Meadows Blog

Matt Zaffino's Season Outlook

Matt Zaffino Powder Alert

Matt Zaffino's has issued his first powder alert for Ski Oregon. Check it out!

Skier, boarder, and lovers of mountain snow… here we go! Welcome to Ski Season 2012-2013.

But what about the season overall? Every fall I get asked “should I buy a season’s pass this year?” People just cut right to the chase. What I want to say back is “I don’t know, will you use it? Will your wife/husband/SO get mad if you do? Will you get mad if you don’t?” All things I can’t answer and really don’t care about, and besides, I know what they really mean is…


To which I say, this year, YES! I think it will be a good year for the Northwest snowpack and for the West in general.  Maybe not as strong as two years ago, when on April 15 Timberline had 203” of snow, but then again most years aren’t.

What’s happening? First, the El Niño that seemed to be developing in late summer and early fall has stopped developing. I wasn’t too worried about this anyway, because indications were that it would be a weak El Niño, and we’ve seen some amazing snowfall in years with weak El Niño But the fact that it’s not developing and is not expected to developing the months ahead, is generally good news for Northwest skiers. There are some other patterns of climatic variability I look at, but El Nino/La Nina seems to have the best correlation to northern hemisphere winter weather. But here comes the disclaimers, and no it's not about calling your doctor if it snows for more than four hours.

Each El Nino, or no Nino in this case, is unique. And, there are probably other climatic patterns that we're missing. And perhaps the biggest disclaimer is that skill in long range winter forecasts isn't great.
That said, I see no reason to believe this won't be a good year.  I expect our typical amount of variability, meaning we can go from big snowfalls with a 1,000 to 2,000 foot snow level, to pineapple express and ski slope rain. Hey we all know it happens, and there's no reason to believe it won't this year. Warm happens even in a “cold” year. Likewise, even in a “warm” year, and I'm not saying this winter will be a warm one, but even in a warm winter there can easily be a two to three week period of excellent skiing.
Full disclosure... we're planning on taking a trip to Whitefish, MT this year on the ski train. Not that I think that will be THE only place with great snow. But I don't see any reason it'll be a bad year for the northern Rockies. Or for the great Northwest!
Moving forward I plan on issuing powder alerts when the storms begin to line up, in hope of helping you plan your outings for primo conditions. I'll also post when there's anything interesting to report. And you can follow me on twitter @Zaffino, where I tend to post more immediate tidbits regarding weather and skiing.
Happy Trails and Turns,

Matt Zaffino
Chief Meteorologist
KGW Media Group


  1. mark

    November 30, 2012

    Thanks for being frank. A season pass is just that, a pass to play on the great mountain in our own back yard at your, the owners, leisure.

    Opportunity is always knocking, I didn’t know you were the delivery man for only grand weather, I thought you just told us what to expect with, I might add, grand accuracy. However, if we don’t just go out in it then your pass is a waist. I ski in the rain and what I really love is I have a mountain to myself; it is an opportunity to improve my skill set even at 50…hum hum years…. When the pow hits, guess what, I’m the guy who chops it up before you even get there. Why you ask, simply, I am in it and I find I am rewarded with a cross between great weather and crud, crud is the time to really test your skills and learn. Above all I love to ride so much, even on those off groom chicken heads. Your off to Montana that is great and when you get there you will be ready because you made the effort to work on the skills in heavy, this time of year, snow so the light will give you the opportunity to do over the tips and burry the face challenges, right on Matt.

    Another note: think about the great area we live in… it rains, we live on the 45th parallel half way between the artic circle and the equator. Guess that’s why it’s green here. Did I mention there is an ocean just west of us… hmmm water… hmmm wet, hmmm rain…. Or precipitation, or… SNOW. Yes it rains, yes it skains, and then, when you least expect it, 2 foot dump overnight of champagne pow. If you want powder up to your nose every time you go out... move to where the snow is that deep every day... Antarctica may be a good choice... the penguins seem to like it. Thanks Matt for making it real for us. Your work is strong...
    Regards, Mark

    Meadows: We love your passion!

  2. varun s

    November 30, 2012

    Any chance you could line up the primo conditions this no Nino season with the weekends for us office drones?

    Meadows: If anyone has that ability, it would be Matt Zaffino! Seems to be working - forecast is for a powderful weekend!

  3. Buz Oyster

    December 1, 2012

    A season pass will get me on the lifts when they open in November and will work every day until the lifts stop running in the Spring. I bought mine in October when the price was $525. I used it yesterday, in the rain, to make one run. It was a reminder as to why I don't like skiing in November. I really like skiing in February, March, April and May. I Iike having a pass because I know how much I am spending to ride the lifts. I don't know how much I would spend in a season if I paid $74 for a day of skiing. Besides, some days are longer than others. Like yesterday in the rain, it was short.

    Meadows: Thanks Buz. That is one of the best parts of having a pass - you decide when you want to use it, based on your own schedule, and the kind of conditions you enjoy the most. Pass holders feel less obligated to go from first chair to last chair. Value and convenience - it's a great combination!

  4. nwbySnBdr

    December 1, 2012

    I'm not sure what to make of Matt's outlook.
    He thinks "it's going to be a good year". I say GREAT!!
    He says skill in long range winter forecasts isn't great". I say BAD!!
    He expects "typical amount of variability" "cold in warm years and warm in cold years" THANKS!!! .... but not useful....

    Thanks for the info / advertisement about the Whitefish trip and the twit er updates.

    Matt - Please consider posting a once a month forecast on percentage of average monthly snow expected for the upcoming month.
    Or posting a forecast on percentage annual snow pack this year?
    You said even in bad years there are two or three weeks of great skiing. Care to post how many great weeks there will be this year? (I'd define a "great skiing week" as a week with at least two days with more than 5 inches of new snow at 27 deg F or less at the base when snowing and no rain during the week). Perhaps a contest???

    Meadows: Over under on great ski weeks - 6 1/2. What do you think?

Add a comment

  2. Submit