Aspen-Snowmass ski slopes double snowfall amounts compared to start of last season
MOTHER NATURE’S COMEBACK
Following is the snowfall for November and December (so far) this season compared to the same two months last winter.
Snowmass: 89 inches this season, 43 last season
Highlands: 97 inches this season, 45 last season
Aspen Mtn: 66 inches this season, 38 last season
Buttermilk: 42 inches this season, 20 last season
This season’s totals are through Thursday. Source: Aspen Skiing Co.
Anyone who has hit the slopes this season knows the snow conditions are good, but just how good? Essentially, twice as good as last season, based on snowfall data.
Snowmass Ski Area has received 89 inches of snow in November and December as of Friday, according to Aspen Skiing Co. That’s more than double the 43 inches for the same two months last season. More snow is forecast for the Aspen area Sunday night, just before 2019 rolls in.
Aspen Highlands has collected 97 inches of snow this November and December compared with 45 inches for the two months last year. That’s an increase of 110 percent.
Aspen Mountain has reaped 66 inches for the two months this season compared with 38 inches last season. Buttermilk is at 42 inches so far compared with 20 inches last season.
“The conditions on the slopes are so much better than last year and that has allowed us to open” significantly more terrain at all four ski areas, said Jeff Hanle, Skico senior vice president of communications. “We have 5,128 acres open compared to 1,898 last season.”
When you add in the ample snow from October, Snowmass has already collected 137 inches this winter while Aspen Highlands is right behind at 135 inches. Average annual snowfall is about 300 inches for both ski areas, so they are close to halfway with the heart of winter to come.
Of course, comparisons with last season should be favorable. The start of the 2017-18 ski season was up there with the worst of them.
The snowfall this winter is benefitting more than skiers and snowboarders.
Natural ecosystems are getting replenished after low snow last winter and a hot, dry summer. The snowpack at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River east of Aspen is at 103 percent of median, according to an automated Snotel site operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The snow water equivalent held in the snowpack was 6.9 inches as of Thursday. The figure for the same date in 2017 was just 4.1 inches, according to the Roaring Fork Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that tracks snowpack in the Roaring Fork drainage.
The snowpack in the headwaters of the Fryingpan and Crystal rivers also is well above last year’s amount.
AspenWeather.net, a micro-forecasting service, is foreseeing generally dry weather in January before average snowfall returns for February, March and into April.
The trough in the jet stream that has kept Central Colorado in snow is going to move east. That doesn’t mean Aspen will be dry for the entire month of January, but it will be drier than the start of winter, according to AspenWeather.net spokesman Ryan Boudreau. He said he was briefed Thursday by the service’s chief meteorologist, Cory Gates.
Even though snowfall is about average so far this season, skiing conditions have been so good because the accumulation has been “slow, steady and consistent,” Boudreau said. There haven’t been huge dumps but the snow has come consistently and refreshed the slopes. An average February and March will keep the smiles coming.
Hanle said the snowfall is allowing Skico to deliver the high quality of experience that guests expect.
“You can feel the difference across all or our business units,” he said. “People are excited, smiling and eager to be on the hill as much as possible.”
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Another hot, dry month in the Roaring Fork Valley has got firefighting officials on high alert.