Northwest Daily Snow

Season wrap season outlook


Still open (04/28/17)

Alpental, White Pass, Hood, Mission Ridge, Backcomb and Bachelor

Check websites for details re days and hours of operations and closing dates.

Recap of 2016-17 ski season:

Last year, at this time, I confidently predicted a La Nina winter for the NW winter of 2016-17. I said cool and snowy weather with the snowpack at or above normal – but no guarantees – there is never zero risk in a prediction. I said we couldn’t rule out a few warm storms - which we certainly had, but overall it’s been an excellent winter with near, or above normal snowfall and lots of cold powder storms. I got more than a few great powder days. (see below).


Next Season:

Leaning toward El Nino – it’s not as dire as many believe 

I won’t know, with good confidence, until September - but right now the models point to El Nino for next winter.

With an El Nino, there is slightly more risk. A respectable snowpack will be more elusive for the NW, as El Nino and recent trends favor a mild winter. El Nino does not favor a drier forecast trend in the precipitation, but rather occasionally higher snow levels may be the issue. It isn’t warm the entire winter during El Nino, just a few more storms with mild air than La Nina – but NOT every storm. Also, very cold arctic air from the north tends to get cut off, so there may be fewer extreme and/or sustained cold spells.

Again, this outlook has no guarantees. It is not a done deal, all El Nino’s have their unique evolutions and character. El Nino winters do produce Cascade snowfall. Every storm has its individual profile of coldness, warmth and snowfall, as we go though storm cycles. It’s a pretty good bet we will have sufficient Cascade snowfall for skiing. Snow levels can be problematic at times in all winters, especially El Nino winters. Remember all El Niño’s and La Nina’s display variations. It’s not gloom and doom – so keep your powder skis handy -- it’s just not as reliable as a La Nina forecast.

Analysis from Tony Crocker, skier and expert in snow statistics tells the tale. Tony looks at snowfall at ski areas in the NW. He shows the NW snowpack indifferent to the El Nino phase, while favoring snowfall during a La Nina, like this past winter. I think this is the main different between the two phases – they are not necessarily opposites for Cascade snowfall, just different.

La Nina is your rich uncle, who adores you, always showers you with gifts (snow) and praise. El Nino is your other uncle who always sends you something for your birthday; try’s to call occasionally and does well for himself. While always good intentioned, he is an under achiever and seems to be focused elsewhere.

See Your Guide to Snow – Tony Crocker

In a nutshell: La Nina (this past season) favors good snow in the NW and is a reliable predictor. El Nino (next season) is indifferent to NW snowpack and displays many snowpack outcomes, hence a weak predictor with greater uncertainty. It's very unlikely to be a poor season - just not as consistent as this past season.

Have a great summer

Larry Schick, meteorologist -- Open Snow NW

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