Ski areas look to help from El Nino moisture this season
Ryan Summerlin August 15, 2012
The high probability of seeing an El Nino year for the upcoming ski season has some local ski areas hoping for an improvement over last year’s dismal season – and announcing opening days for the upcoming season.
Consistent with opening days in 2011, local ski areas will open anywhere between mid-October into December depending on weather conditions.
“We are hopeful that conditions this year will allow us to open at least by our goal opening day (Nov. 2),” said Katherine Bush, spokeswoman for Copper Mountain Resort. “If we have more snow early than anticipated, we may open earlier.”
In Colorado, the eastern plains have the best chances of moisture from October 2012 to June 2013, according to Klaus Wolter, a climatologist who makes long-range forecasts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder. But things still may bode well for the mountains.
“In fact, one could argue that the northern Front Range and Rocky Mountains may end up with the wettest outcome,” Wolter said.
The last two years have been La Nina seasons and “long-lived La Nina events have a more pronounced tendency to flip to El Nino, 60 percent of two-year events end up in El Nino in the third year,” Wolter said.
El Nino is the name of the pattern set by warmer temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, creating colder conditions with more moisture. La Nina is the exact opposite – set in motion by cooler ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific which in turn, puts Summit County in a path less traveled by storms.
Along with Wolter, the AccuWeather winter outlook for 2012-2013 calls for above normal snowfall for the High Country.
“The ski industry, which despite an early start for some resorts, suffered a slow season overall last winter, will benefit from the above-normal snowfall,” the AccuWeather eport stated. “Long-range meteorologists are projecting a moderate El Nino by the fall.”
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area – which typically vies with Loveland for first-tracks honors – aims to open for the season in mid-October, weather dependent, and will announce the exact date closer to that time.