Storms boost Aspen’s snowpack to 168% of average |

Storms boost Aspen’s snowpack to 168% of average

If you hit the slopes last weekend, you don’t need to be told how good snow conditions were. If not, ponder these powder statistics.

As of Monday, the snowpack on Independence Pass was 168 percent of normal for this time of year, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. The NRCS is a federal agency that operates computerized snow monitoring devices throughout Colorado’s mountains and analyzes data.

The NRCS reported Monday that the snow that has fallen since Oct. 1 near the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River has produced 3.7 inches of water. The normal amount would be 2.2 inches.

The total precipitation since Oct. 1 on Independence Pass is almost 2 inches above average, or 153 percent of average, according to the NRCS Web site.

While last winter brought spotty snowfall, the entire Roaring Fork Valley has been blanketed so far this year.

The early season snowpack is well-above average in the Fryingpan and Crystal river drainages. It is 124 percent above average on Schofield Pass, between Marble and Crested Butte, and an off-the-chart 321 percent above average on McClure Pass.

The snowpack is 186 percent above average at Ivanhoe, a site at the 10,400-foot level in the Fryingpan Valley. The Kiln site in that drainage shows a snowpack 233 percent above normal.

Throughout the Roaring Fork River basin ? which includes the Fryingpan and Crystal drainages ? the snowpack is 181 percent above average for this time of year. Total precipitation since Oct. 1 is up 161 percent.

After experiencing the driest year in decades, Colorado’s mountains have benefited from three wetter-than-usual months starting in September.

Nevertheless, state officials aren’t declaring an end to the drought yet. Even if last weekend’s heavy snows continue through the winter, the runoff would not be enough to refill reservoirs to average levels. Much of the melting snow will be absorbed by the state’s parched earth before it ever reaches reservoirs, experts said.

Ruedi Reservoir exemplifies the problem. As of September, the reservoir held only 47 percent of its capacity, according to the NRCS.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, a federally funded Web site that monitors national drought conditions, predicts Colorado’s drought will continue next year but not worsen.

“We have good confidence that 2002 was likely the worst year of this drought cycle. But people shouldn’t think this drought is over,” said assistant state climatologist Nolan Doesken.

Measured by stream flow, the 2002 water year, Oct. 1, 2001-Sept. 30, 2002, was the driest on record. Droughts rarely produce consecutive record-breaking years but may continue for several years after the worst period, Doesken said.

[The Associated Press contributed to this report.]

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