Will El Nino bring spring powder? | VailDaily.com

Will El Nino bring spring powder?

Edward StonerVail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/NASA El Nino is caused by warmer-than-normal waters in the Pacific Ocean. This graphic shows water temperatures during an El Nino effect in Colorado. An El Nino this year could mean wetter weather in March and April, a climatologist says.

VAIL – Klaus Wolter seems well qualified to decide when to take a ski vacation in Vail. He’s thinking springtime.”I think spring break and after might be really good this year,” he said.Wolter is a scientist with the University of Colorado and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who studies climate outlooks for Colorado.Because of a developing El Nino pattern, Vail could see drier-than-normal weather over the next six to eight weeks, Wolter said. The area could have as little as half as much moisture as it normally has in January, he said.But by February, Wolter said, Vail will likely see more snow than normal, a pattern that could last through the end of the ski season.”February is not a sure bet, but it looks better than the next six to eight weeks,” he said.There’s a good chance for lots of late-season snow, Wolter said. But he didn’t quite predict powder days – much of the late-season snow could be wet snow, not powder, he said.Buzz Schleper, owner of Buzz’s Ski Shop in Vail Village, said he gets more customers when there’s lots of snow. And if there’s good snow during Christmas, there’s good business for the rest of the year, he said, but takes issue with scientists’ predictions for Vail, he said.

“They spin a bottle, and whichever direction its faces, they make their prediction,” he said.The Gore Range has a way of coaxing all the snow out of the clouds, Schleper said.”Those guys are wrong about Vail,” he said. “They don’t understand the Gore Range.”El Nino typically causes snowy winters in southern Colorado. But it doesn’t seem to affect the year’s overall snow totals here, Wolter said.

“We’re sort of on the fence here a bit,” he said. “It averages out across the whole season that you don’t see much (difference).”Mike Bauer, water conservation specialist with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, said he’s not too worried about this El Nino.”The thing about El Nino is that it has an effect more north and south of us,” Bauer said. “We’re right on the line where it affects us one way or the other. There’s not that much departure from average.”Wolter said El Nino could cause more snowstorms on the Front Range or even as far away as Washington, D.C., places where a lot of Vail’s visitors come from.”That’s good advertisement for ski resorts, even though you get nothing from that,” he said. “It gets people into the mood.”Amy Gottlieb, revenue manager for the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, said there’s a definite correlation between the amount of snow Vail gets and the amount of business at the resort.

“If we make the news on CNN, we do see an increase in calls to the reservations office,” she said.Vail will still get some storms over the next six to eight weeks, Wolter said.The valley is supposed to get snow Sunday and Monday, said Troy Lindquist, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. The storm could potentially be bigger than the one that dumped a few inches in the valley on Monday, Lindquist said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

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