Snow record not even close


— Sno-kidding. In spite of the abundant early snowfall that has made it difficult for powder hounds to sleep at night, the Steamboat Ski Area isn't even close to being on pace to break the record established in December 1983.

That was the year Steamboat counted 165.5 inches of snow at mid-mountain during the month.

Local skiers are posing the question, "Is this a record December?" The only answer is, "Not yet," and it isn't likely to happen this year.

As of Thursday, the ski area needed to receive another 94.5 inches within 10 days to tie the existing December record.

The ski area has averaged 2.29 inches of snow per day this month. Through 5 a.m. on Thursday, the ski area had received 71 inches of snow at mid-mountain.

In 1983, the ski area averaged 5.34 inches of snow a day at mid-mountain. By Dec. 21, 1983, the ski area had already received 104.5 inches of snow at mid-mountain.

Remember when?

Ski area spokeswoman Cathy Wiedemer recalls that December 1986, when the ski area tallied 108 inches, was a really big month.

"When you think of it, that 108 inches really stands out," Wiedemer said.

But Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. records show that in '83, snowfall was so heavy, snow depth at the summit of Storm Peak was recorded only intermittently because it was so difficult to reach the summit.

Although this year's snow has been heavy, Wiedemer theorizes that some people's reaction is affected by the relatively sparse December snowfall of the past two years.

Longtime local Charlie Magnuson clearly recalls the 40 days and 40 nights of consecutive storms that produced the record in 1983.

"I remember driving home on Val d'Isere and the road was down to one lane with a few pullouts," Magnuson said. "The snowbanks at the side of the road were higher than my full-sized van. We've never had that since."

Flaking out

The winter of 1983-84, with 447.5 inches of snowfall, was one of the three deepest of the past two decades. Ski area records show 1996-97 topped 1983-84 by a mere quarter of an inch.

But Magnuson argues that the winter of 1983-84 was really the modern record holder. That's because the mountain already had a settled base of 50 inches (compared to this year's current 48 inches) the day before Thanksgiving, when the mountain opened.

"They didn't start counting until the mountain opened, but we really should have counted 100 to 150 inches more snow," Magnuson said. He estimates the mountain received closer to a record 600 inches of snow in 1983-84.

The other factor that is fooling people into thinking December 2000 is already a record month is that the ski area went nearly a week without snow earlier in the month, Wiedemer said.

"This snow all really came in the last two weeks," she said.

Her research shows that after receiving four inches of snow on Dec. 1 this year, the ski area didn't get any new snow from Dec. 2 through 8.

Since Dec. 9, when the snow faucet came back on to stay, the ski area's snow pattern has been remarkably like it was in 1996, when a total of 108 inches was achieved with the help of just a pair of "double-digit days," Wiedemer said.

The biggest snow event of this month was the 14 inches that fell at mid-mountain Dec. 16, followed by Dec. 18 with 12 inches.

The only day without snow since Dec. 8 was Dec. 17.

Wiedemer's records show that the ski area received snow every day but eight in December 1996.

The two biggest overnight snow accumulations were 12 inches and 10 inches.

What about December 1983? There were only two days, Dec. 29 and 30, when at least an inch of snow wasn't recorded.

The biggest dumps were all less than 20 inches 18 inches on Dec. 5, 15 inches on Dec. 20 and 12 inches on Dec. 28.

Magnuson said December 1973 was also a good snow month in the 'Boat.

"I remember driving down Lincoln Avenue and they had piled snow in the center of the street as well as on the sides. The snowbanks were so high you couldn't see the tops of the buildings," Magnuson said.

Prepare yourself ski area records show January is the heaviest snow month in Steamboat.

The biggest single month in the past 20 years was January 1996 216.5 inches.


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