Big snowstorms in February made for great skiing but Aspen’s snowpack below average
Snowmass, Highlands boosted to 94% of normal snowfall
A 20-inch dump and some other impressive storms in February brought cumulative snowfall totals closer to average at Aspen’s ski areas but the snowpack remained below average at the start of March.
Snowmass was the big winner for February with 74 inches of snow, following closely by Aspen Highlands with 72 inches, according to forecaster aspenweather.net. Aspen Mountain collected 64 inches for the month.
February started with a pow when Snowmass reported 20 inches Feb. 4 while Aspen Mountain tallied 14 inches. Storms kept drifting in between sun-drenched periods to keep powder hounds happy.
Since Oct. 1, Snowmass and Aspen Highlands have picked up about 206 inches of snow, according to aspenweather.net. That put both ski areas at about 94% of normal, the local forecasting service said.
Aspen Mountain has received 187 inches of snow, about 88% of average. No statistics were tracked for Buttermilk.
February replenished lower elevations after a dry January.
“February 2021 was in stark contrast to January 2021,” said a monthly weather report released by the Aspen Water Department on Tuesday. “We measured 39.8 inches of snowfall at the Water Treatment Plant, significantly higher than the mere 9.4 inches in January 2021 and also the February average of 26.03 inches.”
There were 16 days of snowfall during the 28-day month and one day of rain. The total precipitation was 2.99 inches. The average for the month is 1.9 inches.
Even with a wet February, the snowpack still lags behind average. The automated snow telemetry site maintained by the Natural Resources Conservation Service halfway up Independence Pass showed the snowpack was 79% of average on Tuesday. That’s up from 74% at the start of the month. Nevertheless, this remains the eighth-driest out of the past 41 winters.
The Crystal River Valley benefited the most from February storms. The snowpack on Schofield Pass improved from just 69% of average at the beginning of the month to 77% Tuesday.
The February precipitation moved the eastern half of Pitkin County out of “extreme drought” and into “severe drought” classification, according to the U.S Drought Monitor map released Feb. 25. The western half of the county remains mired in extreme drought.
Conditions are even more dire in Garfield and Eagle counties. About 75% of Garfield County is in “exceptional drought,” the highest category. Most of Eagle County, including the Basalt and El Jebel area, is considered in extreme drought.
The drought in Colorado is expected to persist through March, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.
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