After fall foliage fades, the minds of Coloradans switch gears to winter to see what the snow gods have in store for the ski and snowboard season. This year is no different, but if there’s one thing that might be a little different from last winter is the weather outlook.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, forecasters are predicting a 70 percent chance of an El Niño pattern forming for the 2018-2019 winter season. What does this mean?
Depending on geographic location, it will be a better ski season than last year. In theory. But this is weather and no historical trend can guarantee the forecast for the future. The 2017-2018 season that saw an extremely low snowpack in the southwestern part of Colorado and average snowpack at northern resorts was a result of a La Niña pattern. Essentially the opposite of an El Niño.
El Niño is the Peruvian name for the warming of the ocean off the coast of South America. This is defined as water temperature that’s raised by a degree for three consecutive months near the central Pacific Ocean. As trade winds weaken, the water warms and shifts weather patterns across the world, including the North American jet stream which influences where the heaviest snow will fall across the country.
The warm water breeds storms that move up from the equator into the southwestern U.S. These weather patterns typically form every 2-7 years. Our last strong El Niño was during the 2015-2016, although this year’s is predicted to be weak to moderate. Also to note: While the southern resorts started strong that year, they finished weak with underperforming season snow totals. The northern resorts finished around average snowpack, which is the common consensus among meteorologists for the upcoming season.
Different strengths of El Niño patterns make its effects difficult to accurately predict. Since storms are moving up off the southwestern coast, weather patterns typically mean higher than average moisture for the southern third of the country, favoriting Southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and into Colorado and leaving the Pacific Northwest drier with warmer temperatures.
Although it’s the the resorts in the southwestern part of Colorado that normally score the deepest powder days, the Front Range normally feels the full effect during an El Niño year with upslope storms that drop a ton of snow in a short amount of time. After the dreadfully low snowpack the San Juans received in 2017-2018, skiers will rejoice at the positive outlook.
Southern Colorado remains at exceptional drought levels so the region could use a big winter.
Skiers and snowboarders closer to Denver have plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the upcoming season. NOAA predicts that 20-inch snow storms are twice as likely to occur during El Niño years in comparison to average years at resorts like Winter Park.
It doesn’t guarantee these massive snow storms, but it does increase the chances of plentiful powder days. While the majority of the big storms go off like clockwork for the southern portion of the country, the northern half experiences warmer and drier temperatures during an El Niño year. This is the reason why ski resorts in the northern portion of Colorado will be hit more infrequently than their southern counterparts, but when storms do hit, they tend to pack a punch. So while it’s predicted to be an average snowfall year for central and northern resorts, there should be no shortage of quality powder days on the hill.
We can hype the weather outlook, look at scientific predictions and trends in past years, but long-range forecasts are only somewhat predictable and at the end of the day Mother Nature is the boss. In the end, it’s all speculation because we’re all psyched to ski and snowboard. All we can do is stay hopeful and keep those snow dances coming.
Regardless of what the weather does, it’s essential to be prepared when winter does arrive. If you want to be on the first chair on powder days it’s all about location, location, location. Living in the mountains offers an advantage over people driving up I-70 from Denver during a storm.
Having a primary or even secondary home in a town like Winter Park in close proximity to the Front Range ensures quality ski days if and when those big El Niño winter storms hit. While long-range weather forecast accuracy cannot be precise, meteorologists can better dial in their predictions 7-10 days out, which offers plenty of time to arrange a trip and head for the hills with a freshly waxed pair of skis.
If a hopeful snow forecast isn’t enough to get to get excited about, maybe the $28 million in improvements that Winter Park Resort has completed on the mountain will get skiers and boarders pumped up.
There is a brand new 10 person gondola from the base to the summit that will reduce lift lines, especially on weekends and holidays. The resort also upgraded its 42-year-old snowmaking system by laying 40,000 feet of new pipe and purchased new guns for three times the snowmaking capacity in an effort to open more terrain earlier in the season.
They also added new snowcats to their grooming fleet. Sunset apres mountaintop dining is now featured, along with a redesigned Village Plaza for a more quality experience for the resort’s guests. Winter Park Resort is scheduled to open on November 11 for the 2018-2019 season.
With some time before the lifts start turning, making a move on an investment property before winter arrives is a smart decision. In recent years, the demand for short-term vacation rentals has skyrocketed so many people buy a condo to rent and help pay for the property’s expenses, then come up from Denver and other Front Range cities to have easy access to skiing.
There has never been a better time to buy since Aspen Skiing bought Winter Park in 2017. All the improvements the resort is making can only help to increase property values in the area.
The experienced team at Coldwell Banker Mountain Properties is available to help find you a home that can create lifelong memories or an investment property that matches the client’s lifestyle. So plan a visit and contact them to discuss current opportunities.