El Nino is not a big thing for Steamboat this winter


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— The upcoming winter of 2014-15 represents an El Nino season, but based on the latest forecast, and recent history, skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts needn’t adjust their vacation plans.

Scientists at the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Aug. 7 that El Nino, the storm shifter caused by warming temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, is shaping up to be a mild event. It’s also likely to be neutral where Steamboat is concerned, according to NOAA.

Meteorologist Joel Gratz, who operates the snow forecasting site www.opensnow.com, thinks El Nino could have a positive effect on northern New Mexico and Arizona this winter.

There is about a 67 percent chance of above-average snow in southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah and southern Colorado, he thinks.

“I will say though that mountains in the southwestern part of the U.S. should do pretty well this year,” Gratz wrote this week. “During the past six winters when I was present, snowfall in the southwest was above-average four years, average one year and below average one year."

Comparing snow totals at midmountain at Steamboat Ski Area during the past six El Nino seasons to average snowfall of about 308 inches shows that Steamboat has experienced winters that ranged from a little bit below average, like the 291 inches that fell in 1997-98, to strong winters like 2002-03, when 344 inches were recorded.

What’s also apparent from looking at Steamboat’s snow history is that Mount Werner hasn’t experienced any of its seven monster winters of more than 400 inches of snow during an El Nino winter since 1979-80.

Steamboat Springs-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth, who authors the blog www.snowalarm.com, said Steamboat’s relationship with El Nino is complex and varies with the longitudinal (east or west) location of a ridge of high pressure that typically sets up in the eastern Pacific during El Nino years. Often, that ridge is strong enough that the polar jet stream undercuts it, bringing moisture and energy to the southern two-thirds of the western U.S.

“For northern Colorado, the longitudinal position of this ridge is critical,” Weissbluth said. “If it is too far east, then the ridge deflects any energy and moisture to our north. If it is just far enough west, then we are in active and moist northwest flow.”

A concern arises, Weissbluth said, if the Pacific ridge sets up too far to the west. That development can mean that Steamboat loses the preferred northwest storm track that delivers much of Steamboat’s winter precipitation.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1


rhys jones 2 years, 8 months ago

Blah blah. More folks yapping on the public dime.

There is NO WAY anybody can predict anything around here more than three days out -- and half the time, not even then. God just loves to mess with our computer models.

Skunk Cabbage, wooly caterpillars, the Farmer's Almanac -- numerology or dice would be just as accurate. Or biorhythms, based on date of incorporation.

Our record year to date was supposed to be a La Nina winter, drier than normal; the opening was delayed two weeks that year, for lack of snow.

And the LAST thing I want to hear is "two feet tonight" -- an automatic jinx -- see how many times THAT pans out.

It is in this spirit, that I ask you to join me in my reverse-psychology, un-jinx chant:



Scott Wedel 2 years, 8 months ago

Just saw a CNBC report on Park City where there is a big fight between Vail Resorts which paid to lease the ski area land vs Park City Mountain Resort that owns the parking, base area and generally the access to the mountain. The report said that as of now they are not even able to sell lift tickets.

I found an article that put a bit of a different spin on the situation.


Vail Resorts plays to win. Their $25M probably works as an investment, but Park City not having skiing this year also works for them. Just like their Buddy Pass has done a great job for them of attracting Front Range skiers.

though, if destination resort Park City is out of action this winter then that is an opportunity for SB.


rhys jones 2 years, 8 months ago

I was just trolling, see I got a solid bite. I'll play!! I've got some Vail stories. Like how they stole my friend's invention, to monitor the cable on their new LionsHead gondola, the old one having gone down, taking several people with it... or how maybe it was my friend, who hit that lady on Ledges -- those marvelous cliffs, perfectly spaced for catching 20 yards of air off each -- can't change direction, mid-air -- then there she was, snowplowing across the hill... help soon arrived; there was nothing we could add; we skied off... and the next summer, they blew up those cliffs.

Re/current situation: I'm sure glad Deer Valley isn't my client any more -- about now, Lori would be driving me nuts with "Just one more thing..." They'll get SLAMMED this year!!

Okay, break's over, back for another dive. Todays Dilbert is apropos --



Dan Kuechenmeister 2 years, 8 months ago

Rhys, Trolling? More like shooting fish in a barrel


rhys jones 2 years, 8 months ago

I'm back, fishing familiar waters. Sniffed the bait in the other forums, didn't bite. It's better to let people wonder if you're stupid...

Got past my techno hurdles yesterday -- MySQL tried to throw me some hoops, but I was ready, got that dogie lassoed. Feeling good about myself, went out later for some bluegrass...

There are several beautiful women around town, who can attest to the accuracy of the Dilbert cartoon below --



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