I am not enthusiastic about answering this question, knowing I could be in trouble if wrong. Nothing is worse than encouraging folks to buy a pass and having the winter end up being a wet, warm washout. So to help me avoid answering this uncomfortable question in person, let's analyze the situation here.
The best tool meteorologists have in forecasting the general nature of the upcoming winter is the correlation between El Nino, La Nina, and Northwest snow. As may know, El Nino years are ones in which the waters of the central tropical Pacific are warmer than normal, La Nina years when they are cooler than normal, and neutral years (or La Nada) are when they are close to normal. La Nina years typically have a better snowpack than normal and El Nino years have less than average. Neutral years are generally in the normal range.
So what about the upcoming winter? Fortunately, by early October we have a very good idea of what the situation will be. And the answer is...
According to the experts in the NOAA/NWS Climate Prediction Center we expect this year to be a neutral or La Nada one (roughly 60% chance), with a La Nina being a roughly 25% possibility. So based on the El Nino/Nina correlation we would expect a normal snow year.
"Winter will be much snowier than normal, with frequent snows from mid-December through the first three weeks of January. Rainfall will be near normal, with temperatures below normal, on average, in the north and above in the south. The coldest periods will occur in mid- to late December, early to mid-January, and mid- to late January."
OK, so where does this leave snow lovers and those dying to buy those discount seasonal passes? My main conclusion: There is no reason at this point to expect the upcoming winter to have more snow than normal in the mountains. This is not going to be a snowy La Nina year.
The extended range models are suggesting a warmer than normal winter, but their skill this far out is marginal at best. The Farmer's Almanac has no skill, so we better not take it too seriously.
So this is not a slam-dunk year for buying that seasonal ski pass. At this point, I suspect there is no strong reason not to buy the pass if the savings are sufficient. I am sure there will be some skiing this year. But there are no guarantees in this business, and if you buy an annual ski pass, don't complain to me if things go bad!