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By Alan Smith, Meteorologist Posted 10 months ago August 30, 2023

2023-2024 Jackson Hole Winter Forecast Preview

jackson hole wyoming winter forecast 2023 2024

The 2022-2023 winter was a spectacular ski season for Jackson Hole and the Teton Range. Snowfall was consistent throughout the season with above-average snow recorded in each month from November to March. The Rendezvous Bowl Plot at Jackson Hole's upper mountain also set a new seasonal snowfall record with 595 inches.

As we look ahead to the 2023-2024 winter season, it's important to remember that any winter outlook will contain an inherent degree of uncertainty. However, there are a few clues that we can keep an eye on.

Following three straight winters of La Niña, we are now heading into an El Niño this season. 

In fact, current sea surface temperatures as of late August are showing a strengthening El Niño event.

El Niño, Explained

The term El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate phenomenon linked to periodic warming in sea-surface temperatures across the central and east-central equatorial Pacific.

El Niño represents the warm phase of the ENSO cycle and means that the ocean water temperatures are warmer than average.

Ski Season Snowfall vs. El Niño

The map below shows winter snowfall during seven significant El Niño episodes across the United States. The higher the number, the stronger the El Niño. The blue dots are above average, the white dots are average, and the orange dots are below average snowfall.

In general, El Niño winters tend to favor below-average snowfall in the Tetons and Western Wyoming. However, the three strongest El Nino events since 1980 resulted in snowfall that was much closer to average compared to moderate El Nino events. 

Historical El Niño Seasons @ Jackson Hole Mountain Resort

After looking back at the seven most recent significant El Niño years and comparing them against the 30-year median season total snowfall through March 31 of 390 inches at the Rendezvous Bowl Plot on Jackson Hole's upper mountain, I've found that the median snowfall during those El Niño years is 366 inches through March 31 or 94% compared to the 30-year normal.

Total Snowfall on March 31 During Significant El Niño Years

  • 1991-2020: 390" (30-year normal)
  • 1982-1983: 358"
  • 1986-1987: 250"
  • 1991-1992: 255"
  • 1997-1998: 409"
  • 2002-2003: 395"
  • 2009-2010: 366"
  • 2015-2016: 406"

Three out of the seven significant El Niño years produced above-normal snowfall at Jackson Hole through March 31.

Monthly Snowfall During Significant El Niño Winters

For timing, let's take a look at monthly snowfall during the seven most recent significant El Niño episodes and compare them against the 30-year medians for each month.

  • October: 35" (109%)
  • November: 55" (100%)
  • December: 65" (82%)
  • January: 77" (93%)
  • February: 56" (84%)
  • March: 76" (113%)

Fall snowfall prior to the beginning of lift-served ski season tends to be close to average in October and November, while mid-winter snowfall (December through February) tends to be below average.

December snowfall was above normal in 3 out of 7 significant El Niño years and below normal in 4 out of 7 years. So this month can go either way, but historically, there is a "low floor" as December snowfall was less than 50% of the median in 3 of these 7 years.

January snowfall was above normal in 3 out of 7 significant El Niño years, but in each of these 3 above average January's, snowfall exceeded 100 inches. So historically, there has been a "higher ceiling" for snowfall during January in significant El Niño years compared to other months.

February tends to be the least favorable month relative to normal during significant El Niño years. February snowfall was above normal in only 1 out of these 7 years.

Interestingly enough, March snowfall tends to be above average during significant El Niño years. March snowfall was above normal in 4 out of these 7 years. During the last significant El Niño (2015-2016), an impressive 92 inches fell during the month of March. 

Historical snowfall data for April (beyond resort closing day) is limited and was not factored in.

Temperatures During Significant El Niño Winters

While snowfall is what we pay attention to the most during ski season, temperatures are also a factor in terms of snow quality and avalanche danger.

For temperatures, I examined the Moran weather station next to Jackson Lake, which has the most complete temperature data in Teton County. I compared winter seasonal and individual monthly temperatures during the 7 most recent significant El Niño winters to the 30-year averages. 

For the four-month winter period from December to March (which corresponds to lift-served ski season), I found that temperatures are 0.7ºF warmer than average during significant El Niño winters.

When examining individual monthly temperatures from October through April, a more interesting signal emerges. Here are the average temperatures for each month during significant El Niño winters, with the departure from the 30-year average noted in parentheses.

  • October: 38.1ºF (-0.6º)
  • November: 25.0ºF (-0.4º)
  • December: 13.3ºF (-1.7º)
  • January: 15.3ºF (+1.7º)
  • February: 18.5ºF (+1.1º)
  • March: 27.2ºF (+1.1º)
  • April: 35.8ºF (+1.2º)

Temperatures are more likely to be colder than average early in the season (October through December), and warmer than average mid to late season (January through April) during significant El Niño seasons.

Overall, history tells us that Jackson Hole tends to be slightly below normal for snowfall during significant El Niño winters, with the potential for a stronger late season in March. Also, temperatures tend to start cold and finish warm compared to normal during significant El Niño winters.

Having said all of this, for skiers and snowboarders, keep in mind that when it comes to finding the best conditions, it’s all about timing. To have the best chance of enjoying the deepest powder, our recommendation is to book a trip 7-10 days in advance.

Sometimes, longer-range forecasts can identify possible storms 1-2 weeks (or longer) in advance, but often, forecast confidence in the details of each storm only begins to increase when the system is about one week away or closer.

If you're ready to level up your weather app for the upcoming winter season, consider upgrading to OpenSnow All-Access. Whether you’re chasing powder, searching for sunny days, or something in between, our 10-day snow forecasts, expert "Daily Snow" forecasters, and high-resolution weather maps have you covered.

But don't just take my word for it ... "Any weather app can give a mediocre forecast for a mountain town, but only OpenSnow provides a good idea of actual mountain conditions. It's a small price to pay ($29.99/year) for the best weather forecasts." – Real App Review

Alan Smith, Meteorologist
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About The Author

Alan Smith

Meteorologist

Alan Smith received a B.S. in Meteorology from Metropolitan State University of Denver and has been working in the private sector since 2013. When he’s not watching the weather from the office, Alan loves to spend time outdoors skiing, hiking, and mountain biking, and of course keeping an eye on the sky for weather changes while recreating.

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