January brings boost to Aspen-area snowpack | AspenTimes.com

January brings boost to Aspen-area snowpack

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
Jeremy Swanson/Aspen Skiing Co.More than a foot of snow from a mid-January storm boosted the skiing and riding conditions in Aspen and at Snowmass. It also helped improve the local snowpack, which stood at 72 percent of average on Monday.
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ASPEN – January snowfall didn’t just improve the conditions on Aspen ski slopes. The snowpack in the surrounding mountains has seen a significant boost, as well.

The snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin stood at 56 percent of average at the close of December, based on data dating back to 1971. As of Monday, the average for the basin was a far more respectable 72 percent, though it will take considerably more snow for the remainder of the winter and spring to bring conditions back to normal, according to Mage Skordahl, assistant snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver.

“The thing is, when you start out that low, you have to have above-average conditions for a long period of time to catch back up,” she said. “Historically, it has happened before. I wouldn’t discount spring storms.”

Early in January, the word out of the conservation service was rather dismal. It reported a statewide snowpack at 71 percent of average as of Jan. 1. That was the driest New Year’s Day since 2002, the agency said. In Colorado as a whole, the snowpack at the start of 2012 was about half the level it was at the beginning of 2011.

As of Monday, the statewide average stood at 74 percent. The state of the snowpack has ramifications that extend from river recreation to water availability and fire danger come summer.

January brought improvement with a change in the weather pattern and the first real powder days of the season. Snowmass picked up 50 inches of snow up top during the month, which is 11 percent above average, according to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. Snowfall at Buttermilk was 9 percent above average for the month, while Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands saw about 90 percent of their average snowfall for January, he said.

Snowmass reported 7 inches of new snow Friday morning, and snow was falling Thursday night at Buttermilk as the Winter X Games got under way on prime-time television.

“Snow on national TV is good,” Hanle said.

According to the service’s SNOTEL data at sites around the Roaring Fork basin, the snowpack – actually a measurement of the water equivalent of the snow – was at 64 percent of average on Independence Pass, east of Aspen, on Monday. It was at 72 percent on McClure Pass, south of Carbondale, and at 73 percent at Nast Lake in the upper Fryingpan Valley.

The depth of the snow at the Independence Pass site stood at 34 inches on Jan. 26, according to the NRCS.

What February brings to the snow tally remains to be seen, but on Monday, the bloggers at http://www.aspenweather.net were predicting a chance of light snow Wednesday night and maybe snow on Thursday. A dry spell could take hold for a while starting Saturday, they said.

janet@aspentimes.com


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