Roaring Fork basin snow accumulation 20 percent more than usual

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Colorado's snowpack is 20 percent above average and even better in the Roaring Fork River basin, according to the latest report from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The current statewide snowpack is the highest since 1997 for Jan. 1, the agency said. The snowpack is even higher than last January's prolific mark in many basins in the state.

In the Roaring Fork River basin, which includes the Fryingpan and Crystal River valleys, the snowpack is 40 percent above average and among the highest levels recorded in the state.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service has seven automated snowpack measuring stations in the basin. One east of Aspen showed the snowpack 42 percent above average Tuesday afternoon.

The snowpack has exceeded 50 percent of average in parts of the Fryingpan and Crystal valleys. It is 53 percent above average at the North Lost Trail site near Marble. Elsewhere in the Crystal, it is 33 percent above average at McClure Pass and 37 percent above average at Schofield Pass.

In the Fryingpan Valley above Basalt, the snowpack is 58 percent above average at the Ivanhoe site and 35 percent at the Nast site, but only 19 percent above average at the Kiln site, the conservation service's data said.

The snowpack is 20 percent above last year's level in the Colorado River basin, which includes the Roaring Fork drainage. Like last year, the fall was dry, then it started snowing in December and didn't stop throughout the month. Aspen Highlands received more snow in December 2008 than the prior year; Aspen Mountain got about the same amount.

The abundant early season snow bodes well for strong runoff in the spring. However, state conservationist Allen Green warned that the picture could change before winter is finished.

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