What effect will the quirky weather phenomenon called El Nino have on ski conditions this season?
In the East, New York and Vermont may be a bit drier than normal January to March. Here in the West, where El Nino’s effect is typically stronger, there appears to be a higher-than-average chance of snowfalls that are heavier - though later - than usual in some places. Or maybe not.
“We’re just dealing with probabilities, so things still could go either way,” said research meteorologist Klaus Weickmann of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Diagnostics Center in Boulder, Colo.
At least one ski packager - Boulder-based Moguls/Tours de Sport - is thinking positively and already marketing April trips pegged to “this once-in-a-century opportunity.”
If this El Nino follows the expected pattern - and many don’t - its strong southwest winds would bode well for New Mexico’s Taos and Colorado’s Wolf Creek, Monarch, Telluride, Vail, Aspen and Winter Park, but Steamboat Springs and other more northerly resorts that rely on northwest winds to bring snow might not fare as well, meteorologists say.
El Nino, which springs from a pool of super-warm Pacific Ocean water that mysteriously moves from its usual spot off Indonesia, can produce catastrophic storms and climate changes - it’s already blamed, in part, for the recent record-breaking Colorado blizzard, as well as the devastating hurricane that hit Mexico’s Pacific coast in October. It usually starts affecting the western hemisphere when the hot spot reaches South America (generally around Christmas - hence the name, which is a Spanish term for the Christ child).
For the latest reports, skiers can visit the El Nino Web site: http://www.pmel.noaa.gov/toga-tao/elnino.
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