Season’s Predictions

This is the time of year when we get the stoke going, and a big part of that is a discussion of the season predictions. Over the past few years, OTM has provided a wide range of prognostications from various sources—some public, some private, and some just plain weird. This year, though, we are going to hear from the local sources – the resorts themselves. Here is a roundup of what your local ski and snowboard mountain operators foresee happening this season.

 Brenda McQuarrie, Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park.

I’ve looked at the both the NOAA winter predictions…. and the Farmer’s Almanac winter forecast for Spokane, and they are both positive, albeit vague. Granted, these are long-range forecasts that cover 3-month periods. Individual storms will still need to roll in and produce over Mt. Spokane. However, as the fall approaches, talk of El Niño in our area has been changed to ENSO (neutral)/La Niña. The Farmer’s Almanac goes so far as to say that our winter will have above-average snowfall. An ENSO prediction usually brings an average winter snowfall, which is just fine by us! One thing can [be] counted on—we are excited about the upcoming snow season and hope to build on the last two years, which have been phenomenal.

Eric Bakken, 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort.

My prediction is that there will be tons of good snow and many great days of skiing and snowboarding….You have to take the long view and look not only at the future predictions but also look at the past. We live in the great Inland Northwest and one thing that always happens here is that we get snow in the mountains because we are blessed with costal moisture and continental cold air. Is every year super off the chart awesome? No. Is every year terrible? No. We get occasional years where there is not as much snow as we would like…but even in those years there are many good days of skiing and snowboarding to be had. Most years…are very good with 70, 80, or 90 plus days of good conditions. Your odds of getting many great days of skiing and snowboarding are very, very good, because of where we live—that is really at the heart of my prediction.

 Matthew Sawyer, Lookout Pass Ski Area.

At Lookout Pass we are optimistic about the coming winter, expecting a little less extreme cold, which should prove very comforting to all our guests—especially families. Since we average 400 inches of snow a winter, which equals a bit more than 33 feet, we’re comfortable with predicting an early opening around Thanksgiving and consistent snowpack through the first or second weekend in April. Frequent dumps ranging from 4 to 18 plus inches will keep the snowpack fresh and fun! Get ready for winter—it’s coming sooner than you think!

Willy Bartlett, Silver Mountain Resort.

The forecast is currently calling for an El Niño-Southern Oscillation or ENSO, which is predicted to give us 115% of our normal snowfall of 300 [inches]. Anytime we get even an 85% year, the ski conditions end up being amazing, so this forecast is something I’m really stoked to see. We’re planning on a great year, and we’re gearing up for it by doing some glading in some really fun zones around Kellogg Peak, adding a new intermediate run to the Chair 2 Basin, and doing some dirt work around the mountain. We’ve also ramped up our five-year brush clearing project this summer by quadrupling the amount of time we ran the big brush mower this season, and [by] having crews concentrating on ground clearing in hard-to-reach areas. All of this helps on a big or small year, but 2017/208 is looking big. I’ve already started shopping for a new pair of powder skis, so you can say we’re a little excited for another big winter here at Silver! //


Brad Northrup is an avid skier, fly fisherman, and mountain climber. He wrote about training for half marathons in August.

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