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A Snowball’s Chance — Winter Weather Outlook

by Dan Giesin | September 28, 2021

Probably the most common thought-about subject in the ski and snowboard world right about now is, “What the heck is the coming winter going to be like?”

Are we going to have epic pow days? Or will we simply be doing lap after lap on a white ribbon of death?

Well, depending on whom you talk to, it’s going to be cold or mild and snowy or dry. Or maybe both. Or perhaps neither.

In other words, nobody really knows for sure.

Certain entities have inklings, of course, some of which are based on computer models, some on historical data and some on pure whimsy.  

La Niña Effect

But one thing is fairly certain: According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, there is a more than 70-percent chance we are entering a La Niña cycle this winter. 

America’s official weather watcher says this usually leads to higher than average temperatures and lower precipitation rates for the Southwestern part of the country, average temps and higher snowfall for the Northwest and Northern Rockies and average temps and precipitation for Utah, Colorado and the Northeast.

Getting a little bit more specific, NOAA says the three-month (December 2021 to February 2022) temperature outlook is leaning below average in the North Cascades; leaning above average in the central Sierra, Wasatch, the north and central Rockies of Colorado, the central Great Lakes area and the Northeast, and about average in the southern Cascades, northern Sierra and northern Rockies of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

NOAA’s three-month winter outlook for precipitation is leaning above average in the Cascades of Oregon and Washington, the Great Lakes area and the mountains of New York and New England; leaning below average in the Sierra and in the Rockies of southwest Colorado and New Mexico, and will be about average in the northern Sierra, the Wasatch and the Rockies of central and northern Colorado.

Other Voices

Not everyone is in complete alignment with NOAA’s prognostications, of course, and the Farmer’s Almanac is one of them. 

The annual publication, which has been around since the early 19th century, bases its seasonal predictions on “a mathematical and astronomical formula” and boasts an 80-percent accuracy rate.

This winter, the Farmer’s Almanac is saying temperatures and precipitation will be “typical” in Oregon, Washington and Idaho and in the Northeast and “average” in the Sierra, the Wasatch and the mountains of Arizona; it will be “cold and snowy” in Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, and there will be “cold temperatures, average precipitation” in New Mexico.

A similar publication, the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which dates back to the late 18th century, see things slightly differently, calling for mild and dry conditions in the Sierra and the mountains of New Mexico and Arizona, cold and dry conditions in the Cascades, the Wasatch, the Rockies and most of the Great Lakes region, cold and wet in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and cold and dry in the mountains of New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

Finally, Direct Weather, an internet forecasting service which bases its predictions on annual  snowfall averages, says chances of snow will be below average in the Sierra, southern Rockies and the mountains of Arizona, above average in the Cascades and the northern Rockies and “further” above average snowfall and below average temps in the Northeast and eastern Great Lakes area.

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