Aspen forecasters: More spring snow to round out March |

Aspen forecasters: More spring snow to round out March

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Enjoy the springlike weather – it could hit 60 in town Friday afternoon, the forecasters at say.

“It’s not good for snowpack,” weather watcher Ryan Boudreau said of the current period of sunny, warm days that perhaps will last through midday Saturday.

The best chance of snow comes Sunday, said fellow forecaster Cory Gates, who predicts 1 to 3 inches late in the day. By the middle of next week, though, an eastern flow of Pacific moisture should start to bring regular periods of snow to the area, providing what some might call a “typical Aspen March,” he said.

Boudreau said one forecasting model even suggests a tiny chance for a “Pineapple Express,” the term for the weather phenomenon that involves a moisture pattern that flows through narrow corridors from waters near the Hawaiian islands and extends to the Pacific Coast. They are atmospheric rivers, so to speak, and one rolled through California for six days in December 2010, resulting in 13 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada.

“It’s a ton of water coming off Hawaii,” Boudreau said. “It’s warm, but at higher elevations it can dump a lot of snow. You know when it snows for six or seven days and you can get 3 to 5 feet? Those types of storms.”

A mini-Pineapple Express bringing moisture and snowstorms to Colorado could provide several feet of snow quickly, Boudreau said, adding that he was hesitant to talk about it for fear of getting people’s hopes up.

Gates gave such a scenario extremely high odds and said what’s more likely through the end of the month is a roller-coaster pattern of pleasant and mild days mixed with bouts of cold air and normal snowfall fueled by the east-moving Pacific moisture.

He noted that with 18 days remaining, the month is shaping up positively in terms of snowfall. So far, the ski areas have received between 20 and 26 inches, around half of the historical average for March. Therefore, a similar amount of snow would mean a normal or near-normal month – a far cry from March 2012.

“The driest and warmest March in the history of Aspen happened last year,” Gates said. “At least by the records I go by at the Aspen water plant. We only had 6.1 inches of snow in March 2012, the lowest snowfall total for March since they started keeping records at the plant in 1934.”

He mentioned that in the past 10 days of March 2012, temperatures hit 60 degrees or higher every day.

“That will not happen again for 300 years,” Gates said. “That’s so incredibly rare.”

But this March is completely different, as is the 2012-13 ski season in general, both forecasters said.

“We’re off to a great start for snowfall, and it’s not even half over,” Gates said of the month. “Thursday and Friday, we’re trying to have a little spring fever around town right now. We’re under a nice ridge of high pressure for a few days. Everyone’s kind of happy – I know I am because I’m sick of winter.”

When the surge of moisture comes in the middle of next week, lower temperatures will prevail, with highs in the 30s and 40s, he said.

As for the big-picture look at the current ski season, Boudreau said it will shape up as below normal in terms of snow but still much improved compared with last season. It was much colder this year, more snow fell, and skiers are generally happier with the conditions.

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