Yampa River Basin and mountains surrounding Steamboat Springs among state leaders in snowpack

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— Colorado still has a good deal of water to make up before it recovers from the drought of 2012, but the sudden reversal of early winter snowfall patterns in the Rocky Mountains has created reason for optimism. The combined Yampa/White river drainages are near the forefront of eight major drainages around the state.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service is reporting that the water stored in the snow on the ground in the Yampa/White river basin now stands at 76 percent of average, but there are snow measuring sites around Routt County that are significantly higher, including Crosho Lake south of Yampa at 92 percent, Whiskey Park in far North Routt at 86 percent, and Rabbit Ears Pass at 80 percent.

Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth says the Park Range can be expected to add to the snowpack during the holidays.

“A nice dynamic and quick-moving system looks to drop about a foot on the (ski) hill by (Christmas Day), with the bulk of it coming (Monday) afternoon and overnight,” he wrote in an email.

The standing snow on the west side of Rabbit Ears Pass had settled to a depth of 27 inches as of Christmas Eve morning.

Only the neighboring Laramie and North Platte basin, at 81 percent of average, is closer to normal water storage than is the Yampa/White river basin.

Like the Yampa River, the North Platte drains the Park Range, but from the eastern side of the Continental Divide. It also collects water from the Never Summer mountain range, where the snow-measuring site at Willow Creek Pass between Walden and Granby is the only site in the state currently at 100 percent of average water content.

The Tower measuring site at 10,500 feet on Buffalo Pass has 48 inches of snow on the ground, and that 10.8 inches of water content translates to just 69 percent of average for Dec. 24. The snow at the Elk River measuring site in North Routt stood at 32 inches on Dec. 19, but that number had settled to 22 inches by Monday morning. The water in the snow is 71 percent of average.

Weissbluth wrote Monday that an upcoming change in polar weather patterns could suspend the flow of snow into Northwest Colorado for New Year's.

“It looks like snowfall may be interrupted for a week as the cold air in Siberia re-crosses the North Pole and establishes a vortex in Hudson Bay and a ridge over the Gulf of Alaska,” he wrote. “We can get snow from this pattern as cold air breaks westward from this vortex, or storms undercut the Gulf of Alaska ridge, but this is not an ideal pattern for accumulating snowfall.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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