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Photo by Garth Guibord
La Niņa pattern offers hope for a snowy winter posted on 11/01/2021

Mount Hood ski resorts are readying for the winter season as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast calls for a cooler, wetter winter in the Pacific Northwest and across the northern part of the country.


This winter’s NOAA forecast holds promise for a good snow season on Mount Hood and is largely predicated to the occurrence of the ocean-atmospheric climate phenomenon known as La Niña.

“(La Niña) is the main driver for a forecast of above-average precipitation in the region this winter,” said Andy Bryant, National Weather Service Hydrologist. “Big picture; it’s a good outlook for snowpack in the North Oregon Cascades.”

The La Niña weather pattern periodically occurs when lower than average sea temperatures in the Eastern Tropical Pacific shifts the jet stream to the north. This shifting of the atmospheric river of winds over the Pacific commonly brings more storms to the northern part of the North American continent.

“During this phenomenon, the storm track is aimed at Washington and Northwest Oregon,” Bryant said.

This winter, the NOAA expects moderate La Niña conditions to result in slightly below-average temperatures in the region and slightly above-average precipitation. Current data shows strengthening La Niña conditions in the Pacific.

Area ski resorts are preparing for a busy season, potentially aided by favorable snow conditions. “La Niña typically bodes very well for snow conditions at Timberline and other ski areas on Mount Hood,” said John Burton, Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Timberline Lodge. “Last year there was a lot of demand for outdoor experiences and also a lot of challenges. We’re looking forward to things being back to somewhat normal.”

This season, Timberline’s Summit Pass, formerly known as Summit Ski Area, is officially part of the Timberline ski area. The addition increases the resort’s vertical terrain to 4540 feet, the longest in the United States.

Mt. Hood Skibowl has worked to streamline guest experience this winter with tickets available for purchase online in January, additional kiosks for lift ticket redemption and a new Skibowl food truck offering grab-and-go seasonal menu items and beverages. The resort is also beginning a multi-year project replacing their metal halide lights with LED replacements. The retrofit will reduce energy consumption by 50 percent and provide an improved visual night experience for guests.

“La Niña years have always been very generous to Skibowl, and we are looking forward to more of the same this season,” said Mt. Hood Skibowl representative Karen Norton.

Above-average precipitation and mountain snowfall this winter should also help alleviate some of the severe to exceptional drought conditions covering most of Oregon.

“It will take 120 to 130 percent of average precipitation for western Oregon to get out of drought conditions,” Bryant said. “It is really unlikely that central and eastern Oregon will see the 150 to 175 percent of average precipitation needed to end ongoing drought conditions.”

“We’re hopeful for some good snow in the Western Cascades,” he added.

By Ben Simpson/MT





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