Aspen’s March snowfall was close to average |

Aspen’s March snowfall was close to average

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – March snowfall was close to normal in Aspen and a vast improvement over last year, when the 6.09 inches that fell at the city’s Water Department represented a record low.

This year, 25.4 inches of snowfall was recorded in March, just shy of the 26.9-inch average for the month.

The Water Department recorded an inch or more of new snow on the ground on eight days in March, while two others brought lesser amounts. A spate of wintry weather March 20 through 24 delivered more than 13 inches of snow, while overnight temperatures dropped from the 20s to the teens and then the single digits. The low temperature for the month bottomed out at minus 1, recorded March 25 for the previous 24-hour period. The high for the month was 55 degrees.

No more snow was recorded after the morning of March 24 at the water plant, located at 8,161 feet in elevation.

On the ski slopes, Aspen Highlands topped the charts with 50 inches of snowfall in March, followed by 45 inches at Snowmass and 44 inches on Aspen Mountain, according to Aspen Skiing Co.

Last year, Skico recorded 21 inches of snowfall at Snowmass in March, but the ski area still had a 55-inch base up top to start April. Snowmass was reporting a 59-inch base Tuesday.

Last year’s dry March was followed by a late-April heat wave. Aspen set a record for the month with a 75-degree day at the local airport late in the month, while the temperature at Denver International Airport soared to 88 degrees, also breaking an April record.

Precipitation at the water plant in April 2012 brought 12.6 inches of snow, below the average of about 15 inches and well below the whopping 55.9 inches that fell in April 2011 – a record high for the month.

The weather bloggers at put total snowfall at Snowmass since Oct. 1 around 220 inches. An average April would leave Snowmass with about 260 inches, along with 230 inches on Aspen Mountain – or close to 80 percent of normal.

“Spring runoff would definitely be better than last year – not extraordinary, but better,” they predicted recently.

Winter should be back next week, according to Ryan Boudreau, forecaster. Snow and lower temperatures are likely starting Monday or Monday night, he said.

Average snowfall this month would bring another 30 inches to the ski slopes.

“It all depends where the storm track sets up,” Boudreau said. “The potential is there to do better than that.”

The snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin was at 77 percent of median on Tuesday, according to the National Resources Conservation Service. It was at 70 percent on Independence Pass, southeast of Aspen; 109 percent at the Ivanhoe site in the upper Fryingpan River Valley; at 49 percent at Nast Lake, also in the upper Fryingpan; and 78 percent on McClure Pass, south of Redstone.

The service’s water-supply forecast for Colorado, updated on Friday, indicates that reservoir storage percentages across the state continue to decline.

“As expected, seasonal runoff forecasts have decreased from those issued a month ago,” the conservation service said. “The state can expect below-average runoff this spring and summer across all of the major basins.”