Living La Niña Loca

Tom Sherry thinks it could be a snowy one.

Living La Niña Loca
"It's not crazy-bad, but the iondications are that it will get colder," says Tome Sherry

The surface temperature of the ocean has everything to do with how much fun you’ll be having on the slopes this winter, funnily enough. And as of right now, it looks like you’re set up for some good times.

Tom Sherry, chief meterologist at KREM, explains that cold surface temperatures in the ocean (the weather phenomenon referred to as “La Niña”) equal colder temperatures and above-normal precipitation for us in the Inland Northwest. In other words, La Niña often means more snow and a longer, chillier winter.

Sherry says that, although he and other meteorologists can’t be certain how the winter will play out until mid-November, the data is currently indicating that this winter is going to be a cold one.

“I want to stress that you can have mild La Niñas,” says Sherry. “Right now, it’s not crazy-bad, but the indications are that it will get colder, it will increase.”

The history of La Niña is an interesting one, Sherry adds. First identified by Peruvian fisherman, it’s a normal phenomenon that’s been occurring since long before we had a name for it. Sherry says the fisherman began to notice a pattern of warm water occasionally coming into areas that were normally cool.

“There’s good fishing in cold water,” says Sherry. “At that time, every 7 years, they would notice that their fishing went all to heck.”

They began to call this influx of warm water “El Niño,” which Sherry says is the exact opposite phenomenon as La Niña. But we haven’t seen El Niño in our area for a while — especially not last year.

“Last year was a La Niña winter, and we ended up with about 70 inches of snow in Spokane,” says Sherry. “The average is 45.”

But although this winter is slated to be a La Niña, Sherry says that sometimes you’ll get a year when neither weather pattern is present.

“We joke around and call it ‘La Nada,’” he says.

Luckily for skiers, Sherry won’t be able to make that joke this season.

Welcome to Snowlander

Every year at this time, it’s a guessing game as to when we might start skiing. We’re always hopeful of a Thanksgiving opening, but we know that many years December is the first month for sliding on snow.

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Going into a season guessing keeps me on pins and needles. Every little shift in the weather has me thinking the big storm is rolling in. And last season was one of wonder. Early season, I was wondering if the snow was going to keep falling in such epic proportions. In January I was wondering if it was ever going to stop raining. In May, I was wondering if the snow would ever let up. Overall, a great year.

Now ski season is a reachable grasp away. Ski movie premieres are in full swing, garages are being cleaned out as old gear is dropped off at local swaps. Life is consumed with finding the perfect jacket, dreaming about buying new ski goggles (even though I already have way too many) and scraping off the old wax and getting the tuning bench all set up.

Here at The Inlander, we’ve been busy plotting a new chapter in the local ski scene — Snowlander, your resource for skiing and riding all over the Northwest. In addition to the monthly printed insert in The Inlander, starting with the one you are reading right now, we’ll be keeping you posted on all developments in the local scene every week online.

So check out our new web page,, for an interactive resort map, stories, blog posts and enter-to-win contests. We’ll also be actively updating our page at That’s where you can post comments, read the latest news items and check out user snapshots and videos. Check ’em both out now and you can enter to win either a brand-new Rossignol snowboard or a pair of Rossignol skis.

Keep looking for snow, and hopefully by this time next month I’ll be writing this between powder turns!

Jen Forsyth Snowlander Editor

Deck The Falls Festival @ Cutter Theatre

Fri., Dec. 2, 5-7 p.m., Sat., Dec. 3, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and Sun., Dec. 4, 2-3 p.m.
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