlook is promising. The most popular ski resorts, usually found in Colorado, British Columbia, and along the West Coast, will likely experience heavy precipitation over the next few months. This is mostly due to La Niña, a weather phenomenon that occurs every three to five years on average, during which ocean surface temperatures around Alaska cool significantly and cause a cold front to move southeast. The cold front generally crosses over the ski-heavy areas, meaning the hottest resorts like Vail, Park City, and Breckenridge should foster great skiing conditions and large crowds. According to Chris Dolce, a meteorologist for the Weather Channel, “Heavy snow is likely to impact the Cascades, California’s Sierra Nevada, and interior parts of the West.” This outlook has resorts hopeful, especially those that received large accumulations of snow last year on account of La Niña, including Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia and the majority of the Tahoe region in California.