Forecast suggests that many places across the United States will have amply snowy ski slopes to turn to when people need a break from the stuffy indoors.
AccuWeather Global Weather Center – Nov. 17, 2020 – Millions of Americans are preparing for a Thanksgiving unlike any before with virtual family gatherings instead of large get togethers.
However, for many, one holiday weekend tradition may call people to the outdoors, offering an escape from the confines of home during the pandemic and socially-distanced fun out on the slopes as ski resorts open with restrictions.
AccuWeather Lead Long-Range Forecaster Paul Pastelok and his team have been analyzing weather patterns for the season ahead, and he offered up some early insights into the weather conditions that may influence conditions for the upcoming ski season.
For a solid ski season to occur, cold air, which was lacking last season, is a must, he said.
This year, however, the forecast suggests that many places across the United States will have amply snowy ski slopes to turn to when people need a break from the stuffy indoors.
Even though some “significant warmups” are predicted to occur in the U.S. at times this winter, Pastelok said he doesn’t expect them to hit the prime skiing areas of the U.S.
Western Washington, Oregon, western Montana and parts of northwestern Wyoming look to be the most promising in terms of seeing a healthy amount of snowfall for the season. Aside from a few warmups early on that could cause disruptions, Alberta clippers -- quick-moving weather systems originating from Canada that often bring light snowfalls -- will keep the slopes fresh and stocked for the bulk of the season.
The ski season could extend well into the spring across many areas of the West, with snow expected to accumulate late in the season, according to Pastelok.
When much of the U.S. will begin thinking beaches and summer sun, people traveling to the northern Rockies could continue to hit the slopes into early June.
A pattern occurring thousands of miles away in the Pacific Ocean -- La Niña -- could help to keep slopes snowy in the Northwest. A La Niña pattern is marked by cooler-than-normal waters in the central and eastern Pacific around the equator, and it can drive frequent storms into the Northwest. Forecasters say the pattern, which is expected to peak in late fall or early winter, has already unleashed a slew of Northwest snowstorms, helping to build an early-season snowpack across the Interior Northwest and northern Rockies.
Colorado and Utah, two states often recognized for idyllic, powdery conditions, are not expected to experience the best set of weather factors this season. Despite an early start with skiers already taking advantage of snowy slopes, “massive” warmups from the Southwest could lead to big temperature swings at times during the season, resulting in melting and icy conditions that are less than ideal for plunging down a mountain.
The frequency of storms for the two states will also be much more of a miss than other years. Central and northern Colorado should experience a relatively normal season, but southern Colorado down into New Mexico is where the problems will arise.
The Upper Midwest may not be a huge region for skiing, but it is expected to see its fair share of frequent winter storms.
“In these days, I really think that anyone is trying to find a way to get out,” Pastelok told AccuWeather’s Lincoln Riddle in an interview. “So even if they’re smaller slopes, I think you’re going to see crowded slopes in the Midwest.”
Seasoned skiers in the region -- as well as pandemic-fatigued individuals looking for a new socially-distanced hobby -- can expect some lighter snow events that will be dragged out by consistently cold weather. By mid-season, the snow could really pick up if Southern moisture make its way to the Midwest.
“If we can get a big upper-level high to form off the Southeast coast, that is a good zone that could set up for some bigger snow events in January and February,” Pastelok said. “That would really solidify the slope action there.”