Big storm got away, but local snowpack in good shape
Although local skiers and riders are lamenting the storm that got away Wednesday, conditions on the slopes are better than at this time last year and on par with the five-year average, according to Aspen Skiing Co. records. A huge snowstorm that dumped a few feet of snow on some ski resorts in Colorado stayed north of Aspen and Snowmass, and dribbled only a few inches of fresh snow here.Still, the snow depth at the local ski areas is average – and that ain’t all bad. Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said there really is no such thing as “average conditions” when it comes to the early season.”I can remember monster powder days on opening day, and we’ve had openings when we could golf and ski on the same day,” Hanle said.
Snowmass has a mid-mountain snow base of 22 inches and a top base of 36 inches, he said. Last year the mid-mountain base was more, at 27 inches, but the top base was less, at 29 inches.Over the last five years Snowmass has averaged 18 inches at mid-mountain and 37 inches at the top at this time.The snow survey by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service shows the Upper Roaring Fork Valley is well above average for snowpack at this time of year. A computerized measurement site at a 10,600-foot elevation of Independence Pass shows the snowpack is 35 percent higher than average, according to the NRCS.There are seven computerized snow-measuring stations in the Roaring Fork drainage. Their data show what a difference a year makes when it comes to the oddities of spotty snowfall.
Last year the Crystal River Valley started the winter with a bang – or rather a dump – and enjoyed a deep, white bounty throughout the season. The main stem of the Roaring Fork drainage enjoyed average snowfall during 2004-05 but, for some reason, the snow gods frowned on the Fryingpan Valley.The tables have turned through the early part of this season. The Fryingpan is well above average while the Crystal is well below.The snowpack at Schofield Pass is 80 percent of average. McClure Pass is at 90 percent of average. North Lost Trail, near Marble, was at only 59 percent of average as of early Wednesday afternoon, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.Meanwhile, the Fryingpan has gotten hammered. The snowpack at Ivanhoe is 156 percent of average. The Kiln site’s snowpack is at 119 percent of average. Nast Lake, at 8,700 feet, is at the 30-year average established from 1971 through 2000, according to the NRCS.
Ivanhoe and McClure Pass are roughly 43 miles apart, as the crow flies, so it shows how greatly snowfall amounts can vary in a short distance.Overall, the Roaring Fork basin is at 1 percent above average.Data on the Natural Resources Conservation Service website show that spotty snowfall is normal for Colorado this winter. Fremont Pass outside Leadville, for example, has a snowpack 98 percent greater than average. On the other end of the spectrum, the Wolf Creek Pass summit in southwestern Colorado was at only 14 percent of average. Wolf Creek ski area usually has some of the greatest snow depths of Colorado resorts.Copper Mountain’s snowpack is 71 percent above average, according to the NRCS. Hoosier Pass, south of Breckenridge, is 67 percent above average. Vail is 11 percent to the positive.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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The blizzards of January and February seem like distant dreams to Colorado water managers. What started as a promising year for water supply — with above-average snowpack as of April 1 — ended Sept. 30 with the entire state in some level of drought.