|ESPN.com: Snowboarding||[Print without images]|
|Seems pretty clear to us...|
El Niņo conditions like we saw last season seem to get the most media hype because the warming effect tends to cause more extreme weather across the nation, but it might actually be the cooling effect -- or La Niņa phenomena -- that benefits snowboarders the most. "We are quite confident that this will be a La Niņa winter," says NOAA meteorologist, David Unger. "Therefore the weather in past La Niņa winters may be a reasonable guess of what we are in store for this winter."
During a La Niņa you can look forward to it being colder and wetter than normal across North America -- especially in Alaska, Canada, the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies -- with warmer and drier than normal conditions across much of the South. Blocking high-pressure systems over the northern Pacific Ocean can prevent storms from making their way down the West Coast, especially in the fall and early winter, sending most of the moisture into Washington, British Columbia and the northern Canadian and US Rockies. "It typically means big snows for Jackson Hole," says patrol director, Jake Elkins. "Seventy percent of our La Niņa years have been above average for snowfall with below average temperatures."
|David Aubry finds some deep powder at Whistler/Blackcomb, which just might be the place to shred during the La Niņa of 2011.|
The Southwest can be very cold and dry while the East Coast can see a mixed bag. "La Niņa can mean slightly warmer than average high temperatures, variable cold temperatures across the Northeast and sometimes slightly below average snowfall, but it depends on the strength," says Molly Mahar, director of marketing for Loon Mountain Resort. "Some La Niņa years have been good for snowfall and others not so good."
The big questions come in the central part of the country, cutting from California, Utah, Colorado, the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic. In these regions, it could really go either way. "Sometimes you get a mixed picture, such as in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, where El Niņo and La Niņa appear to have above normal snowfall," says Unger. "This is most likely a sign that there is more variability in El Niņo and La Niņa years. Looking at the 'snowfall' maps for the Mid-Atlantic states, the composites show only a slight hint of above normal snowfall and inconsistent results in Pennsylvania."
If you want to take advantage of La Niņa and find the consistent deep powder during the 2010/11 season, your best bet would be to head north to Big Sky, Montana, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Mt. Baker, Washington, Whistler, B.C., Banff, Alberta or anywhere in between. You also may want to avoid the Southwest, although colder and drier temperatures in this region could lead to excellent snowmaking conditions.
If you're in the middle of the country or the East Coast, you might get lucky -- or then again, you might not. In the end, if you are a "weather watcher" then you know Mother Nature does what she wants and all this predicting is really just educated guessing. Stay informed with the latest information by reading the monthly National Weather Service updates on the El Niņo and La Niņa cycles.