2016 Winter Predictions


Jim Delzer takes advantage of every minute of daylight. Winter 2015

By now most of you have read something about the weather predictions for the coming winter. I have too, of course. It’s blood sport at the ski resorts. NOAA is predicting a strong El Niño, while the Climate Prediction Center says it might be the strongest ever. It’s easy to worry over this, especially since El Niño’s tend to mean dryer and warmer conditions in the PNW. I don’t like what I hear about warm water and El Niño’s influence pushing the storm track to the south.

However we’ve only been through two very strong El Niños in the past hundred years or so and those years weren’t so bad at Crystal. The actual snowfall totals from the last two strong El Niño winters, the winters of 1982-83 and of 1997-98, show only moderately lower snowpack. In 1982-83 was a very strong El Niño event. Crystal reported about average snowfall that season. This was back when the weather plot was behind the Alpine Inn, where the tree canopy may have interfered. We had an active avalanche cycle in 82-83, with a slide that started in Kempers breaking timber all the way down to Highway 410.  1997-98 might be a little easier for locals to remember at Crystal. It was the daddy of all El Niños, and we received 358″ of snowfall that season. Our 20 year average is 410″ so that wasn’t bad.

If you look carefully, you can see however that the snowpack is marginally below normal but at elevations of 5,000 feet and above. Below that elevation, snowpack drops off to quite a lot less than normal levels down at 3,000 feet. It’s not the year to be low. With Crystal’s base elevation at 4,400 feet, I think the snow line will weave up and down between there and 5,000 feet a number of times. That’s happened a lot here over many years.

We posted these two strong El Niño winter snowpack numbers. Take a look. Interesting stuff. And, as everyone in the atmospheric science business says: two years data is not statistically solid as a predictor.

1997-98 Season Snowfall Summary
1982-83 Season Snowfall Summary

And then there’s the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which you may have heard is predicting a severe winter in many parts of North America. The OFA uses a secret formula for long-term weather prediction that they keep hidden in a black box.  So you know it’s got to be accurate.


Old Farmer’s Almanac 2016

But I like what I see and maybe it’s better than the Farmers Almanac which predicts a cold snowy winter all the way down to the city.   It won’t be long so enjoy summer while it lasts.

See you on the slopes!

John Kircher,
General Manager