By Nathan Ham
It’s that time of year again to be thinking about the winter season, and Ray Russell, the founder of Ray’sWeather.com, just released his Fearless Winter Forecast for the 2021-22 winter season.
“The winter setup looks a lot like last year with just subtle differences in the forecast,” Russell said. “Last year’s forecast worked out great, it was at least in the top one or two forecasts that we’ve ever done.”
Both this winter and last winter will be La Nina years with last year being stronger than this year according to Russell.
“La Nina years mean a little less snow than average so we put the forecast less than the long-term average but more than the last 10-year average,” he said. “The thing that was missing last year is we have had a couple of years where we just haven’t had any northwest flow snow events where we get the strong northwest winds and moisture off of Lake Michigan or Lake Erie where it would snow on the mountain tops for days at a time.”
For the highest elevations in the High Country, Russell is predicting 70 inches of snow for Sugar Mountain and Beech Mountain. In Boone, the forecast is predicting around 30 inches of snow and 35 inches of snow in Banner Elk.
As always with the weather, there are some unpredictable things that could impact the winter weather here in the High Country. Russell said that a dip in the jet stream that typically comes out of western Canada, or activity in the Atlantic Ocean could always impact what might happen this year.
“There’s nothing new or unusual in the forecast. Climate change is playing a part in all of this, so we tried to take all of those things into account and boil it all down to put out a forecast,” Russell said. “One of the things that shocked me was that the 10-year running average right now is less than half of what it was in the early 1970s. That’s how much climate change has eaten into our snow.”
Looking at the forecast, Russell expects that once late November and early December rolls around, it will be a quick start to the winter season with cold temperatures and possibly some snowfall mixed in as well.
“We also think we will have a chilly finish. March is trending to be a little colder than average,” Russell added.
All of this adds up to some happy skiers as well with several periods of consistently cold temperatures and a longer stretch of colder weather to end the winter season.
“Maybe we can keep skiing well into March. Some years interest dwindles before the snow goes away,” Russell said.
Russell said that it is always difficult to put together long-range weather forecasts, but it’s something that they still do every year for interested folks in the High Country. This is the 19th year that Ray’s Weather Center has created a winter season forecast.
“We work at it hard and we’ll see where it goes. I enjoy doing it, this was a particularly busy week so it has been hard to get this thing out the door. We always do it right before the Woolly Worm Festival. Maybe the woolly worm gets it right this year,” Russell said.