First Snow: Polish the Skis and Snowboards

November 19, 2018
Snowy Mountains

November opened with cool temperatures and good snow in the West.

That whoop you are hearing is all the crazy skiers and snowboarders who cannot wait to plummet down the mountains at 30+ miles an hour. Following one of the worst snow years on record, the El Niño is promising a good ski season for many Western ski resorts. 

Last year was a disaster in the Western US. The years of La Niña, which bring drought to western states, was followed by what the Japanese call “An El Niño Midoki” another climate event that is dry for North America. Scientists claim the snow in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains reached the lowest levels in 500 years.


If you are crazy for (or in the) snow, this may be your year. Source: Wikimedia

Now we have a strong, standard El Niño and it historically pours snow into California and large parts of the West. In particular, it usually brings snowfall to California, the Central Rockies and the Southwest.

First snow in Canada, California and the Northern Rockies. A nice way to begin November!

The El Niño is triggering snowfall. It is also bringing cool enough temperatures that resorts with snow-making machinery are busy at work planting fields of white for eager skiers. For some, Thanksgiving is the day for family and food. For others, it’s the first four-day holiday on the slopes.

The Snow Forecast for 2015–2016 Season

So what does history suggest for skiers and snow lovers? Centuries of records, manmade and natural, are being compiled and agencies all around the world and computer models are already predicting the winter. The North American Multi-Model Ensemble, a collection of models from around the world, suggests the following:

The NMME, a compilation of international winter weather predictions, forecast of North American December, January and March weather. Left: Temperatures. Right: Precipitation. Source: NOAA

  • If these forecasts are right, the powder covered slopes of California and the Central and Southern Rockies should be heaven.
  • Meanwhile the heat suggests less heavenly slopes for the Eastern US, Canada and Northern Rockies.
  • History also suggests that these more troubled areas have better early and mid-winter snow conditions and more melt toward springtime. Remember, melting snow means, literally, a rocky late ski season.

So this November, if you are a skier, think powder. The rest of us will think turkey. 

About This Blog

Are you a weather watcher? Welcome to “Weather Whispers” by James Garriss and until recently, Evelyn Browning Garriss. With expertise and humor, this column covers everything weather—from weather forecasts to WHY extreme weather happens to ways that weather affects your life from farming to your grocery bill. Enjoy weather facts, folklore, and fun!

With heavy hearts, we share the news that historical climatologist and immensely entertaining Almanac contributor Evelyn Browning Garriss passed away in late June 2017. Evelyn shared her lifetime of weather knowledge with Almanac editors and readers, explaining weather phenomena in conversation and expounding on topics in articles for the print edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac as well as in these articles. We were honored to know and work with her as her time allowed, which is to say when she was not giving lectures to, writing articles for, and consulting with scientists, academia, investors, and government agencies around the world. She will be greatly missed by the Almanac staff and readers.