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What Does a La Niña Year Mean for Colorado Ski Resorts?

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Lets start here: What is La Niña?

Used to describe a cooling in the equatorial region of the Pacific Ocean, La Niña can result in an environmental phenonmenon that brings colder weather and more precipitation towards the Northwest during the winter months. On the other hand, the Southeast experiences a warmer winter than others during a La Niña year. On average, these snow packed season occurs approximately every three to five years. 

La Niña winters traditionally have created a higher pressure in the Western Gulf of Alaska which then steers cooler air from Alaska down into the northwest and British Columbia. Typically speaking, La Niña events favor the Pacific Northwest (such as British Columbia and Alberta in Canada, and Washington, northern Oregon, northern California, northern Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the northwest portion of Colorado).

Colorado La Nina Winter

When a La Niña Year Occurs… Which Areas Hit the Powder Jackpot?

Because of Montana’s northern orientation they are likely to see some of that additional snowfall at resorts during a La Niña season, especially at some of those higher altitude resorts. The same can be said about Idaho, which may not be a surprise as Idaho’s Sun Valley Resort is said to be amongst some of the best in the world. This certainly proved to be true during the 2016-2017 La Niña winter, which had Sun Valley buried in an astonishing 359” of snowfall. Oregon is also another powder capital during the La Niña years. As one of the main powder benefactors during the 2016-2017 season, Oregon was hit with an epic 469” of recorded snowfall.

La Niña in Colorado

In Colorado, La Niña tends to make the northern part of the Rockies colder and more wet and the southern area warmer and dryer.  With these mixed signals, you’re likely to see these seasons bring more snow to Steamboat, Vail, Beaver Creek, Snowmass, and Aspen.  Steamboat Springs recorded 393″ of snowfall during the last La Niña winter while Denver’s temperatures stayed moderate and dry.  Keep an eye on those northwestern resorts in the state for maximum powder opportunities.  

La Nina Snow in Colorado

When is the Next La Niña Year?

Drum roll please… THIS YEAR!  2020 has taken a turn for the better, believe it or not, and experts are predicting La Niña to bless us with some incredible snow fall this winter season.  It’s pretty typical of Colorado to stick around those warmer temperatures up until Christmas, but we’re optimistic about January, February, and March of 2021.  Get your lift tickets purchased and days reserved on your favorite mountain so you can make the most of this promising forecast!

If you haven’t yet, book your transportation to the Colorado Rockies so you don’t have to sweat the drive in feet of snow through mountain passes.  Peak 1 Express‘ experienced drivers got your back, and we have constant contact with a dispatch team rerouting us as best as possible to get you to your destination as quick as possible.  Getting your ski equipment reserved sooner than later wouldn’t be a bad idea either as most are running discounts for winter bookings right now.

See you on the slopes!