By Sam Collentine, Meteorologist Posted 6 years ago October 19, 2017

NOAA’s 2017-2018 U.S. Winter Outlook

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, and this article shows how most of last season’s forecasts were incorrect. Also, 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 across the southern two-thirds of the continental US, along the East Coast, and in western and northern Alaska.

Below-average temperatures are favored from Minnesota to the Pacific Northwest and into southeastern Alaska.

The rest of the country falls into the equal chance category, which means they have an equal chance for above, near, or below-normal temperatures because there is not a strong enough climate signal in these areas to shift the odds.


NOAA's Precipitation Outlook during December, January, and February:

Wetter-than-average conditions are favored across most of the northern United States, extending from the northern Rockies, to the eastern Great Lakes, the Ohio Valley, and into western and northern Alaska.

Drier-than-normal conditions are most likely across the entire southern U.S.

El Niño, La Niña, La Nada?

NOAA's ENSO Alert System Status: La Niña Watch

La Nina has a 55-65% chance of developing before winter sets in.

"If La Nina conditions develop, we predict it will be weak and potentially short-lived, but it could still shape the character of the upcoming winter," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. "Typical La Nina patterns during winter include above average precipitation and colder than average temperatures along the Northern Tier of the U.S. and below normal precipitation and drier conditions across the South."

How do El Nino and La Nina influence snowfall in the United States? Unfortunately, it's complicated. 

Read more by clicking HERE.

Highest Odds of Deep Powder

If you want the highest odds of deep powder, here's what our Chief Powder Officer, Joel Gratz recommends:

First, live in a location that's close to mountains with the deepest snow.

Second, if you can't live close to deep powder, wait until 7-10 days before booking your trip.

Third, even if you wait until 7-10 days before booking your trip, consider only booking to a general area.

Fourth, if you have to book a trip far in advance, pick locations that statistics show have the deepest powder.

And fifth, if you can't execute any of the above strategies, change your expectations for your ski trip.

Season Pass Guides

Epic Pass:

Mountain Collective:

Rocky Mountain Super Pass:

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About The Author

Sam Collentine


Sam Collentine is the Chief Operating Officer of OpenSnow and lives in Basalt, Colorado. Before joining OpenSnow, he studied Atmospheric Science at the University of Colorado, spent time at Channel 7 News in Denver, and at the National Weather Service in Boulder.

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