In October, skiers and riders had high hopes for winter after Aspen and other Colorado ski resorts got hit with a big snowstorm early in the month. The season quickly petered out, though, with lower-than-average snowfall and higher-than-average temperatures.
Meteorologist Jack Boston doesn't think skiers will be heartbroken two years in a row.
"You had that early-season wallop and then nothing much after that. This year is going to be different," said Boston, expert senior meteorologist with AccuWeather, a weather service with headquarters in State College, Pa.
Boston said conditions will be favorable for snowfall in the Colorado mountains starting in late September and continuing through at least November. Ski resorts should be able to build up a decent snowpack early in the ski season, he said.
The big shift from warm and dry weather in Colorado dating back to March to cooler and wetter conditions will be triggered by an El Nino replacing a La Nina weather system, Boston said. In an El Nino, the water in the Pacific Ocean along the equator warms up and influences the world's climate.
"We expect it to kind of come to a peak as a moderate El Nino around mid-November then back off as a weak El Nino," Boston said.
AccuWeather put out its fall forecast Monday with an eye-catching headline for Colorado skiing enthusiasts: "Fall 2012: Snow for the Rockies; Warmth Grips Midwest, Northeast."
"The central and southern Rockies, spanning the Four Corners region, may be a hot spot for snow by the middle of the season," AccuWeather's fall forecast said. While the forecast said snow could start falling as soon as early to mid-October, Boston said he is forecasting snow as early as late September for Colorado's higher elevations. That early snow might melt off, he said, but colder conditions and continued snowfall will settle in during October.
The difference this winter from last winter will be colder Canada air masses dropping down into the Plains states, Boston said. That sets up Colorado's mountains for snow.
Last year, AccuWeather and "everybody else" issued what turned out to be a poor forecast, Boston said. The cold air mass settled west of Colorado, so mountains stayed warmer and drier than expected, he said.
AccuWeather is forecasting near-normal temperatures into mid-October and then lower-than-normal temperatures in November and December. Boston said he is "on the fence" about temperatures in the Colorado mountains in September and October. He believes there is a chance those months also will be cooler than usual.
At any rate, he said he hopes this winter is one that pans out for Colorado ski resorts after a tough 2011-12 season. If his forecast proves reliable, eager skiers and riders will be back on the slopes.