ASPEN - Aspen is on the verge of setting a record it doesn't want.
So far this month, 2.5 inches of snow has fallen on the city. If Aspen only receives another 2.4 inches between now and Jan. 31, then the record-lowest January snowfall total of 5 inches in 1961 will be broken.
"We still have a shot at the record," said Cory Gates, a forecaster with AspenWeather.net. "I think it's guaranteed top-five."
The chances for significant snowfall between now and the end of the month are iffy, according to Gates. Above-normal temperatures in the 40s and sunny skies will be in play today and Wednesday. A weak cold front is expected to pass through the area Thursday, bringing a slight chance of snowfall of less than an inch.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday are expected to be dry with temperatures in the upper 30s - good weather for watching the ESPN Winter X Games at the foot of Buttermilk Mountain. A new weather system is expected to move in late Sunday night or early Monday morning and bring with it colder weather, clouds and perhaps the best chance of any "real" snow for the remainder of the month, Gates said.
The Weather Channel, however, predicts a 60 percent chance of snow for the area on Jan. 31 while only a 30 percent chance two days before. Gates said he's not clear on what Mother Nature has in store for Aspen on the last two days of the month.
In December, 34.8 inches of snow was recorded at the city's water-treatment plant off Doolittle Drive. The return of decent snowfall, following an extremely dry December 2011, a drought in March and April 2012 and very little snowfall in October and November just prior to the current ski season, was seen as an encouraging sign.
January has dashed some of that optimism.
"As bad as last year was and everybody complaining, this year we're behind it; we're worse," Gates said. "We have less snow this year than last year. The bases at the resorts are only like 21 inches right now, which is terrible. That's pathetic."
He believes that in the long run, though, the current ski season will have a greater snow total than last year's season.
Prior to this season, Gates predicted that Aspen snowfall would be 25 percent below the average.
"It could end up being 40 percent," he said. "But maybe March and April are going to pan out this spring where last year they didn't. If we have a little wetter spring, we'll beat last year, but it's up for grabs.
"I think we'll be better this year than last year, but right now we're technically not."