December in Aspen: Average snowfall, but boy was it cold | AspenTimes.com
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December in Aspen: Average snowfall, but boy was it cold

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – If December in Aspen felt a little colder than usual, and not as snowy as the Decembers of recent memory, that’s because it was.

The average low temperature last month was 4.97 degrees Fahrenheit, according to data maintained by the city’s water department. That compares to an average low of 9.97 degrees in December 2008 and 9.77 degrees in December 2007. The average low in December 2006 was a relatively balmy 11.83 degrees.

Contributing to last month’s big chill were 11 days on which the recorded low dropped below zero and another eight days with low temperatures in the single digits, according to the water department data. The lowest low was 9 below, recorded in the early morning of Dec. 17. Brutal windchills on many mornings accompanied the frigid temperature readings.

The high temperature for the month, incidentally, was 46 degrees on Dec. 1 (recorded Dec. 2 for the preceding 24-hour period).

As of Thursday morning, the water department had recorded 25.80 inches of snowfall during the month, spread over 15 days, including 3 inches of new snow on Wednesday night and early Thursday. That total is about average.

The plant, at 8,161 feet in elevation, sees lesser amounts of snow than the Aspen Skiing Co. records on the mountains.

The Skico tallied 41 inches of snowfall atop Snowmass for the month, 46 inches at Aspen Highlands, 35 inches on Aspen Mountain and 27 inches at Buttermilk, said spokesman Jeff Hanle.

“All things considered – a decent December,” he said.

The snowfall total at Highlands (measured in Highland Bowl, but not at the bowl summit) was actually a bit above average, while snowfall at Snowmass was 95 percent of average. The Aspen Mountain total was 88 percent of average for the month, Hanle said.

Aspenites may be spoiled, though, after a couple of recent Decembers that brought copious amounts of snow. Snowmass had 100 inches of snowfall by Christmas 2008.

December 2008 saw 59.43 inches of snow at the water plant, considerably more than what was, at that time, the average for the month – 24.9 inches.

In 2007, the water plant measured a record 63.14 inches of snow during the month, while a record 119 inches fell at the top of Snowmass, according to the Skico. Aspen Mountain collected 98 inches in December 2007.

December 2006, on the other hand, saw just 15.75 inches of snowfall at the water plant, and only three days when the low temperatures hit the sub-zero range. The low for the month that year was 10 below.

December is often one of the coldest months of the winter, according to Aspen resident Jim Markalunas, the town’s unofficial keeper of weather data. Even if it’s not that cold, it feels like it is.

“I think it’s because the days are short – you don’t get much sunlight, and the sun’s at such a low angle,” Markalunas said. “You don’t get much warming at this time of year.”

Aspen can get a lot colder than it did last month, though. A low of 21 below was recorded in December 1978, according to Markalunas, and the temperature plunged to 37 below back in January 1943, he said.

janet@aspentimes.com


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