It’s a ‘Normal’ Tahoe Winter According to La Niña

November 1, 2011

While nobody enjoys the negative effects a winter storm can have on our everyday lives, such as loss of power and treacherous driving conditions, the amount of white stuff that fell in the Northeast recently had skiers and snowboarders on the West Coast green with envy.

Since it caused such havoc from Maine to Maryland, the early season blizzard made very little friends. After all, the best place for so much snow is on the ski slopes, not on the slopes of city streets. Still, with reports of 30 inches in some areas, the total quantity was impressive and reminded everyone – especially sports enthusiasts – winter is coming.

Besides those living on the upper East Coast, the idea of winter coming might be hard to believe as warm and sunny weather continue to dominate in California.

Behind the scenes though, officials at Lake Tahoe ski resorts are already preparing and getting ready for the upcoming season. With temperatures dipping into the lower 20s at night, many are already making snow and at least one – Boreal Ski Resort – has already opened a few runs on select days for those who just can’t wait for the natural stuff to fall from above.

As for the winter season on a whole for the Lake Tahoe region, scientists believe this will be a la Niña year. That means the Pacific Ocean is colder than other years, which changes the air path around the continuous United States. Basically, for many ski resorts, that’s a good thing.

“On the la Niña front, we are not sure. We think there is another la Niña year, this year,” M. Sanjayan, a lead scientist with The Nature Conservancy told CBS News. “I, for one, am buying my ski passes already.”

In a winter such as the one predicted for 2011-2012, the weather pattern usually favors the norther portions of the country. In general, the northern states are much wetter during a La Niña year and the southern states drier. Even though the Northeast was the target of the first big storm of the year, it is the Northwest that usually bears the brunt of La Niña weather, according to scientists.

What that means for Lake Tahoe, however, remains a mystery. The area sits in between the wet north and dry south regions and so it is predicted to be a “normal” winter in terms of precipitation.

Also, while climatologists are fairly accurate at predicting patterns, nobody knows exactly how much precipitation will fall during each respective weather disturbance. So, while a few storms over the long haul may be pushed to the north due to cooler ocean temperatures, the storms that eventually pass over Tahoe could still bring a whole slew of snow.

As most residents and visitors to Lake Tahoe know, that is exactly how most years go anyway. The total number of storms to hit may be fewer than other locations, but, like the one to hit the Northeast recently, some bring a ton of the precious white stuff.

And that has most officials at ski resorts in other parts of the country green with envy.