Wondering what the heck is going on this winter with snow or lack there of? The first thing you have to understand is what is La Nina. La Nina is weather pattern characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Pacific ocean. During a La Nina winter, temperatures are warmer than normal in the Southeast and cooler than normal in the Northwest.
Back in 2011 I rolled the dice and moved our office to Mt. Baker as NOAA long range models showed a strong the La Nina setting up for the 2011/2012 season. And wow did it ever pay off! The Mt. Baker Ski Area received a total of 857 inches of snow that year, it was magical, it was deep and the other 90% of the country was uber bummed most of the season with a lack of snow..
The graph directly above shows a 3 month precipitation outlook for the United States of America. Which is exactly what we expect to see during a La Lina winter. Places in the North will see lots of snow and possibly even rain depending on their elevation.
So where should you go to find snow this winter?
Mt. Baker Ski Area – Washington
Acres – 1,000
Annual Snowfall – 641” on an average year…
Vertical Feet – 1,589
Peak Elevation – 5,089
Resort Notes: So why Mt. Baker? The place is legendary when it comes to snow. Scoring Baker on a powder day or during a deep snow cycle will make you laugh at wherever you currently call home. The place is damp, wet, and there is not much do to but shred, eat good Italian food at Milano’s, attempt to dry off (keyword here attempt), eat, sleep, repeat. Not only is the ski area one of the best for freeriding, the surrounding backcountry is massive and there are plenty of lines that will question your sanity. Fly on the Wall comes to mind!
Whitewater Ski Resort – Nelson, BC
Acres – 1184
Annual Snowfall – 480
Vertical Feet – 2044
Peak Elevation – 6,710
Resort Notes: Ever been to Nelson? If not, this is the year to head up to BC as Whitewater Ski Resort tends to do really well in La Nina winters based on their location and high elevation. Plus the coffee up there is legit, its Canada and if you haven’t eaten Poutine yet, get ready it’s super addictive, uber unhealthy and perfect after long days lapping the resort or touring in the surrounding backcountry. The people in Nelson are hippie friendly, super sweet and uber lucky to call that part of the world home.
Schweitzer Mountain – Northern Idaho
Acres – 2900
Annual Snowfall – 300
Vertical Feet – 2400
Peak Elevation – 6,400
Resort Note: You might be thinking, Northern Idaho really? You bet, last time La Nina rolled around this sleepy little resort picked up 422″ of snow. I have yet to actually ride Schweitzer Mountain, and the people I know that do are pretty tight lipped about the area. Its not wonder as 75% of the mountain caters to Intermediate to Expert terrain. Along with an open gate policy that allows access to 200 acres of the Selkirk Mountains, this may be a solid place to post up for the season or while chasing storms across the northern part of the country.
North Cascade Heli – Mazama, WA
Resort Notes: They’re ain’t any chair lifts here, and odds are likely you have never heard of Mazama, WA and were willing to be the locals are ok with that. This is where North Cascade Heli skiing is based out of (on the “dry side” of the Cascades). Mazama and the surrounding towns are one of the biggest cross country skiing hubs in North America and a place that gets lots of snow. The community could have easily become another destination ski resort however the locals fought back and placed a conservative easement on the proposed ski area land. So it looks like one of the snowiest places in the country will continue to remain a secret.
Jackson Hole – WY
Acres – 2900
Annual Snowfall – 450
Vertical Feet – 4139
Peak Elevation – 10,450
Resort Notes: Word is out on the street about Jackson Hole these days. Lots of snow, challenging terrain and a big red Tram! Even with a neutral winter JHMR averages 450″ of snow annually. With the resort high upper elevation runs and ability to trap storms against the Tetons, spending some time in Jackson from late Dec – early March ought to be deliver the goods. Plus there is always Teton Pass, Grand Targhee National Park and the locals secret over at Grand Targhee. Indian summer is currently setting up in this part of the country, when the snow returns it will stay for a while, go out and enjoy the sunshine while you can!
Acres – 8,171
Annual Snowfall – 461
Vertical Feet – 5278
Peak Elevation – 7,493
Resort Notes: Whistler is due for a big snow year! Last La Nina saw almost 500″ of snow up at Whistler Blackcomb. With tons of terrain options and lots of different elevations across the resorts odds are likely you will find fresh snow here. And for all you Epic Pass holders, this is a no-brainer. Colorado will be getting no snow, while Whistler is getting nuked on. I really don’t want to have to say “I told you so”..
Bridger Bowl – Bozeman, MT
Acres – 2,000
Annual Snowfall – 350
Vertical Feet – 2,700
Peak Elevation – 8,700
Resort Notes: One day when I leave the Tetons, odds are most likely it will be to spend time shredding Bridger Bowl. This place is legendary yet some how flies under the radar of a lot of powder hounds.. With arguably some of the best hike to terrain that any resort in North America has, a lack of crowds and tons of warm (well actually its bitter cold here) Montana hospitality, you really can’t go wrong by planning a trip to this part of the world for skiing. Especially during cold, wet winters.. This is the perfect storm for a place like Bridger, that actually has a lift that requires you to be using a transceiver before going up the mountain, talk about getting rowdy.
Best of luck this winter.. Leave a comment below if this article helps you find snow or if you think I am off my rocker!!