Snow pattern returns

Ski area records more than 23 inches of snow in six days

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The snow spigots have been turned on once again, and the snowpack in the Yampa and White River basins stands at more than 126 percent of average.

With the official first day of winter still a day away, the snow depth on Buffalo Pass, northeast of Steamboat Springs, stands at 96.6 inches, according to tentative data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Steamboat Ski Area on Monday was reporting season-long snowfall at mid-mountain of 157 inches. Steamboat has counted 74 inches of snow this month, already surpassing the average monthly snowfall of 70.4 inches. And that includes six days, from Dec. 8 to 13, when no snowfall was recorded.

"We had a nice fall, and we didn't get much moisture," Vance Fulton of the conservation center in Steamboat said. "Now we're making up for it."

The biggest December snowfall on the ski area in the past 25 years was recorded in 1983, when 165.5 inches fell.

The Natural Resource Con--servation Service monitors snowpack to give water managers and irrigators data about the anticipated spring runoff. Buffalo Pass, on the Continental Divide, typically has one of the top-two snowpack totals in the state. The snow/water equivalent at a remote sensing site there Monday was 20.3 inches. That converts to 117 percent of average for the date.

Fulton noted that despite all the recent snow, the late start to the snow season in the Northern Colorado Rockies this year factors into snow moisture content. It is too early in the season to reach conclusions about the snowpack in April, he added.

Elsewhere in the Yampa and White River basins, the snow/water equivalent at Ripple Creek Pass on the way to Trappers Lake was 162 percent of average. On the east side of Rabbit Ears Pass, at the Columbine snow survey it was 156 percent of average. The Elk River snow-measuring site stands at 115 percent. Despite the percentage differences, none of the latter three sites had nearly as much snowpack as Buffalo Pass.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction is forecasting a chance of snow through tonight, with the storm giving way to partly cloudy skies on Wednesday.

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