Early snowpack levels soar
October 23, 2007
ASPEN ” Sure, it’s early, but the results of recent snowstorms are giving skiers and riders in Aspen and Snowmass a reason to smile.
By the time snow stopped falling and the sky cleared Monday, the Roaring Fork basin’s snowpack was 67 percent above average for Oct. 22, according to data tracked by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The most impressive snowfall amounts accumulated above 9,000 feet.
Snowpack data this early in the season doesn’t really excite NRCS officials. It’s early, so the snowpack could disappear as quickly as it accumulated. Nevertheless, Monday’s data shows that the valley has a jump on winter.
The snowpack at a measuring site between Aspen and the summit of Independence Pass was 100 percent above average Monday. The water equivalent was 1.6 inches in the snowpack compared to an average reading of 0.8 inches on that date, the NRCS website said.
“Average” is defined as the levels in the 30 years between 1971 and 2000.
In the Fryingpan Valley, the snowpack was 111 percent above average at the Ivanhoe site and 220 percent above average at the Kiln site. Ivanhoe is at 10,400 feet in elevation while Kiln is at 9,600. No snowpack was recorded lower in the Fryingpan Valley, at the Nast Lake site at 8,700 feet.
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In the Crystal Valley, two of three sites recorded snowpack levels nearly off the charts for this early in the season. McClure Pass was 200 percent above average. The North Lost Trail site near Marble recorded a snowpack level 260 percent above average. Schofield Pass, on the other hand, recorded at only 50 percent of the average snowpack, the NRCS site said.
The slopes also were blessed with ample snow. About 3 feet of snow has fallen on the upper reaches of Snowmass since Oct. 15, Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Monday. That’s settled into about 18 inches on the ground.
The NRCS website confirmed what most locals intuitively knew ” October has been really wet. Total precipitation at the Independence Pass site was 87 percent above average as of Monday. The Roaring Fork basin as a whole was 94 percent above average, the NRCS reported.
Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org