Aspen’s January snowfall comes up short
Ryan Summerlin February 4, 2013
ASPEN – January wasn’t among the least snowiest on record in Aspen, thanks to a snowstorm that moved through Colorado last week.
According to weather data tracked by the Aspen Water Department, 80 percent of January’s snow fell during the final week of the month, providing a string of powder days on the slopes and keeping the month out of the top five driest Januarys on record. Still, last month nearly cracked the top 20 with a total snowfall that was well short of average.
The Water Department measured 18.3 inches of snowfall at the town’s water plant, located at an elevation of 8,161 feet, for the month. The average is 25.9 inches.
The record low, incidentally, is 5 inches, in January 1961, while the record high is the 71.5 inches that fell in 1957, according to Water Department snowfall data going back to 1935.
On the slopes, snowfall patterns so far this winter have been a reversal of what occurred last winter, when a dry December was followed by a respectable January.
Last winter, Aspen Skiing Co. recorded 19 inches of snowfall at Snowmass in December and 50 inches in January, according to spokesman Jeff Hanle. This year, Snowmass picked up 59 inches in December and 24 inches in January. On Saturday, Skico reported 18 inches of new snow on Aspen Mountain over the past seven days.
“December snowfall gives you a better base versus what happened last year,” Hanle said.
And what January 2013 lacked in snow it made up for in cold, which preserved the snowpack.
“It was frigid. That really helped,” Hanle said.
The low for the month was 13 degrees below zero, on Jan. 15. The high on that date was 5 degrees.
Last week’s snows helped boost the statewide snowpack to 75 percent of normal thanks to huge dumps that added several feet of new snow to parts of Colorado, including the southwest mountains (Telluride reported nearly 3 feet by Thursday), the Grand Mesa and the Steamboat Springs area.
“It’s huge improvement, but not nearly enough to push us to normal conditions for this month,” Mage Hulstrand, assistant supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, told The Denver Post.
Snowpack in the Roaring Fork Basin stood at 63 percent of average on Sunday. It was at 60 percent of average on Independence Pass, southeast of Aspen, and at 76 percent of average on North Lost Trail, outside Marble, according to the conservation service.
By comparison, the snowpack in the river basins of southwest Colorado – the Dolores-San Miguel and San Juan – stood at 75 and 74 percent of average, respectively. The Yampa/White River basin, including Steamboat Springs, was at 78 percent of average, and the Upper Colorado River headwaters, which encompass ski resorts that include Vail and Copper Mountain, was at 72 percent.
February has brought another spate of dry weather to Aspen. The next potential weather system is expected to materialize for the coming weekend, according to forecasters.