November snow in Aspen about half of average |

November snow in Aspen about half of average

A rider negotiates bare spots on Aspen Mountain Friday. Snowfall was about half of average in November.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

Skiers are saying goodbye and good riddance to November.

The preliminary monthly weather report at the Aspen Water Plant shows it snowed 10.8 inches in November, about half the average of 21.84 inches.

The water plant, an official weather station for the National Weather Service along with the airport, recorded 0.83 inches of total precipitation for the month. The average is 2 inches. (The airport recorded only 0.16 inches of precipitation for the month.)

The picture was little better at the ski slopes’ higher elevations., a local micro-forecaster, reported this week that Aspen Mountain tallied 18.5 inches of snow in November while Snowmass managed 19.5 inches.

“We all panic, but it always turns around.” — Joe Raczak on snow conditions

Buttermilk recorded 10.7 inches, consistent with the water plant. Aspen Highlands received the most for the month at 24.5 inches.

“Basically these numbers are about half of the normal snowfall. At Highlands it was about 65 percent of normal,” according to

Most of the snow fell during a storm that struck Nov. 17. Without that dose, “we would have really been in trouble,” the forecaster said.

The Colorado Snow Survey by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service said snowpack on Independence Pass is 51 percent of median. It’s better on Schofield Pass at 83 percent of median.

Warm temperatures have exacerbated the dry conditions. That has hampered Aspen Skiing Co.’s snowmaking ability.

A storm is forecast to sweep through the area Sunday and into Monday, leaving a few inches of snow. Temperatures also will plummet and allow steady snowmaking next week.

Joe Raczak, general manager of the North of Nell Condominiums, said occupancy rates during the first half of December could suffer if conditions don’t turn around.

“A lot of people in December take a wait-and-see approach,” he said, referring to travelers.

They will book a trip if there are good snow conditions but make other plans if the snow is lacking.

Raczak said he believes holiday crowds will materialize regardless of snow conditions. “We’re booked from Dec. 18 and 19 on,” he said.

Some ski instructors have mentioned in casual conversations that they are concerned that wealthy clientele who are booked for mid-December vacations might cancel plans and take alternative trips if snow conditions don’t improve. However, thus far, it doesn’t appear travelers are bailing.

Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central reservations business, said he attended a marketing meeting with tourism officials from Aspen and Snowmass this week and no one reported cancellations. Tomcich said there has been a “slight lull” in the pace of bookings, but that’s not unusual immediately after Thanksgiving.

The phones are still ringing, Tomcich said, but a healthy dose of snow could spur more activity.

Skico’s call center isn’t reporting cancellations but is eager for snow to increase the calls, said Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications.

Tomcich’s latest occupancy report issued Nov. 14 said the first part of December looks “quiet” for Aspen and Snowmass Village lodging properties. However, Aspen would have a noticeable spike in business Dec. 8 and 9, he said, and Snowmass will see a “huge spike” on Dec. 14 and 15 for its 50th anniversary celebration.

He said the week prior to Christmas is shaping up to be slower than usual for the ski industry in general. Aspen-Snowmass is trying to spur business by providing a $150 flight credit for travelers who purchase lift tickets and three nights of lodging, and fly into Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. The offer is valid through Dec. 22 and requires a 14-day advance purchase.

The week after New Year’s Day is busier than usual with the holiday falling on a Monday, Tomcich said. Many schools are taking days off or even the entire week after New Year’s.

While the shortage of snow is disconcerting for skiers and businesses, it’s still very early in the game.

“We all panic, but it always turns around,” Raczak said.

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