Forecasters make bold predictions for Aspen’s winter weather
WINTER FORECAST WRAP
Here’s what some key forecasters are saying about this winter:
•OpenSnow.com says it could go either way for the four ski areas of Aspen Snowmass. It is forecasting a total snowfall accumulation for the season between 86 and 122 percent of average for Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk.
•Old Farmer’s Almanac is calling it differently than just about every other forecaster. The almanac doesn’t believe El Niño will be much of a factor this winter. Therefore, it is forecasting warmer temperatures and lower precipitation for the intermountain region, which includes Aspen.
•AspenWeather.net expects above average snowfall at the local ski areas, roughly 15 percent higher. In the worst-case scenario, it will be an average winter, according to the micro-forecaster.
•AccuWeather, a private sector forecaster, sees a blustery winter for the Aspen area. Steve Root, a chief analytics officer, said his research indicates Aspen will have above average snowfall every month. November will be 150 to 170 percent of average, Root said. December will be 190 to 200 percent of average. Conditions will tame down in January and February but snowfall will still be above average, he said. Late February through March is the great unknown. There is potential for snowfall to be 120 to 160 percent of average, he said, but there is a caveat: the atmosphere might adjust to the El Niño and not produce as much in those months.
•The National Weather Service’s Grand Junction office forecasted “early snow, late snow, but not in the heart of winter” for the Aspen-area mountains. A meteorologist there said conditions have tended to be drier and warmer during December, January and February in the Aspen area during strong El Niño winters.
There has been a blizzard of forecasts released recently that suggest strong El Nino winters, like the one we will experience this year, typically bring snowy winters to the Colorado mountains.
Everyone from the National Weather Service and AccuWeather to micro-forecasters such as AspenWeather.net and OpenSnow.com have weighed in with data.
OpenSnow took the bold step Thursday of predicting snowfall — within a pretty wide range — for every ski area in the U.S.
Then there is The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The venerable publication is bucking the trend of sounding the alarm about El Nino.
“Unfortunately, we believe that it is more likely that El Nino will be in a weak to neutral phase,” the publication said in its annual forecast.
For the intermountain region, which includes Aspen and central Colorado mountains, The Old Farmer’s Almanac foresees higher temperatures and below-normal precipitation in the south, which includes Aspen.
“Snowfall will be above normal near Reno (Nevada), but below normal elsewhere, with the snowiest periods in early and mid-December, early January and mid- and lateFebruary,” the publication predicted.
For the Colorado mountains, the almanac says to expect above-average precipitation in November and average snowfall in December but below average in January, February and March.
Right or wrong, The Old Farmer’s Almanac isn’t afraid of going out on a limb. AccuWeather also made a bold forecast, though in the totally opposite direction as the almanac.
Meanwhile, OpenSnow, a forecast service aimed at skiers and snowboarders, released its winter ski forecast Thursday with long-range snowfall forecasts for specific ski areas.
“On average, for our winter snow forecasts made in early October, we will get the forecast right about two-thirds of the time,” wrote Joel Gratz, OpenSnow forecaster for Colorado. “This level of accuracy can certainly help skiers and (snowboarders) gain insight into which ski areas could see above-average or below-average snowfall this winter.”
The forecast, however, is broad. For Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass ski areas, OpenSnow predicted snow totals this season will be anywhere from 86 to 122 percent of average. In other words, the ski season could be anywhere from lackluster to gangbuster in OpenSnow’s view.
Over the hills to the south and north, the numbers are similar. Crested Butte is forecast to be 88 to 124 percent of average, according to OpenSnow, while Vail and Beaver Creek are expected to be 78 to 116 percent of average.
Telluride is forecast at 82 to 120 percent of average for total season snowfall.
In a spot check of other Western resorts, OpenSnow forecasts snowfall for the season to be 68 to 98 percent of average at Sun Valley, Idaho. On the other end of the spectrum, Mammoth Mountain, California’s forecast is 103 to 137 percent of average and OpenSnow sees Taos, New Mexico, at 112 to 140 percent of average.
The forecasts for all ski areas can be found online at http://opensnow.com/news/post/opensnow-winter-ski-forecast-for-2015-2016.
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State department of transportation crews are well on their way to clearing Highway 82 to Independence Pass, which should open on schedule May 27 at noon.