Think spring has arrived? The Buddy Werner statue on top of Storm Peak at Steamboat Ski Area told a different story Thursday. Ski area officials say they can’t remember so much snow on Mount Werner so late into spring.

Larry Pierce/courtesy

Think spring has arrived? The Buddy Werner statue on top of Storm Peak at Steamboat Ski Area told a different story Thursday. Ski area officials say they can’t remember so much snow on Mount Werner so late into spring.

Steamboat snow depth sets record

Snow was 15 feet deep Friday at the summit of Buffalo Pass



What spring? Ski Patrol headquarters on Mount Werner remains inundated with snow nearly two weeks after the Steamboat Ski Area closed for the season. Some ski area officials say they can't ever remember so much snow on Mount Werner so late into spring.

— The snow at the summit of Buffalo Pass never has been deeper than it was Friday morning.

Mike Gillespie, Colorado Snow Survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver, confirmed that the snow depth at the Tower measuring site stood at 180 inches, or 15 feet, setting a record for measured snow depths there that go back to the mid-1960s. The previous record was the 175-inch snow depth recorded on April 25, 1978.

“It will be a welcome change when these storms let up,” Gillespie said Friday. “We certainly have enough water supply.”

He acknowledged that the heavy snowpack comes with the potential for flooding late in spring, depending on weather patterns and how the deep snowpack melts.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction issued a flood advisory Friday morning for central Routt County and Steamboat Springs, in effect until 10:30 a.m. Monday.

The advisory was based on continuing rain and snow showers with daytime temperatures above freezing.

“Excessive snowmelt runoff will cause minor flooding of small creeks, streets and roadways,” the Weather Service cautioned.

Although the snow depth is at record levels, the amount of moisture in the snow on Buffalo Pass, 68.2 inches, is less than what was measured on April 25, 1978, when it was 71.1 inches.

Fresh snow settles daily, and today’s reading likely differs after settling and the addition of fresh snow late Friday afternoon.

Evidence of the unusually deep April snowpack was clear in less scientific terms at the summit of Storm Peak at Steamboat Ski Area. The bronze helmet on the bust of the late Steamboat skiing great Buddy Werner was barely protruding from the snow Thursday, though it is mounted on a post that towers above a tall person on a summer day. And all but the crossbar on a large trail information sign was buried in a photograph taken Friday by Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. photographer Larry Pierce.

“Mountain crews have been up top over the past week, with one individual saying that the summit stake read 160 inches” Tuesday, ski area spokesman Mike Lane said Friday. “Larry Pierce took a photo of the summit stake measuring 149 inches yesterday before any more snow fell overnight. I don’t think we have ever seen snow that high on the Buddy statue. I know I’ll never doubt tapping or touching Buddy’s statue for good luck and good snow ever again.”

At Sunshine Peak, the ski patrol headquarters also was wearing a thick cap of snow reminiscent of a January blizzard above 10,000 feet.

The snowpack (moisture in the snow) at the Tower site is 134 percent of average for the date, but on a percentage basis only, some of the most profound measurements are at sites below 9,000 feet. The most notable of those is near Dry Lake Campground at the base of Buffalo Pass, where melting snow feeds streams including Soda and Spring creeks, which flow through Old Town Steamboat Springs. The moisture near Dry Lake at 8,400 feet measures 171 percent of average, the equivalent of 35.5 inches of water on the ground.

“We’re really seeing snowpack that is well above average at lower elevations as well as up high,” Gillespie said.

Up north on the edge of the west side of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area, the Elk River measuring site stands at 160 percent of average. And in South Routt, Lynx Pass at 8,880 feet is at 148 percent of average, and Crosho Lake, outside Phippsburg at 9,100 feet on the edge of the Flat Tops, is at 163 percent of average.

The west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass is at 157 percent of average with 105 inches of standing snow.

Gillespie said the trigger that will signal the onset of spring runoff from high elevation snowfields, usually in May, is the arrival of overnight low temperatures that do not go below freezing.

“The thing that really helps to control runoff is cool nighttime temperatures,” Gillespie said. “When we exceed 32-degree minimums, we’re getting melting around the clock, and there’s little to slow it down.”

That’s when the potential for flooding from historically high flows is at its greatest.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email


exduffer 5 years, 11 months ago

Those dispensaries are making hell freeze over I tell ya.


rhys jones 5 years, 11 months ago

"has never been deeper"? How far back does "ever" go? I heard 1491 was a bad snow year, but nobody measured it then. They were all stoned, since it was legal then. They just made first tracks; Buddy wasn't here yet either, so they had no statue to compare. Hysterical note -- I mean, historical note. Check your facts, Pilot.


Nicole Miller 5 years, 11 months ago

highwaystar: The story says "... setting a record for measured snow depths there that go back to the mid-1960s."

Nicole Miller news editor 970-871-4246


JJ Southard 5 years, 11 months ago

In other ski communities, the mountain has the option of paying the forest service extra to extend closing day. Our lease is different? It seems it IS different, or else Ski Corp and Intrawest truly DON'T like the locals. I think the latter is the most true.


Brian Smith 5 years, 11 months ago

GreenGenes, liking the locals and making financially good choices for your company are two different things. If you owned a business (you may), would you stay open to make the locals happy even if you were losing money doing it? I like knowing the date the ski area closes ahead of time, makes it a bit easier to schedule my vacation.


exduffer 5 years, 11 months ago

I believe the payment to the FS is based on skiers visits. The lease is a year round affair.


rhys jones 5 years, 11 months ago

My almost-bad, earlier. The gross overstatement of the leading paragraph was soon qualified, but not until it had had its misleading effect. Technically, it was wrong. Or at least, maybe not right, enough to rate a qualifier of its own, such as "in modern history." I'll leave that alone now; I was just having fun, tired of overstatement, always the most and the coldest, hottest, whatever the topic.

What I'm writing to suggest is that the mountain stay open, in good years, past closing day, and staffed by volunteers. I used to be a lift operator, and I would have contributed some of my time. You could get by with reduced lifts -- Christie/Arrowhead if the gondie was closed, BC, Storm -- Elkhead and Sunshine would open that side. Ski Corp could still run some concessions, but close down the vast majority -- lessons, day care, etc. They could even leave one ticket window open, to catch the spontaneous and Denver crowds. There are enough experienced people remaining in town after closing day to keep that mountain going at a minimal cost.

My guess is it would not be a money-losing proposition, but there may be factors I have failed to consider. Relevant, topical -- comments?


exduffer 5 years, 11 months ago

highway- work comp, electricity for lifts, light and heat, fuel for grooming, wear and tear on machinery, trash removal ...


Fred Duckels 5 years, 11 months ago

Volunteers? What about liability? What if your volunteers are stoned or drunk? Next idea!!


mtntrekker 5 years, 11 months ago

It has snowed several feet since closing day for the last several years. The mountain always closes before mid april. You would think Intrawest would get the hint and stay open at least another week if not two. Summit county resorts stay open later than we do, and they get less snow. A-Basin stays open until June with 1 run. I am sure Intrawest could work out a deal with the forest service to stay open later. Like highwaystar said, the mountain could run on a reduced basis. Offer reduced lift ticket prices. There are still a lot of local/Denver die hard skiers/boarders who would love to be on the mountain right now. Keeping people in town longer = $$$ for the economy. Once the mountain closes, people take off for Utah and spend their money there. Since I can't hit the trails on my mountain bike yet, I would go ski.


exduffer 5 years, 11 months ago

Once again, the lease is year round renewed every 5 years I believe. The FS does not dictate opening and closing dates, economics does.


freerider 5 years, 11 months ago

Ski Corp. Sucks ....they always have , it's too bad the ski area isn't owned by locals and run by locals for locals

Ski Corp treats their seasonal employees like crap and could care less about this community or their employees

A few of the high paid suck-ups are treated well but that's it ...piss on everybody else

They pay pathetic wages and expect you to act like your grateful because they are throwing you as bone

arf arf arf goes the ski corp employee


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