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Winter snow? Opinions abound for Aspen-Snowmass

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

Though some weather forecasters are predicting another snowy winter for the Aspen-Snowmass area, the expectations are not universally shared.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac for 2015 — a historic publication with advice on weather and planting periods for 18 separate regions of the United States — was released in late August. It said the Intermountain region, which includes the upper Roaring Fork Valley, will see above-normal temperatures and below-normal snowfall.

The coldest time of winter for the Western Slope will be mid-December, the almanac said. The snowiest time of the season will be early to mid-March, according to the publication.

Last year, the publication was basically accurate with regard to Aspen, predicting above-normal snowfall throughout the region, which covers most of western Colorado and extends through Utah and Idaho before taking in eastern Washington and eastern Oregon.

Meteorologists don’t put much stock in the almanac, and the publication itself does not purport to be infallible. For instance, it predicted above-average precipitation for the Pacific Coast in its 2014 version and admitted in the 2015 version that it was wrong, “as California instead had one of its driest winters on record.”

As for the winter of 2015, the publication predicts that the northern sections of the region will see above-normal snowfall. But Colorado falls inside the region’s southern end.

Meanwhile, the local forecasters at AspenWeather.net are expecting another great snow year for the Aspen-Snowmass area although slightly behind last year, when Aspen Mountain received 342 inches of snowfall from October through April. Aspen Highlands got 358 inches, and Snowmass had 351 inches.

An El Nino system, which means higher-than-average Pacific Ocean temperatures, won’t have a great affect on snowfall during the upcoming winter, said AspenWeather.net’s Cory Gates and Ryan Boudreau. Gates is predicting 309 inches at Aspen Mountain and 334 inches at Snowmass.

The El Nino system this year is expected to be on the weak side.

“Overall, the signals I’m getting are for a normal type of winter in terms of snow or maybe a fraction higher than normal,” Gates wrote in an email report to the website’s subscribers last week.

Compared with last winter, the upcoming winter will be colder, Gates wrote, with more mornings in which temperatures are below zero.

Boudreau is more bullish on the upcoming season than his forecasting partner.

“It’s going to be awesome. It’s going to dump in a huge way. I think it’s going to be big. We’ve already had snow in the last few weeks, up high, many times,” Boudreau said. “I have a feeling. I had a dream, and I talked to a bear in my dream, and he said it would be a solid winter.”

Joel Gratz, who predicts weather for OpenSnow.com out of his Boulder office, said he doesn’t put much stock in the long-range weather forecasts.

“Anything we talk about at this time of year is more for entertainment or fun than for planning purposes,” he said.

Gratz said he’s telling people that the upcoming ski season in Colorado looks like “a toss-up” in terms of snowfall.

“This year is looking like a weak El Nino. That’s not going to help us very much. If we had a stronger El Nino, it might help us out a little more,” he said.

andre@aspentimes.com


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