It’s almost fall and time to think about the snow falling. We can have early winters here in the NW. The storms are getting stronger in the Gulf of Alaska and will be getting more frequent. We’ll have some early fall storms, for sure – but the frequency and magnitude usually does start building until mid to late October. No indication of any sustained dry pattern setting up – it’s the warmth that may hurt us.
Short Term Forecast
The outlook is for a weak El Nino. A weak El Nino has caused snow issues in the past for the NW – mainly with above normal temperatures, rather than lack of precipitation. That means sometimes we will see high snow levels in the NW this winter. Typically a weak El Nino can mean 10-15% below normal snowpack but sometimes more. Other weak El Nino’s were 1977, 2005, and 2015 (poor snow years). The 2006-07 was a weak El Nino, with a near normal snowpack.
Below: mid-winter temperature, mid-winter precipitation.
The Inland NW, from eastern WA to northern Idaho to Montana will not be as good as last year’s epic – but still respectable. On the west side of the Cascades, we always have some warm storms, but there may be a few more this year. More snow in the upper elevations. Lower elevation will be occasionally snow challenged.
Best reliable early season snow is almost always in the Pacific NW. Typically the best spots to ski early on, mostly natural snow, are Mt. Baker, Crystal, Whistler, and Grand Targhee.
Speaking of Whistler
New ten person gondola from the base of Backcomb replaces Wizard and Solar. That will keep you dry heading up while speeding up your early day. Also, this new gondola will relieve crowd pressure from the Whistler gondola in the morning.
Emerald four-person chair will now be a new six-pack that should help the occasional line in that area. Perfect area for the family and kids.
Catskinner triple will now be a new high-speed four-person lift – this will breathe new life into a sometimes forgotten area of Blackcomb. Good intermediate area (feeds terrain park) but also some good often overlooked power stashes near black diamond Bark Sandwich run area.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Larry Schick - Meteorologist - OpenSnow NW
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