What to Expect from La Niña Weather This Winter

La Nina Ski Resorts Guaranteed to Have Deep Powder This Winter

This years La Nina weather will deliver strong wet storms on track set to wallop the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rocky Mountains from December if not earlier all they way through May and possibly into June.  For the best La Nina effects head north this year if you want powder as the western US may be bleak and once again.

“Guess who’s back, back again,
La Niña back, tell a friend”

Some of the resorts listed below are utilizing the new multi-mountain ski passes that including the IKON Pass, Mountain Collective and EPIC Pass. While some of the smaller resorts are avoiding the potential crowds. Big powder days at collective mountain resorts = crowds….

Here’s our picks on where to find La Nina snow:

La Nina 2020 Snow Best Bets

Whitewater Ski Area Nelson BC

Whitewater Ski Resort

Acres – 1184
Average Snowfall – 480″
Vertical Feet – 2044
Peak Elevation – 6,710 feet
Passes: Ski Resort Pass, No Collectives

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. If you’re a splitboarder, shhh this place has the best touring in Canada…. Plus the coffee up there is legit, its Canada and if you haven’t eaten Poutine yet, get ready it’s super addictive 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.

Mt Shuxan Mt Baker

Mt. Baker Ski Area

Acres – 1,000
Annual Snowfall – 641”
Vertical Feet – 1,589
Peak Elevation – 5,089
Passes: Ski Resort Pass, No Collectives

So why Mt. Baker? The place is legendary when it comes to snow. 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 2020 / 2021 winter 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. 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, but the surrounding backcountry is also massive and there are plenty of lines that will question your sanity. Want to see how good you really are? Try a lap on Fly on the Wall.

Grand Targhee Resort La Nina

Grand Targhee Ski Resort

Acres – 2,602
Annual Snowfall – 500″+
Vertical Feet – 2,270
Peak Elevation – 9,920 feet
Passes: Mountain Collective

Grand Targhee Resort is a place that powder hounds tend to keep to themselves. Without fail year after year, this quaint mom and pop resort delivers the goods aka deep dry powder. The “Ghee” as locals call it is a great mountain for exploring, especially their hike to in-bounds terrain off Mary’s Nipple. Along with great in-bounds terrain, Grand Targhee Resort also offers one of the most affordable cat skiing experiences found in North America. Toss in free parking, cheap food, lack of lift lines and friendly locals and you start to understand why I drive 2 hours to ride Targhee when Jackson Hole is less than 15 miles from my house. The Grand Targhee skiing and riding experience is unique and different from anything you’ve experienced before, go ahead and give them a try this winter, you’ll be stoked especially if you like to spend time on the mountain with your family enjoying deep snow.

Stellar Heli Glacier / Howser (Purcell Mountains

Stellar Heliskiing

Acres – 80,000
Annual Snowfall – 720″
Vertical Feet – How much can your legs handle?
Peak Elevation – 9,842 feet

Ah Kaslo, if you don’t know about skiing in Kaslo you should start now. Stellar Heliskiing operates some of the best heliskiing you can access without having to fly all the way up to Alaska. Guest that fly with Stellar are giving access to a couple of British Columbia’s most legendary mountain ranges, the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains. With over 80,000 acres to pick and choose from the Stellar skiing and riding Experience will most likely be different from anything you have experienced in the past, starting with 5-star hospitality. Guest of Stellar Heliskiing stay at the cozy Kaslo Hotel a modern Victorian Hotel located on the west shores of Kootenay Lake. What we like the most about this outfit is the drive from Spokane Washington to Kaslo BC is only 147 miles. That’s only 50 miles more than the drive from Denver to Vail. Another great option is Selkirk Snowcat Skiing located just up the road. from Kaslo.

La Nina Forecast2020/2021 NOAA Long Range Forecast

Birgder Bowl Powder

Bridger Bowl Ski Area

Acres – 2,000
Annual Snowfall – 350″
Vertical Feet – 2,700
Peak Elevation – 8,700 feet
Passes: Ski Resort Pass, No Collectives

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 somehow 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 it’s 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.

schweitzer skiing

Schweitzer Mountain

Acres – 2900
Annual Snowfall – 300″
Vertical Feet – 2400
Peak Elevation – 6,400 feet
Passes: Ski Resort Pass, No Collectives

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. It’s no 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.

whistler powder snow

Whistler Blackcomb

Acres – 8,171
Annual Snowfall – 461″
Vertical Feet – 5278
Peak Elevation – 7,493 feet
Passes: EPIC

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”.

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!!

Squaw Valley Kt 22 Chairlift Powder Day

Squaw Valley Ski Resort

Acres – 3600
Annual Snowfall – 450″
Vertical Feet – 2850
Peak Elevation – 9,050 feet
Pass: IKON

It’s no wonder professional winter sports athletes in the know like Jeremy Jones, Jonny Mosley, Julia Mancuso and the legendary Shane McConkey (1969-2009) have all called Squaw Valley home. This place is legit, it quickly becomes apparent the second you get in line for the KT-22 chairlift that you’re not in Kansas anymore. Squaw’s lift-accessed big mountain terrain will leave even the most experienced skiers and riders puckering from time to time. If you feel like inflating your ego and can handle the peanut gallery, center punching the fingers first thing in the morning is a good way to prove just how rad you are. The 2016/2017 season dumped over 700″ of snow on Squaw and 800″+ La Niña winters have happened before. Make sure to get in line early on powder days, if you want the fingers untracked, 6:30 AM is a good time to get in line.

Snowbird Ski Powder Skiing


Acres – 2500
Annual Snowfall – 500″
Vertical Feet – 2900
Peak Elevation – 11,000 feet
Pass: IKON

Sticking with the big mountain theme Snowbird takes things up a notch. This is not a mountain to take lightly especially when it’s snowing. Ever heard of the team “Interlodge”, if you haven’t the first time you do hear it be sure your big boy or big girl skis and boards are waxed up and ready to go. Snowbird is located in Little Cottonwood Canyon surrounded by towering mountain peaks on both sides. When it snows and gravity takes over the road to the resort can be closed for avalanche control work. The best thing you can do in a situation like this is to make sure you’re staying the night at one of the resort properties at the base of the mountain. You may find yourself waking up to a private ski resort after Interlodge as the first people to access to the mountain will be the patrollers, followed by on-mountain employees and then hotel guest that stayed the night up at the resort. The early bird gets the worm here, regardless if you stay overnight at Snowbird or down in Salt Lake City, be sure to arrive early and jump in line for the tram. It doesn’t get much better than this. Pro tip: The week from Christmas to New Years has been delivering the goods for the past few seasons.

Mammoth Mountain CA Powder

Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort

Acres – 3500
Annual Snowfall – 400″
Vertical Feet – 3100
Peak Elevation – 11,053 feet
Passes: IKON, Mountain Collective

Mammoth Mountain’s located within a days drive from Los Angeles. When big storms roll through the 9-5 city crowd can easily make it up to Mammoth to enjoy powder on the weekends. Last year was especially snowy for Mammoth with the mountain picking up 246 inches of snow in January alone setting a new record for snowfall in a month. At the end of the 2016/17 season, Mammoth had over 500″ of snowfall, the most since the previous La Niña 2010/11. One thing to keep in mind when visiting Mammoth Mountain is the average skier or rider from the greater Orange County – Los Angeles area is most likely not a die-hard powder skier or rider. Mammoth has world-class terrain parks and an equally impressive Après-ski – late-night scene. There is truly something for everyone (including powder hounds) at Mammoth Mountain or as the locals call it Mammer. The La Nina 2020 ski season at Mammoth looks like it could be a good one with heavy rains hitting southern California in October, which is a good sign of times to come.

La Nina Years

On average La Niña occurs every 3 to 5 years. Sometimes as long as 7 years inbetween or as short as 2 years.

100 years La Nina:

1903, 1906, 1909, 1916, 1924, 1928, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1964, 1970, 1973, 1975, 1988, 1995,1998, 2007, 2010.  Although there has been weak La Nina in others years, those really dont count.

La Nina Map

La Nina Weather Map 2020

As you can see the Northern Rockies are going to get hammerd.  British Columbia too, even though the National Weather Service in the United States seems to cut off all weather once it hits the border.  If the resorts listed above in the U.S. are going off, B.C. will be even sicker.

Any resorts I missed?  Secret spots?  Call em out below.

What board you planning to rock for this winter?  Out picks for the best powder snowboards for 2021 have been published.

Related Articles:

  1. Stellar Heli Skiing Review
  2. El Nino Snowfall Picks

About the Author

Mike Hardaker
Mike Hardaker grew up surfing and snowboarding in Orange County and followed his love of surfing to Hawaii before eventually moving to the mountains to concentrate on snowboarding. He went on to found Mountain Weekly News based in Jackson, Wyoming.

11 Comments on "What to Expect from La Niña Weather This Winter"

  1. Great Article! You could republish it for this year maybe with some covid information.
    Did you leave Jackson off the list because its a given with Targhee or because you don’t want to encourage more people to visit?
    I’ve been riding Jackson the past 5 year and absolutely loved it. Great sidecountry!

  2. Edgar Chavarria | December 2, 2017 at 3:19 PM | Reply

    Went to loveland during thanksgiving break and looking for another trip during xmas. Fairly new to riding, only 3 years now along with the family. What location is looking like the place to go end of December?

    • Hey Edgar,

      Thanks for reaching out. From the end of December to early Jan, the farther North you are the better. For guaranteed powder head to Mt. Baker. I would recommend here in Jackson Hole, Grand Targhee, possibly Snowbird. In Colorado it’s going to be tough. Best chance would be in Steamboat. Feel free to reach out anytime. We love following snow, and riding powder.


  3. Cody B. Clark | October 1, 2017 at 7:29 PM | Reply

    Shout out to the upcoming 1000 inch season at Baker! Can’t wait!

  4. how come you recommend bridger bowl and not big sky?

    • Hey Kevlin,

      The last La Nina (2011/2012) had Bridger Bowl picking up 33″ of snow over the resorts average vs Big Sky which picked up 27″ of snow over the resorts average.

      I have yet to ride Big Sky. One day..

    • Look at the snow report for today and that will answer your question

  5. Anthony Calabro | November 12, 2016 at 9:28 AM | Reply

    If you make your way over to schweitzer hit me up we can shred together and I’ll show you where the stashes are!

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