El Niño winter season expected to affect Flagstaff economy
By Abigail O’Brien
Many people associate Arizona with constant heat and dry desert conditions, but Flagstaff ‘s mountain climate is an exception, especialy with an expected snow increase for the winter season.
A huge contributor to the city’s revenue and exposure comes from the winter weather. Snowfall brings tourists, especially to the Arizona Snowbowl, which is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Flagstaff.
Snowbowl provides season passes at a reduced price to college students and Northern Arizona University offers transportation from campus to the resort. As a result of the high demand for snow, the resort has designed snow-blowing equipment in order to artificially produce the snow. Though this has been a controversial issue in the community, Snowbowl finally won the rights to produce the snow and a water pipeline was installed along Snowbowl Road to produce snow with reclaimed water this past summer.
“Snowbowl is every Arizona residents’ perfect winter weekend getaway,” said Samantha Haskins, a junior public relations major.
On top of the artificial snow, Tucson News weather reporter Chuck George predicted a slightly wetter winter due to the El Niño season.
“El Niño is warmer than normal water in the equatorial region of the Pacific,” George said. “Conversely, La Niña is colder than normal water. The warmer water [El Nino] evaporates more quickly than cooler water.”
As a result of El Niño, more atmospheric moisture is available in the tropical Pacific during El Niño time. During the winter months, the air currents move into the southwestern U.S. with more available moisture carried into the Southwest, including Arizona, allowing for more rain and snow to be possible.
National Weather Service meteorologists Robert Rickey commented, “Right now, the forecast for the winter months are about normal temperatures in comparison to past years, but there is a greater chance that we will receive above normal precipitation.”
The Climate Prediction Center is forecasting Arizona will be transitioning into a weak El Niño, meaning over the next few years, slight increases in precipitation will transpire. Any slight increase in precipitation will help contribute to heavier and longer winters.
Dave Smith, Director of Sales and Marketing for Arizona Snowbowl, talked excitedly about these upcoming winter months. “We are still in the midst of our season pass sales, which goes to October 17,” Smith said. “But we have seen a continued interest with the help of our new snow making and the El Niño for this winter.”
“Boarding this winter is going to be amazing,” said Jenna Greene, a sophomore with an undeclared major. “The more snow, the better the ride down. I plan on boarding every day after class.”
Smith and the Flagstaff community are enthusiastic for the upcoming season.
“We had the Flagstaff ski swap this past weekend,” Smith said. “There is such a great buzz going around; people are excited about the coming winter and these new changes. The continued loyalty by the college kids is tremendous.”
The slight increase in precipitation, along with Snowbowl’s new machinery, has caused excitement for not only skiers and snow boarders, but also the local resorts. People from local cities and nearby states travel to Flagstaff to experience a change in scenery with the high-elevation of beauty and the snow capped mountains.
The winter months go beyond fun snow activities; it helps the revenue of local businesses and exposes another side of Arizona.