Forecasts all over the map for Aspen’s winter weather |

Forecasts all over the map for Aspen’s winter weather

Don Smith shields himself under his umbrella from the rain/snow on Friday while paying for his parking pass on Hyman Avenue.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

While Aspen Weather is bullish on snowfall this winter, other sources aren’t so certain Aspen will reap above-average powder.

Aspen Weather held its winter outlook party Thursday night at the Limelight Hotel and meteorologist Cory Gates said he believes atmospheric conditions this fall compare favorably with 1983-84, Aspen’s snowiest winter on record. He forecasted above-average snow, particularly in November, December and January.

Other sources aren’t so sure. On the Snow, an online site devoted to ski-resort issues, offered its winter outlook Sept. 13 and forecast slightly below-average snowfall for Aspen. Meteorologist Chris Tomer said he foresees “La Nina lite” this winter, which will affect the storm track. Current conditions indicate to him the winter jet stream will graze northern Colorado. Aspen will be south of the storm track.

He placed Aspen-Snowmass in the “near normal snowfall” category along with Vail, Copper Mountain and Loveland in Colorado. Each of the resorts will get about 95 percent of average snowfall, On the Snow forecasts.

Steamboat was the one Colorado resort that Tomer felt would receive above-normal snowfall at 105 percent.

On the Snow’s Tomer also saw a drastically different start to the winter season than Aspen Weather’s Gates. While Gates said it will start with a bang, Tomer said it will start as a dud.

“I have a feeling that it’s going to be a late start to Winter,” Tomer posted Sept. 13. He included a caveat. The winter outlook can change as temperatures change, he noted.

Meteorologist Joe Ramey of the National Weather Service office in Grand Junction said this winter is cracking up to be tough to forecast. The National Weather Service says North American is in El Nino/Southern Oscillation Neutral conditions right now, meaning neither El Nino or La Nina is present.

“What that means for us is there is no preferred storm track,” Ramey said.

He compared it to a river flowing over a flat plain. With no defined course to follow, the river will meander. That’s what the storm track does in neutral conditions, he said.

Therefore, Aspen’s snowfall is a crapshoot. The winters of 2012-13, 2013-14 and 2014-15 were all neutral winters, he said. The Aspen water plant, the official weather observatory for the National Weather Service, recorded 27 inches above average of snow for the winter of 2013-14, Ramey said. The other two winters were slightly below average for snowfall at the water plant, he said.

Since 1950, there have been 23 winters influenced by El Nino, 23 influenced by La Nina and 21 neutral, according to Ramey.

The weather service’s Climate Prediction Center is calling for warmer-than-average temperatures to start the winter and equal changes of precipitation above or below average through December.

And just for the record, The Old Farmer’s Almanac is calling for above-normal temperatures in the Intermountain Region and below normal snowfall in the part of the region that includes Colorado.

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