Say Hello to El Niño

The La Niña that was present in Western Canada during the past three winters is over, say hello to El Niño. El Niño can have varying effects on powder skiing conditions in Western Canada, depending on the severity and characteristics of the El Niño event, as well as other regional climate influences.

El Niño is a climatic phenomenon that involves the periodic warming of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. El Niño means The Little Boy, or Christ Child in Spanish. El Niño was originally recognized by fishermen off the coast of South America in the 1600s, with the appearance of unusually warm water in the Pacific Ocean. The name was chosen based on the time of year (around December) during which these warm waters events tended to occur.

During an El Niño season powder skiers might experience:

Warmer and Drier Conditions: El Niño is often associated with warmer and drier conditions in parts of British Columbia, particularly in the southern and interior regions. This can lead to reduced snowfall and less favorable powder skiing conditions. Ski resorts in lower elevations or those reliant on natural snowfall might be more affected.

Variable Snowfall Patterns: El Niño’s influence on snowfall patterns in BC can be complex and can vary across different parts of the province. While some areas may experience below-average snowfall, others might still receive near-normal or above-average snowfall.

Avalanche Awareness: Changes in temperature and snowfall patterns associated with El Niño can impact the stability of the snowpack, potentially leading to increased avalanche risk. Powder skiers should exercise caution, stay informed about local avalanche forecasts, and follow safe backcountry skiing practices.

Higher-Elevation Resorts: Ski resorts located at higher elevations may be less affected by the warming and drying conditions associated with El Niño. These resorts might continue to provide good powder skiing opportunities.

It’s important to note that while El Niño is a significant climate driver, it is not the only factor influencing BC’s skiing conditions. Other atmospheric and oceanic patterns, such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the North Pacific Jet Stream, also play a role in determining snowfall and weather patterns in the region.

Skiing conditions can vary greatly from one El Niño event to another, so powder skiers should closely monitor weather forecasts, avalanche conditions, and updates from local ski resorts to make informed decisions about their skiing plans during an El Niño year.

From my experience both La Niña and El Niño weather patters will deliver excellent powder, as always you’ll need to be where it’s dumping.

Bring it on!