2014/15 Winter Outlook by PowderChasers

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winter 2014/15
Winter is good.

This 2014/15 winter outlook is brought to us by PowderChasers.com and our friend Steve.  Thanks Steve.


There have only been a total of 20 El Nino events since 1950.  El Nino generally refers to warming of the waters along the Equatorial Pacific.  This year had a distinct warming of the ocean waters in the Spring, and a slight decrease in Mid-Summer.  The late summer/early fall data  showed a warming trend with higher confidence of an El Nino winter.   The big question is the strength?  My best analysis is a weak El Nino during the early winter months with a general decrease from Mid Winter to Spring 2015. The monsoon moisture has been bringing record rains to Arizona, New Mexico and other areas that have seen a multi year drought. We had epic powder last June in the Wasatch and have seen some unusual August dumps! Our weather patterns are changing so expect the unexpected.

El Nino
El Nino is good?


You can look at data all day long and still come out with  different outcomes, as all El Nino years have not been the same.  Generally, the Southwest, Southeast, and Mid Atlantic fare best.  New England can get occasional strong Northeasters that surge moisture from the Mid Atlantic up the Coast.  The West may fare best from southern Colorado, Utah, Arizona/New Mexico, as well as southern and central California.  Here is a more detailed breakdown below. Powderchasers takes no responsibility for moving expenses, new jobs, winter sickness. “Thats why we chase.”

Lake Tahoe.  KT-22.  Squaw Valley, CA.
Lake Tahoe. KT-22. Squaw Valley, CA.  photo:  snowbrains.com

Central and Northern Sierra including Lake Tahoe: 

Last year brought severe drought early and significant snowfall late. This made for some epic powder days (March-April).This year should spell more consistency with a trend for better dumpage mid to late season.  If we develop Moderate El Nino more moisture might be found near Mammoth and south (Big Bear). If El Nino remains weak better snowfall is likely in the Tahoe basin and north of Interstate 80.   Overall?  Expect average to slighty below average up north and near average in the south. 

Whistler, B.C.  photo:  snowbrains.com
Whistler, B.C. photo: snowbrains.com


Data shows below normal snowfall with El Nino however here are a few wildcards:   There have been some El Nino years that brought above average snowfall to the Cascades.  This years El Nino appears fairly weak.  Snowfall might be more abundant mid winter than early? Southern Cascades might fare better than up north?  Temps could be warmer than last season. If El Nino weakens your odds of a deep winter are higher. 

Katchina Peak, Taos, NM.
Katchina Peak, Taos, NM.

Arizona/New Mexico/Southern Colorado:   

My bet is for above average snowfall for areas in the southwest including Taos, Flagstaff, Wolf Creek, and to some extend Durango.    Deep storms a likely bet especially early season. 

The steep looking Monte Cristo Headwall as seen head-on from Mt. Superior, UT. Photo by Carl Skoog
The steep looking Monte Cristo Headwall as seen head-on from Mt. Superior, UT. Photo by Carl Skoog

Utah/ Central-North Colorado/Wyoming/Idaho:    

Utah sits in the “middle sweet spot” often with El Nino and La Nina generally not impacted either way.  If El Nino is weak I would predict a near average season. If El Nino strengthens snowfall could be slightly below normal keeping a focus in the southern end of the State.  There is no clear evidence of record seasons with either pattern.   Colorado also sits as a wildcard with near average snowfall likely from I-70 and perhaps less up north. Slightly less snowfall is likely over Wyoming and Idaho with some caveats: Weak El Nino can transport moisture north with a deep subtropical tap. Moderate El Nino will decrease those odds as more moisture is focused in the southern Rockies.

Southeast, Mid Atlantic/NorthEast:

Confidence is good for deep dumps in the Carolinas, through the Mid Atlantic.  Storms will be less frequent up north in New England however deep subtropical moisture will occasionally get caught up with Nor- Easters  bringing some very deep events.


All the hype on El Nino, La Nina, and what I call La Nada can only give us a best guess scenario.  Predictions are purely based on historical trends.  Every La Nina, or El Nino season has brought surprises.  Chase powder and you will be rewarded!  I have yet to see a season where epic days did not come. The Sierra had all the bad press early last year and ended up having some waist deep powder by March/April.   The Bottom line is that it will always be snowing somewhere!   Deep dumps will happen when least expected.   TIME TO CHASE!

Powderchaser Steve

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One thought on “2014/15 Winter Outlook by PowderChasers

  1. So, stated just a bit differently: “Just like every other effort to forecast what the weather will be more than 48 hours from now… we don’t have even the very beginnings of a clue what the weather will be in any city, state, or country. That said, we have a cool(ish) name/website which hopefully distracts you from the foregoing.”

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