Palmer Hoyt skis Wednesday at Steamboat Ski Area, which has been blanketed by more than four feet of snow in the past week and more than 100 inches of snow in December. Despite the dumps, snowpack in Northwest Colorado is at 84 percent of the December average.

Larry Pierce/courtesy

Palmer Hoyt skis Wednesday at Steamboat Ski Area, which has been blanketed by more than four feet of snow in the past week and more than 100 inches of snow in December. Despite the dumps, snowpack in Northwest Colorado is at 84 percent of the December average.

Local snowpack still behind

Yampa Basin moisture at 84 percent of December norm

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— Powder skiers won't believe it and snowblower operators won't want to hear it, but all of the snow that has fallen on the Yampa Valley this holiday week hasn't been enough. At least, it hasn't been enough to push the moisture contained in the accumulated snow to 100 percent of norms for Dec. 26.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is reporting that snowpack across the Yampa and White river drainages is 84 percent of average. That report comes in the midst of a period in which the Steamboat Ski Area has counted four feet of snow in the past week.

"All of this has been light, fluffy Steamboat champagne powder, but with that doesn't come a lot of water," said Lori Jazwick said, the district conservationist with the NRCS in Steamboat Springs.

Jazwick's staff will begin venturing into the mountains in late January to manually collaborate the data currently being gathered by remote-sensing devices.

Longtime weather observer Art Judson said he has recorded 58.1 inches of snow this season at his measuring station between downtown Steamboat Springs and the ski area. The season total nearly doubled in the last six days, with 27.8 inches falling on his weather station, Judson said. Of that, 13.3 inches fell from Sunday through Tuesday.

Close to home, the snowpack at 9,400 feet on the west side of Rabbit Ears Pass contains 8.1 inches of water, compared to a norm of 9.2 inches Dec. 26. At the 10,500-foot summit of Buffalo Pass, the Tower measuring site is reporting almost 12 inches of moisture, significantly less than the average of 19 inches.

One of the stars of the early snowpack season in the Yampa Basin is the measuring site on the upper Elk River, which is reporting 6.7 inches of moisture - 106 percent of average.

Jazwick said it is premature to become worried about the water supply on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains.

"It's still very early," she said. "I don't think it's anything to get excited about."

The snowpack information compiled by the NRCS is critical to municipal and agricultural water users far downstream on the Colorado River system.

"They use it to forecast how much water they'll have throughout the summer," Jazwick said.

There is good news early this winter for people living downstream on the Rio Grande and Arkansas rivers, where basin snowpack is at 142 percent and 116 percent of average, respectively. The San Juan River has a good chance to funnel above-average water into Lake Powell this spring - snowpack there is 135 percent of average.

On Wolf Creek Summit, in the extreme southern Colorado Rockies, the snowpack contains 19.8 inches of water compared to the average of 13.5 inches for the date. The snowpack on Wolf Creek Summit typically peaks May 5, at 37.2 inches.

To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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