January snow isn't what it used to be


— Steamboat skiers and snowboarders would be thrilled with an average January snowfall, but that's something that has eluded Mount Werner for three of the last four Januarys. As the ski area enters the last week of the month, there is snow in the forecast, but it would take 3 feet to reach the historical average.

Steamboat has received 44 inches at mid-mountain this month. That matches last year's total for the entire month. But the 25-year average for the month of January is more than 80 inches of snow.

With seven days remaining in the month, the National Weather Service in Grand Junction is forecasting a chance of snow beginning Wednesday and continuing through Saturday.

Snowboarder Hazen Kreis said he and his friends are making the most of current ski conditions.

"We're doing some fast groomers in the morning and a little slush in the afternoon," Kreis said. "It's not bad because we like to jib park-style. The whole mountain is one big park when it's this hard."

Kreis said he and his riding buddies are finding solid air hits off cat tracks and terrain features all over the ski mountain.

Historically, January is Steamboat's biggest snow month. Records going back to 1980 reflect average snowfall in the first month of the year of 82.68 inches. And there have been six times in the last 25 years when January snowfall exceeded 100 inches. The record was set in 1996 when 216.5 inches fell at mid-mountain. The all-time low came in 1981 when just 17 inches fell in January.

December 2004 included one memorable powder day when skiers and riders were greeted by 11 inches of snow. The first week of January produced excellent skiing with 6 inches Jan. 6 and another 7 inches Jan. 7. The snow cycle kicked back in Jan. 11 with 8 inches, 10 inches the following day and another 4 inches Jan. 13. It has been seven days since the last snowfall, when 2 inches fell Jan. 17.

When it comes to big powder days, January 1996 was the stuff of legend, Steamboat spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen said. The ski area had an overnight total of 24 inches of snow Jan. 23 and another 26 inches Jan. 31. And those monster powder mornings were bracketed with lesser snowfalls.

Last year at this time, Steamboat had recorded 26 inches of snow for the month through Jan. 23. A Pacific storm front saved the month, piling up an additional 18 inches in the last eight days of the month.

Skiers and riders are hoping something similar happens this year.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com


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