Powder record at Snowmass; Ajax close
ASPEN ” Skiers are rejoicing that records are meant to be broken.
Snowmass Ski Area broke a record for snowfall for the second straight month in January. The ski area topped 89 inches of snow for January with the most recent storm, Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said Tuesday. That beats the former record of 87 inches for the month in 1982. Skico records only go back to 1980.
Snowmass also broke the December record when a gargantuan total of 119 inches of snow fell. That beat the former mark by 2 inches.
Local powder hounds are getting beyond spoiled. In January alone, it has snowed on 18 of 29 days. Skiers and riders found 4 or more inches of powder on nine of those days, and some days required the proverbial snorkel.
“Best winter ever,” declared Jeff Tippett, a longtime local skier who has hit Aspen Mountain nearly every day this season. If this keeps up, winter 2007-08 could erase 1983-84 as the standard by which all powder performances are measured, he said.
Tippett’s frequent ski buddy, Griff Smith of Aspen, said this winter is remarkable for the way it bounced back from a warm, dry November.
“It was incredibly how badly it started and how gangbusters it is now,” Smith said.
The winter of 1983-84 was so special because so much snow fell in November and carried into December, Smith recalled. So much snow fell, in fact, that skiers hit the south-facing slopes of Red Mountain.
Smith, who has tracked snowfall amounts in Aspen since the 1970s, said February and March will determine if this winter tops 1983-84.
Last month was dubbed DEEPcember by the Skico because of all the snow. Hanle said he’s been lobbied to market January as JanuBURIED.
Snowmass might not be the only local ski area that breaks a snowfall record this month. Aspen Mountain is closing in on a record after coming close in December. Aspen Mountain received 88 inches during the month in 1982, Hanle said. It had received 77 inches so far this month as of Tuesday afternoon, with another storm barreling in.
Aspen Highlands’ January record will be tougher to crack. The ski area received 99 inches in January 1982 and stands at 70 inches this year, according to Hanle.
Buttermilk has received 55 inches so far this month, far below its record of 73 inches. However, the little ski area got the snow when it counted most ” during the live broadcast of Sunday night’s Winter X Games finale on ESPN.
At Aspen’s official National Weather Service station at the municipal water plant, this January is shaping up as the second best on the books. As of Tuesday, 48.2 inches of snow had fallen this month.
The water plant is at an elevation of 8,148 feet, significantly lower than the measuring stations at the ski areas.
The January record in Aspen was 71.50 inches in 1957. The next-best mark was 48.50 inches in 1982. This month is assured of topping the 1982 amount with two days left in the month and more snow in the forecast.
The water plant staff noted that January 1957 and this year stack up in an odd way. While this year lags way behind in total snowfall, it’s not so far behind in moisture content within that snow. Moisture content is the equivalent amount of water from the snowfall.
The moisture content of the 71.50 inches that fell in 1957 was 4.4 inches. The moisture content of the 48.2 inches of snow that has fallen this month was 3.96 inches. In other words, the January 1957 snow was classic Colorado champagne powder.
All the powder comes with one bitter pill. Tippett, a Snowmass Village resident, said the snow mounds on the sides of driveways have grown so tall that he can no longer throw fresh snow over them. He figured he will have to attack the mounds from behind and make room for fresh snow.
It’s a price he’s willing to pay.
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