NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center produces seasonal outlooks to help communities prepare for what's likely to come in the next few months and minimize weather's impacts on lives and livelihoods. For us skiers and snowboards, we can use these long-range forecasts to get a hint at what "might" happen when we are considering where to ski and travel for the upcoming winter.
We are going to show you these forecasts, but first, a warning...
WARNING: Long-range forecasts are rarely accurate. These forecasts cover three months, but we know that skiing quality improves and degrades with storm cycles that last a few days to a week. Remember that paying attention to a 1-10 day forecast is the way that you'll find powder. These 3-6 month outlooks offer little to no value for us skiers searching for pow.
NOAA's Temperature Outlook during December, January, and February:
Warmer-than-normal conditions are anticipated across much of the northern and western U.S., with the greatest likelihood in Alaska and from the Pacific Northwest to the Northern Plains.
The Southeast, Tennessee Valley, Ohio Valley and Mid-Atlantic all have equal chances for below, near, or above-average temperatures.
No part of the U.S. is favored to have below-average temperatures.
NOAA's Precipitation Outlook during December, January, and February:
Wetter-than-average conditions are favored across the southern tier of the US and up into the Mid-Atlantic.
Drier-than-average conditions are likely across the northern Rockies.
El Niño, La Niña, La Nada?
NOAA's ENSO Alert System Status: El Niño Watch
El Niño has a 70-75% chance of developing before winter sets in.
"We expect El Nino to be in place in late fall to early winter," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. "Although a weak El Nino is expected, it may still influence the winter season by bringing wetter conditions across the southern United States, and warmer, drier conditions to parts of the North."
How do El Niño and La Niña influence snowfall in the United States? Unfortunately, it's complicated
Since long-range forecasts are rarely accurate or useful for finding great snow, here is a quick recap of our strategy for finding the deepest powder:
Live in a location that's close to mountains with the deepest snow.
If you can't live close to deep powder, wait until 7-10 days before booking your trip.
Even if you wait until 7-10 days before booking your trip, consider only booking to a general area.
If you have to book a trip far in advance, pick locations that statistics show have the deepest powder.
If you can't execute any of the above strategies, change your expectations for your ski trip.
Upgrade to OpenSnow All-Access for 10-day forecasts to help you find the pow.
As always, stay tuned to all of our mountain-specific forecasts on OpenSnow and keep dreaming of future powder days!