Colorado is OPEN!
19 of our 23 member ski areas are running winter operations already!
Granby Ranch and Powderhorn open Friday, December 13, Hesperus opens December 21 and Silverton mountain opens December 26.
Colorado has been plastered with record snow since October. October, November and now December have been amazing in terms of snowfall and it doesn't look to stop anytime soon. Some ski areas have already picked up over 100" of natural snow this season!
Natural snow is great for our member ski areas but the snow we see in the winter months is also very beneficial for Colorado's water supply and areas downstream of Colorado. One way that we can tell how well Colorado is doing in terms of snowfall compared to normal is to look at our snowpack.
According to the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service Colorado, the statewide snowpack is 119% of the median. That means that right now compared to what is normal for this time of the year, we are running about 20% above the median. Now, that's the statewide average. If you look at individual river basins, some areas in Colorado are running about 25% above where that should be for this time of the year. To note: SWE stands for Snow Water Equivalent. What that means is, is you were to take all of the snow and melt it down into liquid water, you would get the Snow Water Equivalent. Essentially, our water supply is doing great thanks to the heavy snow we have seen.
Another way we can look at how this year's snowfall compares to those of years past is to look at the statewide time series snowpack summary. The 2020 water year (which is what we are currently in) is currently running higher than the median and average and higher than 2017, 2018 and 2019! If we continue to see great snowfall this winter season, we may end up with a great ski and ride season!
What about the upcoming snow?
This upcoming storm, or series of storms, will bring over a foot of fresh powder to many mountain areas by early next week. It will begin to snow in the north-central mountains by Thursday evening and it will continue to snow through Monday and possibly into Tuesday of next week. That gives a solid 3-4 days of snowfall to accumulate. The ECMWF (the European weather model) has been handling snowfall this season slightly better than some of the other reliable models.
This particular run of the model (which will likely differ from reality, but not by much) shows that many of our member ski areas will benefit greatly from this storm. Areas north of I-70 are looking to be favored with over 10" of fresh snow widespread from Arapahoe Basin to Steamboat. Areas south of I-70 like Aspen and Monarch are looking to be favored as well with possibly over a foot of snow. Ski areas like Telluride and Wolf Creek will also see a decent snowfall this week with over a half of a foot of snow possible for them.
All in all, it's shaping up to be a fantastic ski weekend across the state. We are looking at having significant snow which means there will likely be winter driving conditions across the high country. Be sure to have the appropriate car or the appropriate tires to be able to travel in the high country to avoid running into hefty fines. If you are looking for the easily accesible ski areas from Denver, check out these recomendations! And if it has been a while since you've been on a snow covered mountain, there are plenty of clinics available to give you the confidence you need to master the mountain again.
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.