Nov 24 2009

El Nino?

Could El Nino lead to this? - GCH 2008

Could El Nino lead to this? - GCH 2008

So the NOAA through the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center says that this will be a El Nino winter for the Northern Hemisphere.  This typically means drier conditions for the Pacific Northwest and wetter conditions for the Southern United States. If you look at this 3 month precipitation probability chart it basically shows that Colorado has an equal chance of being above or below normal precipitation till at least spring. If you probe deeper, NOAA says that Colorado likely will get fewer storms but that the storms they do get may be greater in intensity – in other words snowpack may be fine but less powder days.  El Nino can also mean lots of upslope storms (particularly in the spring) like the two we’ve had already this year. Upslope storms come from the southwest (good for Telluride, Durango, Siverton, Aspen and especially Wolf Creek) and can bless the mountains closest to the divide (Monarch, Loveland, A- Basin, Eldora) with some very good dumps. However, the farther you get from the divide (Summit County, Vail) the less snow you see. So far this has been pretty much what we’ve seen as the Southwest has gotten decent snow whereas Vail is sitting at 40% of it’s usual snowpack.

However, looking at the bigger Northern Hemisphere picture we see how unpredictable snow patterns usually are. The Pacific Northwest has seen record snowfall this year with Whistler recording over 200 inches of snow already and breaking it’s November snow total record halfway through the month. Mount Baker got 190 inches in 20 days and all my favorites in BC are reporting great starts. And during the last El Nino winter of 2006/2007, Whistler got 16 feet more than usual during what some experts described as a hundred-year winter on British Columbia’s North Coast.

So what does this all mean? There’s an old saying in Colorado that only fools and newcomers try and predict the weather. As always I’m hedging my bets – I went light on the passes this year but did get an Aspen Classic card and some Loveland 4-paks just in case El Nino plays out like it’s supposed to. As usual, for the closest thing to a sure thing I’m headed to BC in January and am thinking about Alaska in April. But for now, I’m just waiting for it to really start snowing somewhere, anywhere in Colorado, home sweet home…

Nov 17 2009

It’s On!

Wolf Creek 10/09

Wolf Creek 10/09

True powder hounds know that with the right combination of time and resources you can find powder everyday of the year. It may require a long hike or a helicopter or even a trip to the Southern Hemisphere, but somewhere there’s fresh tracks waiting to be had. However, since most of us have limited time and funds, we have to pray for powder that’s more easily accessible and it certainly doesn’t hurt if there’s a lift involved. That’s why we so eagerly await the start of the season and the first real storms rolling in. In Colorado, the pickings are still pretty slim but things are looking a little better after last weekends storm.  Once again it was a southwestern storm with Wolf Creek the big winner picking up 30″ and allowing them to open the entire mountain for our skiing/riding pleasure. Aspen/Snowmass also picked up about 2 feet but will not be opening till Thanksgiving. All of the Summit County resorts are now open with unfortunately very limited terrain and snow and Vail opens this Friday but from the looks of their web cams it doesn’t look like a can’t miss event either.

Mount Baker 11/12

Mount Baker 11/12 photo: Blair Habenicht rider: Tarek Husevold -

On the other hand, if you’ve got the time and the money or are just a gluton for punishment, check out what’s been happening in the Pacific Northblessed. Mt Baker opened last Thursday with a 6 foot base and tons of fresh which spawned these giddy reports from and Snowboard Magazine. And across the border in my favorite neighbor country, Whistler opened Saturday with a 73″ base and 134″ this year to date. If you’ve been thinking about moving to Canada (as I do every winter) these videos and photos from the biggest mountain in North America should further motivate you.