In the hunt for good news ahead of the northern hemisphere’s 2020-21 ski season, ski resorts around the Pacific have been getting very excited by the announcement that it may be a ‘La Niña winter’. 

What does La Niña mean and refer to? Well La Niña and El Niño are opposite phases of what is known as the ‘El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle’ a scientific term that describes the fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific (approximately between the International Date Line and 120 degrees West).

La Niña is sometimes referred to as the cold phase of the cycle and El Niño as the warm phase.

It’s a lot more complicated than that, of course, but ski areas in Japan and on the North American west coast typically tend to see bigger powder dumps during a La Niña winter than an El Niño one, or one that falls down the middle of the two and isn’t much of one or the other.

So the excitement for 2020-21 has been raised by the American National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted a 50-55% chance of La Niña developing through the coming autumn and lasting through winter.

Of course a 50-55% chance also means there’s a 45-50% chance it won’t, and even if it does we’ve seen over the years that this doesn’t always translate in to big snow falls, and equally we’ve seen big dump in an El Niño year too.

But in a year when skiers and boarders are keen to look for anything to get excited about this coming winter, let’s hope it’s a very snowy La Niña winter around the Pacific and beyond. 

(All pics from past seasons at Mammoth, USA. We didn’t check if they were from La Niña winters…).