From La Niña to the Farmer's Almanac: Our Best Predictions for the 2022/23 Winter
Curious about the upcoming winter's snow forecast? Snowboard Expert Jason Robinson brings you the scoop on just exactly how much snow you’ll be shredding this winter.
With summer’s twilight upon us, the imminent changing of the seasons becomes more evident—sparking our curiosity as to what the coming winter will have in store for us. As winter sports enthusiasts, it’s only natural to hope for a winter with relatively cold temperatures and plenty of precipitation: a recipe for ample powder days!
The uncertainty of the upcoming winter forecast can make trip planning, gear purchases, and decisions over getting a season pass or planning on strictly using day tickets more difficult. Thankfully there are resources to help us if in this predicament, and although neither are a perfect science, both sophisticated and primitive indicators exist for those of us that want the jump on tracking storms for the upcoming winter.
There’s science, the Farmer’s Almanac, folklore, and even local traditions that may (or may not) increase the chances of a big winter. Those of us that have lived in a ski town are all too familiar with the “pray for snow” party. The study on its effectiveness remains inconclusive, yet it is hard to deny a group of tipsy ski bum’s cries to Ullr—the Norse God of Snow—for a bountiful ski season.
Tradition and Folklore
Before modern meteorology, ski town traditions, and especially before the almanac, groups of people developed their own indicators of a big winter ahead. At one time many of the Native American tribes looked to the beaver as their version of our modern-day weatherman. The thickness of a beaver’s coat, the amount of body fat, and the size of its winter den were all used to develop an outlook on the upcoming winter. If your local beaver den is looking extraordinarily large at the moment, you may have a very strong winter ahead of you!
Folklore-based predictions are interesting and numerous. For instance, it is thought that if in autumn the squirrels have very bushy tails, that indicates an especially cold winter; also the higher up a tree they stash their nuts, the deeper the snow will be. Others turn to the fungus for guidance. “Mushrooms galore, much snow in store. No mushrooms at all, no snow will fall.”
No longer reliant on the observation of acorns and beaver dams, today we typically turn to meteorologists for the most accurate winter-weather predictions. These experts use complex instruments to collect and analyze data to aid in the prediction of long-term weather trends.
By monitoring current sea temperatures, scientists are able to make relatively accurate assessments of what the future will hold for us skiers and boarders. The likelihood of significant weather events such as La Niña occurring can be determined well in advance; and although not always one hundred percent accurate, these forecasts usually help paint a decent picture of what the winter will look like.
The weather pattern La Niña occurs in the Pacific Ocean. Strong winds blow warmer surface water from South America to Indonesia. When this water moves, it is replaced with cold water that rises to the surface from the ocean’s depths. In a La Niña event, ocean temperatures are cooler than average. A temperature difference of just one degree Fahrenheit is enough to indicate a La Niña event.
A typical La Niña brings above-average snowfall to much of North America during the ski season. It looks as though we will be entering another La Niña this coming winter. If we do in fact experience another, it will be the third La Niña in a row, something meteorologists are calling a “Triple Dip.”
These predictions hold up much of the time, but of course, cannot be 100 percent accurate. However, right now La Niña is looking as if it will continue for this coming winter, with its chances gradually decreasing from 86% to 60% as we enter 2023.
Taking a look back to the 2010/11 ski season, and one of our last significant La Niña events, we saw the following snowfall totals published by BestSnow.net.
- Steamboat: 508" (135% of normal)
- Breckenridge: 519" (180% of normal)
- Wolf Creek: 443" (114% of normal)
- Crystal Mountain: 581" (147% of normal)
- Mt. Hood: 620" (140% of normal)
- Mt. Bachelor: 630" (168% of normal)
- Whitefish: 425" (133% of normal)
- Jackson Hole: 539" (146% of normal)
- Sun Valley: 250" (131% of normal)
- Whistler: 607" (148% of normal)
- Arizona Snowbowl: 232" (93% of normal)
- Taos Ski Valley: 172" (65% of normal)
The Old Farmer’s Almanac was established in 1792 and to this day continues to predict astronomical events, tides, weather, and other natural phenomena with impressive accuracy. Historically predictions have been made with upwards of 80 percent accuracy. Based on his observations, this Almanac’s founding editor, Robert B. Thomas, used a complex series of natural cycles to devise a secret weather forecasting formula of which the exact details remain a mystery to this day.
The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2023 Winter predictions broken down by region are as follows.
Winter temperatures should be milder than usual with precipitation slightly below-normal. The most frigid times should be in mid-November and early and late December. The snowiest period should be in mid-November.
Midwest & Great Lakes Region
In the Midwest, winter temps are forecasted to be below normal. The coldest times of the season should be late November and early December, early and late January, and mid-February. The amount of snowfall is said to be below normal in the east of the region but above normal and bringing heavy snowfall to the western half. The Great Lakes Area should expect the greatest amounts of snow in late November and early December, as well as in March.
Winter is forecasted to be warmer than normal, with the coldest times in mid-November and early February. Snowfall should be above normal in the far northern states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The most snow is likely to fall in mid-November, late December, early to mid-January, and early February.
The north central states, including Eastern Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Eastern Colorado, and the Oklahoma panhandle, down into northern Texas should see a colder-than-normal winter. Snowfall should be above normal in the North and below normal in the southern half of the region.
Winter in the Southwestern states of Arizona and New Mexico should see increased moisture—being wetter and warmer than what's typical. However, many of the areas that receive snow are forecasted to be getting less snow than most years. The coldest period is predicted to be in late November and mid-January.
Winter in Cali is also forecasted to be both wetter and warmer than usual. This says a lot considering the Southern Cascades and Sierras are already quite wet and warm on an average year. Hopefully, temps stay cold enough to produce more snow than rain. The stormiest times are likely to be mid-late December (dreaming of a white Christmas anyone?), early and late January, early and late February, and let’s not forget miracle March.
The East Coast
The Northeast Atlantic Corridor is set to see cold temps and heavy snowfall, and similar to the lower midwest, winter is going to bring shivers and loads of snow. The Appalachians should also be colder than normal with close to normal precipitation but above-average snowfall.
The Best Places to Find Snow in 2022/23
Predictions and theories are great for helping us paint a picture of what the upcoming winter season may bring. Yet there remains only one real way to know what snow conditions are going to be like, and that is to get out in the mountains to find out. These forecasts are long term and, as we all know, it can even be hard for short-term weather to be accurately forecasted, so when we are looking several months out it is important to take information with a grain of salt.
There are fun riding opportunities to be found in almost any snow conditions if you remain open to it. It is also important to remember that it is always snowing somewhere. Who knows? If living out West, this might be the winter to go explore some new places, perhaps the East or Midwest. The areas just east of the Rockies are likely to be a safe bet for a ski trip loaded with snow. Much of Montana and Northern Wyoming will certainly be on a powder chaser’s radar this season.
Whenever it comes to weather, it is good practice to hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. When it comes to equipment, it is better to have something and not need it than to need something and not have it. That being said, speak with one of Curated’s Winter Sports Experts today, so that when that snow does start flying you aren’t left grounded.