Moisture contained in snow near Steamboat Springs grew by 3 percentage points in March

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— The subpar snowpack that has been building in the Colorado high country all winter is about to reach the point of no return, but at one key location on Buffalo Pass outside of Steamboat Springs, the snowpack is at least assured of surpassing that of 2012.

Steamboat Springs Weather observer Art Judson reported that as of April 3, the snowpack at the Tower measuring site at the Continental Divide on Buffalo Pass comprises 23 inches more snow than it did on the same date during the drought cycle of 2012. And there was 4.7 inches more water in the snow than there was a year ago.

That's welcome news as April 8, the typical date when Colorado's overall snowpack reaches its annual peak, arrives Monday.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service reported Wednesday that the latest snow surveys across the state confirmed that as of April 1, the water content of the snow had grown by one percent to 74 percent of the median for the date since the March 1 measurement.

"With the average date the snowpack reaches its peak in this state less than a week away, there is almost no chance that the snowpack will reach normal conditions before beginning to melt," Philipps wrote in a news release.

Meteorologist Joel Gratz, of wwwopensnow.com isn't ready to hang up his skis. He projected Thursday afternoon that Steamboat Ski Area could see 4 to 11 inches of new snow from Friday night to Monday night with the best chance of snow arriving Saturday night.

The combined Yampa/White river basins did better than the rest of the state in March, growing by three percentage points to 78 percent of median. The state average was dragged down by the Gunnison, Upper Rio Grande and San Miguel/Animas/San Juan basins in Southern Colorado, which retreated by 3, 11 and 12 percentage points respectively last month. The North Platte and Laramie basins, just over Buffalo Pass from Steamboat Springs, picked up 6 percentage points in March and now stand at 80 percent of the median.

The Tower snowpack measuring site, which sits at 10,500 feet, is important because it often leads Colorado, and its relatively high elevation means it provides snowmelt that refreshes streams and rivers into July. As of Thursday, the water stored there stood at 32 inches compared with the typical 45.1 inches on the same date.

Some of the lower elevation sites around Steamboat Springs have healthier moisture content on a percentage basis, according to the Resources Conservation Service. The 10.4 inches of water contained in the standing snow near the headwaters of the Yampa at the Crosho site at 9,100 feet is 97 percent of median. And the 10.2 inches on Lynx Pass at 8,880 feet elevation southeast of Stagecoach Reservoir is 93 percent of median.

At the western foot of Buffalo Pass, the Dry Lake site boasts 20.4 inches of water equating to 79 percent of median.

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

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