Does lots of October snow mean lots of powder days this season? We talk to Joel Gratz of opensnow.com to get his prediction for the 2019-2020 season.
Speak to any meteorologist worth their salt and he or she will tell you that long-range seasonal predictions are not something that can truly be done. As Joel Gratz of OpenSnow.com will tell you: "Predicting a season, in advance, is not an accurate endeavor." As much as we snow bunnies want to know how many powder days might be in our future — and Joel is a fan of these days as much or more as any Aspen local — we simply can't know. "No organization makes consistently accurate season-ahead forecasts. Weather forecast accuracy has improved a lot over the past 40 years, but three- to six-month forecasts are still beyond our current ability," continues Gratz.
Forecast blog - Aspen Snowmass 2019-20
Forecast blog - Aspen Snowmass 2019-20

That being said, it's fun to try! And any snow fan who has spent time in Aspen during the month of October 2019 can't help but get excited! Aspen saw over three feet of snowfall during October, with 25 inches falling in its final week. The Upper Colorado River Basin — of which Aspen is a part — currently has 248% of average snowpack. All signs point to a great winter, right?! Well, the clear answer is… maybe. "October snowfall has about zero correlation with the snowfall over the rest of the season across the entire state of Colorado," says Gratz. "So, this early-season snow is great to see, and we hope it continues, but we can't use October snow as a sign that the season will be super snowy or super dry."

But, if one is an adherent to the legendary Farmer's Almanac, the winter of 2019-2020 could be great! In fact, the long-running weather-predictor is calling this winter a potential "polar coaster" because this winter will be filled with so many ups and downs on the thermometer. The Farmer's Almanac is predicting a snowy winter all across the country, but particularly in the eastern third of the country. But the Rockies will get a taste. In fact, the predictors are looking at the next big storm coming to the Rockies mid-November. From November 16th - 19th, "A fast-moving storm from Washington crosses northern Rockies, providing heavy snow. Cold air follows."
Over the long-term, though, a good snow year is looking possible, according to the FA. "Precipitation and snowfall will be above normal, with the snowiest periods in mid- to late December, early and late January, early February, and early and late March. April and May will be cooler than normal, with near-normal precipitation."

At the end of the day, as snow lovers, we here in Aspen want to believe the Farmer's Almanac, and we want to think the early-season snow will hold true through the rest of the season to give us a winter to remember. But as Gratz and other meteorologists warn, don't get too excited by October snow. It's best to stick to tried-and-true methods of making sure we're blessed with a good season like snow dances, burning old skis, and wearing your pajamas inside out from now until April.



Published November 2019

About the Author

Nicole Birkhold
Nicole Birkhold

NICOLE BIRKHOLD

With nothing but a pair of skis and a journalism degree from Michigan State University, Nicole headed west looking for mountains, snow, and someone to pay her to put words to paper. She found the writing gig in Freeskier Magazine for ten years, but needed to be closer to the mountains to she packed it up and came to Aspen where she still crafts words but with more time on the snow.

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