Roaring Fork snowpack lags behind state
April 4, 2003
The Aspen area had a snowpack that was better than most of the state for much of the winter, but the advantage disappeared when a blizzard hit the Front Range last month.
The entire Roaring Fork River basin – which includes the Crystal and Fryingpan river valleys – had a snowpack of only 83 percent of average as of Thursday. Statewide, the snowpack improved to 94 percent of average by April 1, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Much of western Colorado didn’t benefit from a storm system that created the worst blizzard in 90 years in the Denver area, the foothills west of Denver and the Front Range mountains in mid-March, according to Allen Green, a conservationist with the NRCS.
Snow measurements show that the Roaring Fork drainage is a little better off than either the Fryingpan or the Crystal. A computerized measurement station at the 10,600-foot level of Independence Pass shows the snowpack at 96 percent of average. That represents the snowpack east of Aspen, near the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River.
In the Fryingpan River drainage, Ivanhoe’s snowpack was 89 percent of average; Kiln was at 90 percent; and Nast Lake was at 73 percent.
In the Crystal River drainage, the snowpack at Schofield Pass was 80 percent of average; it was 85 percent at McClure Pass; and 70 percent at North Lost Lake.
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Snowpack levels usually get as high as they’re going to go by early April, according to Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor. High temperatures usually eat up more of the snowpack than what is added by frequent April snowstorms, he said.
Therefore, readings this week indicate the Roaring Fork Valley will see lower-than-average runoff levels. The forecast is for runoff at Ruedi Reservoir to be only 82 percent of average from April through July, Gillespie said.
The Roaring Fork River’s runoff at Glenwood Springs is projected to be only 78 percent of average between April and July.
The reservoir storage in the Colorado River Basin, which includes Ruedi, is only 36 percent of average for this time of year, according to NRCS data released Thursday. Statewide, the water supply is expected to be only slightly better than the drought-plagued summer of 2002.
The latest snowpack report showed that the greatest improvements were during March in the South Platte and Arkansas river basins.