What’s the Winter Snow Forecast?

Here in Southern California it can safely be said we are obsessed with the long range weather forecast.  We’re all concerned about the drought, but some of us are also very preoccupied with the possible white-stuff precipitation.

Will it snow?  How much will it snow? Where will it snow?  Should we book a ski vacation now, or wait till later?  For those of us who live for ski season, these are all pressing concerns.

We’ve done more than a little research, and have finally found a credible long-range ski forecast.  It’s been written by Chris Tomer, the Mountain Meteorologist for OnTheSnow.  We’re giving you the full report below, but here’s our summary:  LOOKS GOOD.

Tahoe/Mammoth should have a normal snow year, as should Utah and Central Colorado.  All good news.  Better news:  the Southern Colorado mountains have best the chance for the heaviest snowfall.

So now, what are you waiting for?  Let’s get that ski vacation booked.

Here’s the full report:

What El Niño Has in Store for Winter 2015/2016

A Zeitgeist of sorts, it never fails: Right around this time of year, every year, tales of El Niño-enduced record-setting snowfall and endless powder days for the ski season to come start to swirl, no matter how true those very same tales panned out to be for the season before it. To set the record straight, we tapped our OnTheSnow Mountain Meteorologist, Chris Tomer for his region-by-region predictions on what skiers and snowboarders can expect come winter.

Big Picture

El Niño/La Niña load the dice in certain ways, often encouraging the jet stream (storm track) to follow particular patterns. This winter, all indications support the influence of a moderate to strong El Niño, and we generally know what kinds of regional precipitation and temperature effects that might bring.

For example, the biggest change this winter is for better odds of a wet, stormy winter in southern California and the desert Southwest. But, that doesn’t automatically mean all of California will get pulled out of the drought. The odds also favor a wetter than normal winter along the Gulf Coast and Florida. While there really isn’t a strong signal for the Northeast, the Ohio Valley has better odds for a dry, mild winter.

The wildcard is the Pacific Northwest where the influence of El Niño may get tempered by a pool of warmer than normal water off the coast. It’s unusual. That warm pool of water nicknamed by local forecasters as “the blob” has kept the area abnormally warm and dry.

Meteorologist Chris Tomer's west-coast El Niño predictions for the 2015/2016 ski season.

Meteorologist Chris Tomer’s west-coast El Niño predictions for the 2015/2016 ski season.



Odds are stacked in favor of a wetter, stormier and snowier winter for the southern half of California. The Sierra in general should do much better than the last couple winters, with snowfall amounts normal to above normal. But again, that doesn’t mean northern California is in the same boat. My gut feeling is that most of the Tahoe resorts should get close to normal snowfall, which is still a huge improvement. Kirkwood and Mammoth will do quite well. 


Colorado, Utah, Wyoming

Utah appears to be in line for normal to slightly above normal winter snowfall. In particular, southern Utah has the best odds with Brian Head in good position. 

Colorado is an interesting case study. My feeling is that the southern mountains stand the best chance for the heaviest winter snowfall.  But, even there I don’t think we’re talking blockbuster amounts—just slightly better than normal. This is one of those winters where Wolf Creek reigns supreme. The central mountains should get close to normal snowfall while the northern mountains may underperform with slightly less than normal amounts. 

Wyoming appears stuck in the middle. I think we’ll see slightly below normal snowfall overall, but I wouldn’t change any plans to ski there. 



Winter snow in this case really depends on how strong this El Niño gets—the stronger, the better chances for heavier than normal snowfall in New England. Right now I think we’ll see normal winter snow amounts but the numbers could edge up. 

Amazing One Week Special from Windstar Cruises

Tired of the big crowds on cruise ships?  Here’s your chance to experience all the comforts of a luxury cruise ship, but without the hassle.

Windstar Cruises is known for pampering without pretense, and their ability  – with fewer than 300 guests on board – to visit the hidden harbors and secluded coves of the world’s most treasured destinations.

Wind Spirit photo (3)

You can now combine an amazing experience with an amazing price.  We have to pass on the info we’ve just received about this incredible deal:  Starting on September 29th and lasting only through October 6th, you will be able to save up to 77% on Windstar Cruises, with prices as low as $1,499 per person.  This includes popular voyages to Panama, Costa Rica, the Caribbean and Europe.

Give us a call today at Santa Barbara Travel.  With prices this low, spaces are sure to sell out almost immediately.

The Today Show Reports on Current Top Travel Trends

Did you catch the segment yesterday on The Today Show about Virtuoso Travel Week?  As we reported in an earlier blog post, many of us here at Santa Barbara Travel braved the August Las Vegas heat to find out about the hottest new travel destinations, and to make the personal connections needed to ensure our clients have the best of all possible dream vacations.

If you click on the following clip, you will see that travelers are no longer content to merely visit a destination, and see the sights.  They also want to learn something, to immerse themselves in the local culture.   This could be through educational tours, active expeditions, or culinary travel, among others.

How do you want to see your next vacation destination?  Let Santa Barbara Travel help you fulfill your travel dreams.

The Today Show, September 15, 2015: Top Travel Trends

The Today Show, September 15, 2015: Top Travel Trends

A Patagonia Penguin Primer

Who doesn’t love the animal that’s always ready for a formal event?  Monika Weinsoft from Zegrahm Expeditions will be speaking this coming Thursday evening, September 3rd, at our Santa Barbara office.  She’ll discuss their upcoming 18-day Patagonia trip, and the many ways you can see penguins up close, as well as whales, dolphins, seals and an enormous variety of other animals.

One lucky attendee at this lecture will win $1500 of airfare for themself and a traveling companion, so mark your calendar to attend NOW!

While you’re waiting, we’d like to whet your Patagonian palate with a penguin article recently published by Zegrahm Expeditions.

Penguins of Patagonia—A Primer

Zegrahm Contributor|June 8, 2015

Always looking dapper in their natural tuxedos, penguins are amazing little creatures. The dashing appearance of these flightless birds—evolved from sky-bound birds some 40 million years ago and found solely in the Southern Hemisphere—is quite strategic: their black backs provide camouflage to predators from above, while their white bellies blend into the water’s bright surface.

Magellanic Penguins

Magellanic Penguins

Most penguins mate for life, joining up to a thousand others in large breeding colonies. They return year after year to the same rookery, often the very nesting spot where they were born. (In Patagonia, females lay their eggs, usually two, in October; babies are born about 40 days later.) Both parents are involved in caring for young chicks, and in some species, the males incubate the eggs while the females hunt for food.

Although other sea mammals have a layer of blubber for warmth, the penguin’s feathers actually act as insulation, trapping warm air against the body. The seawater they ingest is filtered through a special gland behind the eye, then discharged through the beak—the reason penguins sneeze so often.

Gentoo Penguins

Gentoo Penguins

Four penguin species make their home in Patagonia between September and mid-March. The macaroni—standing some 30 inches tall and weighing in around 10 pounds—earned its moniker for the stylish yellow crest on its brow. About a third larger in size, the gentoo is the fastest swimmer among all penguins, reaching speeds of more than 20 miles per hour. There are approximately 250,000 pairs of southern rockhopper penguins, which come in at just under two feet and got their name from the colorful way they hop about on the sheer, rocky cliffs.

Rockhopper Penguin

Rockhopper Penguin

Also medium-sized, Magellanic penguins make up Patagonia’s largest population with upwards of 2 million breeding pairs. While its closest relatives are the African, Galápagos, and Humboldt found along the coasts of Chile and Peru, Magellanics prefer to winter in Brazil, swimming nearly 2,000 miles for its warmer waters.

Patagonia penguins feed on krill, cuttlefish, shrimp, and sardines; their predators include petrels, sea lions, leopard seals, and Orcas. Yet their biggest threats by far are polluted waters and the effects of climate change. 

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Heat got you down?  Are you fantasizing about cool weather?  Then this trip will both cool you down and check several items off your bucket list.  See the Northern Lights?  Drive your own dogsled team? Sleep in an ice hotel?  …. and how about that ultimate Santa fantasy: Leading a team of reindeer!

These are all possible when you join National Geographic Adventures on a 9-day sledding and cultural adventure above the Arctic Circle.  National Geographic Adventures are unique, active itineraries for intrepid travelers.  This one begins in Stockholm, then quickly moves above the Arctic Circle to Sweden’s Lapland region.


Embark on an authentic dog sledding expedition.  Feed, harness and drive your own team of Alaskan huskies for over three days through vast stretches of forest and untouched wilderness. Evenings are spent in the private cabins of a wilderness lodge, with hearty meals and traditional, wood-heated saunas.

Says a previous guest about this departure, “The moment the dogs start pulling your sled, the rest of the world falls away. It’s just you, the wide, open tundra, the sound of your sled cutting through the snow, and a pack of loveable mutts.”

Lapland is home to the Sami people. Experience their way of life firsthand, and discover the cornerstone of their culture: reindeer herding.  Try your hand at the art of lassoing reindeer before heading off on a 6-mile, traditional reindeer sled ride.  The remote location of this tour makes it ideal for viewing the aurora borealis each evening.


This 9-day adventure is scheduled with four departure dates next March:  March 4-12; March 11-19; March 18-26; and March 29-April.  It concludes with a bucket-list stay in one of the sculpted ice rooms at the Icehotel of Jukkasjarvi, the world’s largest hotel made each year solely of snow and ice.


Off The Beaten Path in Burma: With Noted Explorer Richard Bangs

Although mostly hidden from the outside world until recently, Myanmar (or Burma) is – not unlike Cuba – on the verge of exploding with tourism.  Since it opened to the West a few years ago, the growth in travel has been almost exponential.  A million visitors arrived in 2012, then 2 million came in 2013.  Myanmar’s government has crafted a master tourism plan which targets 7.5 arrivals within the next five years.

Despite its novelty, a tourism ‘triangle’ – encompassing Bagan, Inle Lake and Yangon – has already quickly developed, and the country is changing just as quickly.  Everyone wants to go to Myanmar before it loses its unspoiled charm.  But you’ll need to get off the beaten path for an authentic experience.

Many companies go to Myanmar, including Natural Habitat, Travel Indochina, and Exo Travel.  Abercrombie & Kent, and AMAWaterways even have river cruises through the country.  One company, though – Mountain Sobek Travel – has a  special, immersion itinerary that takes travelers to  isolated areas of Western Myanmar which are still largely unspoiled by tourism.

Adventure travel godfather Richard Bangs will be leading a special 'Discovering Burma' tour.

Adventure travel godfather Richard Bangs will be leading a special ‘Discovering Burma’ tour.

By foot and mountain bike, guests with Mountain Sobek Travel traverse the remote mountains of the country, visiting seldom encountered ethnic Chin villages. Guests learn about their unique traditions, particularly the women’s tattoos which cover their faces in an elaborate spider web.  Taking a day and half to complete, these tattoos were formerly given to girls around the age of nine.  Now forbidden by the government, this is a custom which is quickly disappearing in the country.

Women of the remote Chin tribe were tattooed at an early age

Women of the remote Chin tribe were tattooed at an early age

Noted explorer, producer and host of the Emmy award winning PBS series, ‘Adventures with a Purpose’ and co-founder of Mountain Sobek Travel  Richard Bangs will be leading this itinerary between November 10 – 18, 2015.  November is the beginning of the coolest and driest time to visit Myanmar.

Although there are several other departures scheduled for 2016, all led by experienced guides, the November ‘Discovering Burma‘ tour with Mountain Sobek Travel is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel in a small group with one of the world’s great adventurers, authors and TV hosts.


Who does Adventure Travel?

When you hear the phrase ‘adventure travel’, what images spring to mind?  Indiana Jones?  Crocodile Dundee?  …. or just generally those buff, 20-something fellows who rock- climb the face of Yosemite’s Half Dome with nothing but their bare hands and an occasional rope?

Well, surprise.  According to the Adventure Travel Trade Association, the average age of an adventure traveler is 48. And as for the image of  adventure travel being a guys’ world?  Wrong again.  More than half – 53% – are female.  In fact, women traveling solo on adventure excursions has become one of the hottest trends in travel the past few years.

In fact, the entire field of adventure travel is quickly growing. The ATTA found that adventure tourism companies were estimating a 24% increase in revenue for 2014.  Why?  The appeal of active travel might lie in the broad variety of possible experiences, or having an immersive experience with the globe’s natural and cultural treasures.

On Thursday, September 3rd, Santa Barbara Travel will be proud to host Zegrahm Expeditions at its State Street office location.  For over 25 years, Zegrahm has been leading inquisitive explorers to the farthest corners of the globe and -with a staggering return traveler rate of over 70% –  providing the opportunity to fully immerse in the culture and natural history of each destination.

Nina Ruhland from Santa Barbara Travel meets up with Monika Weinsoft, acting as 'adventure princess' for Zegrahm Expeditions during Virtuoso Travel Week in Las Vegas

Nina Ruhland from Santa Barbara Travel meets up with Monika Weinsoft, acting as ‘adventure princess’ for Zegrahm Expeditions during Virtuoso Travel Week.

On September 3rd, Zegrahm will be focusing on some particularly unique departures, including their trip next March to Patagonia in Chile. This trip includes visits to both the Falkland Islands and Cape Horn, and has opportunity for plenty of activity, including complimentary kayaking and zodiac excursions to see dolphins, whales, seals and penguins.

Part of that huge demographic that wants to travel solo? Well, take note: Zegrahm is waiving any single supplement on this departure.

Santa Barbara Travel Goes to Virtuoso Travel Week!

Over the next few days, many of the advisors in our three offices will be braving the August heat of Las Vegas, Nevada and heading to Virtuoso Travel Week.  You may not have heard of it, but in the travel industry it’s pretty much the Super Bowl of luxury travel.

Nearing its 30th anniversary, more than 4,700 attendees are expected for a full week of activities.  At its core, though, are the interactions between travel advisors and providers – hotels, cruise lines, tour companies, etc. – The providers share what’s new, what’s hot, and what is out there that fits the bill of their clients’ needs.

During Virtuoso Travel Week, advisors from Santa Barbara Travel Bureau will be collecting ideas for travel experiences to share with our clients.

During Virtuoso Travel Week, advisors from Santa Barbara Travel Bureau will be collecting ideas for travel experiences to share with our clients.

Virtuoso Week’s goal is to foster both connections and knowledge, which our advisors can use to work with you to craft a better travel experience.   Santa Barbara Travel’s goal is to make sure that your vacation – whenever and wherever it occurs – is exactly what you want.

So let us know if there are any particular destinations, travel brands, properties or ships that you’d like us to find out more about.  We’d be happy to investigate them for you so we can pass on the latest updates or newest options that are available.

Downtown Santa Barbara’s Unofficial Holiday: It’s Fiesta Days!

Starting tomorrow afternoon, folks will be setting up chairs in front of our Santa Barbara office on State Street.  Why?  It’s Fiesta Days!  Fiesta is Santa Barbara’s answer to Mardi Gras, and takes place over five full days every year the first week in August.

This year marks the 91st anniversary of the Fiesta Parade. Celebrating Santa Barbara’s rancho period of history, the parade is filled with old Spanish regalia and gorgeous costumes.  It is also one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades, featuring over 600 horses, as well as many antique carriages, coaches and wagons.

The Santa Barbara Fiesta Historical Parade is one of the nation's largest equestrian parades

The Santa Barbara Fiesta Historical Parade is one of the nation’s largest equestrian parades

It’s estimated that last year over 75,000 people watched the Fiesta Parade pass through downtown Santa Barbara.  We can believe it, as the sidewalks in front of our State Street office begin filling up early. By the start of the parade, on Friday at noon, they are packed wall to wall, with locals and visitors of all ages.


The enthusiastic Fiesta Parade crowds are wall to wall along State Street, including in front of Santa Barbara Travel Bureau's office

The enthusiastic Fiesta Parade crowds are wall to wall along State Street, including in front of Santa Barbara Travel Bureau’s office


During the 2-3 hour parade, most businesses along State Street are closed. There’s an exuberant air of celebration, with  mariachi bands wandering the streets to serenade visitors, local Mexican street food for sale, and confetti eggs or ‘cascarones’ also available for purchase.  Cascarones are beautifully crafted and decorated paper eggs – they’re cracked  over the heads of your friends, or saved as unique souvenirs.

The sale of 'cascarones' or confetti filled eggs are a firm tradition of the Santa Barbara Fiesta Parade.  Sometimes they're so beautifully hand crafted and decorated it makes you want to save them, instead of cracking them on someone's head.

The sale of ‘cascarones’ or confetti filled eggs are a firm tradition of the Santa Barbara Fiesta Parade. Sometimes they’re so beautifully hand crafted and decorated it makes you want to save them, instead of cracking them on someone’s head.