Early January storm proves crucial
February 4, 2004
The snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin and throughout the Colorado mountains dropped to below average due to an unusually dry January, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The snowpack in the Aspen area dropped 10 percent over the past month. After a storm dumped a couple of feet of snow on Jan. 2-3, the snowpack was 101 percent on Independence Pass, according to conservation service measurements. Yesterday it was down to 91 percent.
For the Roaring Fork River basin as a whole, the snowpack was 15 percent above average after the big dump in early January. By yesterday it had dropped to 8 percent below the 30-year average (not including last night’s snow).
Try explaining that to skiers and riders. Conditions are the best they have been in a long time this season, thanks to ample early season snow and timely dumps.
But statewide statistics show that the drought that has plagued the state for the past several years isn’t over. The statewide snowpack fell from 92 percent of average to 88 percent, according to the conservation service.
“If not for this single early January storm, the entire state would be looking much worse for summer water supplies,” said Allen Green, state conservationist for the NRCS. “It was especially beneficial to the water users in southwestern Colorado.”
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The mountains around Telluride and Durango are the only ones in the state that still have snowpacks above average.
Even though conditions are drying out, every major basin in the state is significantly better off than at this time last year.
In the Roaring Fork basin, the Crystal River drainage is catching the brunt of the storms while the Fryingpan River drainage is missing out so far this winter. The NRCS’s computerized snow measurement site at Schofield Pass is at 102 percent of average while the North Lost Trail near Marble is at 110 percent of the 30-year average. The McClure Pass site is at 90 percent of average.
In the Fryingpan, the Ivanhoe and Kiln sites are at 80 percent of average; Nast Lake is at a paltry 58 percent.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]