The weather experts have spoken: This winter is going to have a strong El Niño. In fact, according to the forecast released Thursday, there's a 90 percent chance that El Niño will persist through the winter, even rivaling the strong events of 1972-73, 1982-83 and 1997-98. More to the point for skiers and riders is how snowfall fared during those strong El Niño winters. In his end of the season take after the 97-98 season, Tony Crocker, of Bestsnow.net, compared El Niño to flipping a biased coin: All the randomness of weather is still there, but the chances of certain events are increased. To gain insight into how this year's El Niño might fare, Curbed Ski is taking a look back at what the 97-98 event meant for popular ski resorts.
The 1997 El Niño was a record event that wreaked havoc around the world, but surprisingly, the effect on snowfall at North American resorts was less significant than many would assume.
Much like this year, it was South America's ski season that benefitted the most from the 1997 El Niño. It was a little later this year, but Chile and Argentina look like they're going to end with amazing total snowfall.
More on the California Drought:
Drought Causes 5 Percent Drop in Skier Visits This Past Season
The Worst Winter Ever? Sierra-at-Tahoe Closes Due to No Snow
Ski Industry Expert Says 31% of Today's Ski Areas Are Dying
Another Tahoe Resort Closes, This Time It's Sugar Bowl Resort
Inside the High-Dollar Fight to Save California Skiing
8 Excuses From the People Using the Most Water in California
According to Crocker, only California saw significantly above average snowfall during the 1997-98 season. That is great news for drought-ravaged California. If this year's El Niño tracks 1997-98 closely, it might be worth checking out Mammoth and farther south, the smaller ski areas in California, like Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.
North American resort snow totals from 1997-1998:*
Mammoth: 542 inches, 156 percent of normal
Alyeska: 676 inches, 140 percent of normal
Whistler: 394 inches, 98 percent of normal
Grand Targhee: 472 inches, 102 percent of normal
Big Sky: 230 inches, 89 percent of normal
Alta: 595 inches, 114 percent of normal
Vail: 339 inches, 93 percent of normal
Aspen Highlands: 246 inches, 100 percent of normal
Taos: 310 inches, 113 percent of normal
Sugarloaf: 254 inches, 146 percent of normal
*Crocker's Bestsnow.net tallies snowfall from November through April for some resorts and May for others, and comparisons are to the average he keeps. As his calculations were done in 1998, the averages he's using obviously don't reflect the resorts' more recent snowfall history.
· Climate: El Niño could extend Pacific Northwest drought [Summit County Voice]
· Bestsnow.net [Official site]
· Checking In: How's the Snowfall at Your Favorite Ski Area? [Curbed Ski]
· Chile Keeps Getting Dumped On, So Check Out These Photos [Curbed Ski]