Colorado Snowpack by the Numbers

Submitted by Andy on Tue, 06/04/2019 - 11:06

We know it's been an unbelievable winter season that just seems to keep on giving. Most of us know that this has been a great season because some of our member resorts are still operating on weekends! Others know this was a great snow season because of the number of pow days you've had. 

For me though, I know that this has been a great season because of all of the above, plus the fact that all of our water basins are running WAY above average for this time of the year. 

As you've heard before, the amount of water that has been in this season's snow has been enough to completely eradicate our drought. Remember at this time last year, we were battling almost every stage of drought from abnormally dry to extreme drought and at times exceptional drought? Now we are, for the first time ever, under no drought conditions at all! 

That's great news for our watersheds, reservoirs, creeks and for our upcoming fire season. Forecast for this fire season is to have below average fire conditions thanks so soil moisture content and a spring thaw that is taking its sweet time. 

One aspect of snow that the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRSC) looks at is the amount of water that is in the snow, or the Snow Water Equivalent (SWE). As of June 3, 2019, the statewide SWE is at an astounding 539%. Now, this number is compared to all other June 3's that we have a record of. Keep in mind that in other years, we may have had minimal snow on the ground or we may have had a below average peak snow.

snowpack
Colorado Snow Water Equivalent Update 

The main takeaway that we need to get from this is that yes, our snowpack is looking very healthy and compared to other years, the amount of snow still left is rather extraordinary. Especially down in the San Juan mountains where SWE is running about 10X higher than normal. 

Where this is all mostly good news, there are some concerns that we need to mention. There's a lot of water stuck up in that snow still and we are in June after all. Summer is right around the corner which means warmer temperatures and rain showers rather than snow showers will be more prominent in the mountains. Snowmelt should begin any time now and once it starts, we're going to see all of the frozen water melt and run downstream into our rivers and creeks. Flooding could be a concern to worry about. 

We are also seeing delayed spring up in the mountains. Many of the trees are just now blooming or have yet to bloom (at higher elevations) which has kept mud season a little longer this year. Overall, the mountains are very healthy right now. The snow and the extent of the snowpack and length of the snow season has helped to kill off some of the pine beetles! The Climate Prediction Center is forecasting June, July, and August to run slightly above average in the precipitation realm. This is good to know as we approach fire season and summer season. 

precip
June, July and August Precipitation Forecast shows slightly above normal precip for Colorado

We'll continue to watch the SWE over the next few weeks. Until then, enjoy some spring skiing at Aspen this weekend (June 8-9) and Arapahoe Basin for weekends until June 23! Many of our other resorts are or will be opening for summer operations over the next few weeks and our summer season is expected to be very good as well. 

 

~Andy 

Andy is Colorado Ski Country's Communication Coordinator. He is also a trained meteorologist with over 6 years of experience working most recently as a broadcast meteorologist. Andy loves Colorado and has been skiing since he was 4 years old. The weather in Colorado fascinates him which makes working for a very weather dependent industry very appealing. 

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