Shorter days, cooler nights, and changing colors means fall is here. And with the fall season, means ski season isn’t far away. We’re looking forward to the 22/23 winter ski season now more than ever. We sat down with meteorologist Chris Tomer to get a pulse on what we can expect this season.
October 26th, 2022 update: Following the first major snowstorm of the year, which brought snow to many North American ski resorts in the west, we caught up with Chris Tomer for what we might expect in the coming days and weeks. This most recent snowstorm reflected many parts of Tomer’s original ’22-’23 long-range winter forecast. It had been abnormally warm and dry across much of the west before this storm. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, with a few Midwest ski resorts opening last week, and Arapahoe Basin opening on Sunday.
According to Tomer, “I expect this same pattern to continue through December and into 2023 favoring many of the same areas that just saw snow in the West and Pacific Northwest. I’m expecting another active pattern for the West during the first week of November.”
Originally published September 6, 2022:
➽ What is the long-range winter 2022/2023 forecast?
There are numerous global factors that influence how much snow could fall across the United States each winter season. Of all the factors, I like to analyze the water temperatures in the South Pacific near the Equator. Water temperatures in this geographic area tend to affect the wintertime jet stream position in the United States. Keep in mind this is a forecast.
The bulk of data suggests we’re headed into a cold phase also known as La Nina, which would be the third straight year. Triple-dip La Ninas are rare, only occurring 3 times in the last 73 years. La Nina tends to organize the wintertime jet stream in a way that favors the Pacific Northwest and Northern Tier of states with the most consistent winter snowfall. On the other hand, La Nina tends to leave California and the Southern Tier of states drier and warmer than normal. This pattern is not conducive to atmospheric river setups, and drought can deepen as a result.
The Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) factors in five different variables and assigns a value. It’s currently the strongest (coldest, negative) value since 2010. The five variables MEI incorporates are sea level pressure (SLP), sea surface temperature (SST), zonal and meridional components of the surface wind, and outgoing longwave radiation (OLR)) over the tropical Pacific basin (30°S-30°N and 100°E-70°W). The MEI shows this dip is the strongest of the three dips so far, and the strongest triple dip La Nina since 2010.
➽ What will the snow be like for winter 2022/2023?
Most of the Intermountain West is in for an abnormally warm and dry September, October, and November. It will mirror the last few years with a large Western ridge of high pressure. The most consistent snow and cold temperatures will likely arrive in December as the jet stream finally dips south. However, it’s possible some forecast data is underestimating the strength of La Nina this fall and early winter.
Overall, the most consistent winter snowfall favors the northern tier of states, including the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, Alberta (Banff), Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. However, I don’t think the percentages exceed 110% of normal even in the best of circumstances.