Donna Teer, visiting from Illinois, enjoys the sun and atmosphere Friday morning at the base of Steamboat Ski Area while her family is skiing. Balmy conditions and a lack of precipitation have this month on track to be one of the driest Marches on record in Steamboat Springs.

Photo by John F. Russell

Donna Teer, visiting from Illinois, enjoys the sun and atmosphere Friday morning at the base of Steamboat Ski Area while her family is skiing. Balmy conditions and a lack of precipitation have this month on track to be one of the driest Marches on record in Steamboat Springs.

March poised to be 2nd-driest in Steamboat history

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Muddy areas have started to show through in areas at the base of Steamboat Ski Area. Typically, March is one of the snowiest months, but this may go down as one of the driest ever.

— With no rain or snow in the forecast Saturday, March could finish as the second-driest on record with a total of 0.68 inches of precipitation in the city of Steamboat Springs.

According to local weather observer Art Judson, March 1910 received only 0.49 inches of precipitation. The measurements include rain and the water-equivalent of snow.

Judson recorded 10.4 inches of snow this March at his measuring station off Anglers Drive. It is the seventh-lowest March snowfall on record for years with complete records.

At Steamboat Ski Area, 21 inches have been measured at midmountain this March. It is the lowest March snow total from ski area records going back to the season of 1979-80. March 1997 saw the second-lowest snowfall at Mount Werner, with 24 inches. Average March snowfall at the ski area is 52 inches.

Since October, 224 inches of snow has fallen at midmountain at the ski area. February saw the heaviest snowfall with a midmountain total of 93 inches.

“I think we are luckier than other folks because we were able to get that huge February storm,” ski area spokeswoman Loryn Kasten said, referring to the 27 inches that fell in a 24-hour period Feb. 19 to 20.

With a melting base — on Thursday it was 39 inches, down from 65 inches on March 1 — some may be wondering if there will be enough snow to ski before the April 15 closing day at the ski area. Saturday's high temperature is forecast to be 72 degrees.

“It would have been a rough year without snowmaking, that’s for sure,” acknowledged Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.

Allen said the ski area does not plan to close early this year, unlike Colorado ski areas Monarch Mountain and Ski Cooper, which will close a week early. Monarch will close April 8, and Ski Cooper will close this weekend. Neither of those ski areas make snow.

With the warm weather, Allen said, maintaining a skiable surface has been a challenge on flatter terrain and catwalks. However, about 80 percent of the ski area’s trails still are open.

The half-pipe at the base serves as snow storage, and Allen said that every night, some of that snow has been pushed onto other areas of the mountain.

The skiing still is great up top, Allen said, and he said it likely will remain that way after the mountain closes. But if top-to-bottom skiing becomes too difficult, the ski area could have skiers and riders download on the gondola. Allen said that measure was used during the 1996-97 season.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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