Is an epic Aspen winter on the horizon? Historical snow totals say we’re due |

Is an epic Aspen winter on the horizon? Historical snow totals say we’re due

Looking at trends over past 40 years suggest it's time for a big snow season

Ben Sydoryk slashes through some powder on Snowmass Mountain on opening day Thursday.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

I badly want to live though one of those Aspen winters when it never stops snowing.

And before you say, “Duh! Everyone wants that,” understand that I don’t just want an epic year on the slopes, though that’s certainly part of it.

I want piles of snow so tall that walking down the sidewalk is like moving through a tunnel. I want the sheer act of navigating to the bus stop or climbing behind the wheel and driving to City Market to be an adventure. I want a rash of rotator cuff injuries because people shoveling their driveways have to throw the snow so high.

In short, I want the city to be brought to a complete standstill because of so much snow.

I have snow on the brain not only because it’s the beginning of winter — and a promising winter at that — but also because I recently gained access to monthly snowfall data from a weather station in the Castle Creek Valley that’s been reliably reporting since the winter of 1980-81. I picked it up while working on the feature for our big revamp of the Aspen Times Weekly (on newsstands now).

The data provides an interesting snapshot of the past 38 winters in Aspen, where the general trend is a run of four to six great-to-epic winters followed by a span of seven to nine mostly average winters that include a couple of total duds (like last winter’s paltry 127 inches) and one relatively decent snow year.

But if your wish — like mine — is to drown in snow, then it’s best to look at the top three most epic winters of the past 38 years.

The biggie was the winter of 1983-84, when 276 inches of snow fell at the Castle Creek reporting station. That’s 112 inches more than Aspen’s average of 164 inches a year since 80-81, and includes 52 inches in November 1983, a monstrous 71 inches in December and another 52 inches in March 1984. Locals still talk about this one.

The next biggest season was 1996-97, when 235 inches dropped on the town. More than half of that – 126 inches — fell between October and December.

Then there was the winter of 2007-08, when 250 inches of snow walloped Aspen upside its head. The monthly snowfall totals between January and April 2008 read like ski porn: 51 inches, 39.1, 39.6, 23.6. The consistency of snow that season was apparently something to behold.

So the most epic winters appear to roll around every 10 to 12 years. And it’s now been 11 years since Aspen’s last truly epic winter.

You see what I’m saying: bring on the standstill.

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