The 2010/11 season was record breaking in sales, participation, snowfall, and in the number of days we could ski and ride because of a weather condition known as La Niña. In fact, most of the variance in sales and participation can be explained by weather conditions. La Niña conditions are characterized by a strong, northerly storm track that brings heavier than average snowfall and colder than average temperatures to the northern half of the U.S. This season, national snowfall totals were 28% above average. Having two seasons in a row with conditions so conducive to winter sports is rare, but we could be on the verge of just such a phenomena. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data, the last time that happened was between 1998 and 2000; three straight winters of La Niña conditions. During those years, participation was on the rise. It’s possible that we could break records again next season if La Niña conditions return.
Source: National Sporting Goods Association Snow Sports Report 1998 – 2010
Here is what NOAA is saying about the possibility of another La Niña winter in 2011/12:
“Forecasts from a majority of the ENSO models indicate ENSO-neutral will continue into the Northern Hemisphere fall 2011. However, over the last couple of weeks, forecasts created by the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFS) have begun to indicate the re-emergence of La Niña during Northern Hemisphere fall 2011. Combined with the recent weakening of the positive subsurface ocean anomalies and the lingering La Niña state of the atmosphere, the possibility of a return to La Niña during the Northern Hemisphere fall 2011 has increased over the past month. However, ENSO-neutral remains most likely into the Northern Hemisphere fall 2011, with most models and all multi-model forecasts (shown by the thick lines) predicting ENSO-neutral to continue through early 2012.” – NOAA, NCEP Climate Prediction Center July 2011
Stay tuned for SIA’s full report on winter weather predictions for 2011/12 in September. Until then, if you have any questions about winter weather prediction or the weather’s impact on the snow sports market, contact SIA’s Director of Research, Kelly Davis at 703.506.4224 or by email at KDavis@snowsports.org.