ASPEN - This month will grab honors as one of Aspen's most frigid Januarys in at least 20 years if the mercury plunges below zero again in the next 10 days.
This month has chilled skiers, frozen pipes, tortured cars and chattered teeth with lows at or below zero on 10 days so far, according to records tracked at the Aspen Water Plant.
This cold snap featured two periods with consecutive subzero days - Jan. 3 through 5 and Jan. 12 through 16. Subzero weather isn't unusual for Aspen in January, but it doesn't usually strike for this many days. Records from the observers at the water plant show that since 1994 only two years came close to matching this icebox performance. There were 11 days with temperatures at or below zero in January 2008, including five in a row. There were nine days with the super-low temperatures in 2007, according to the water plant's records.
Last year there were only four days of subzero temperatures in January. In 2005, there was none.
The first half of the winter will be remembered as much for being dry as it was for being cold. The snowpack in the upper Roaring Fork River basin fell below 40 percent of average Monday, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The snowpack is measured at an automated Snotel site near Grizzly Reservoir, roughly 15 miles east-southeast of Aspen. It should typically have 8.7 inches of water in the amount of snow at this time of year. The snow-water equivalent was only 3.4 inches Monday, making it 39 percent of average, according to the Snotel site.
The total amount of precipitation - snow and rain - at the site is only 53 percent of average since Oct. 1.