By the numbers
Steamboat Ski Area snowfall (in inches)
January 2013: 56.5
January average : 74.89 (1979 to 2012)
Driest January: 17 (1981)
Season snowfall so far: 197.25 (as of 5 a.m. Friday)
Average seasonal snowfall: 309.58 (1979 to 2012)
Steamboat Springs One week ago, Steamboat Ski Area was on its way to setting a record — but not the kind anyone wanted.
With just 8 inches of snow falling through Jan. 24, last month was about to go down in Steamboat Ski Area history as the driest January in more than 30 years.
By the time January officially came to a close Thursday night, the month ended with a respectable — but still below average — 56.5 inches of snow.
Historically the snowiest month of the year, January typically brings an average of 74.89 inches to the slopes of the Steamboat Ski Area.
The snowiest on record was an incredible 216-inch January in 1996, which is almost 100 inches more than the second-best January, which occurred one year later with 119.75 inches.
It was one giant, slow-moving snowstorm that saved January this time around.
A couple of inches were reported last Friday, another 2 inches Sunday, a half an inch Monday then a whopping 24 inches Tuesday. Three inches were reported Wednesday and another 14 inches on Thursday.
Not only did the system save January for many skiers and riders, but it might be enough to ensure this season will at least be snowier than last winter, when the ski area received a paltry 228 inches of snow.
Including the 4 inches that were reported Friday, the ski area has received 197.25 inches of snow this season, with two-and-a-half months left of lift-served skiing. Last year at this time, only 110 inches had fallen.
Steamboat-based meteorologist Mike Weissbluth said there were indications weeks ago that a system would materialize at the end of January, but it was tough to predict how well it would turn out for Steamboat.
The system arrived Monday as a warm, southwesterly storm, but the right local factors cooled the snow for a light, fluffy 24-inch powder day Tuesday. The storm track switched to a northwest flow in the middle of the week, which continued to favor Colorado’s northern mountains.
“Basically, we did very well out of the warm phase of the storm, which we normally don’t do, then we did very, very well in the cold phase of the storm,” Weissbluth said Friday.
He said the snow showers lingering into Friday afternoon gave the ski area a boost of about 6 or more additional inches that will be reported as part of Saturday's numbers.
After less-than-optimal snowfall last season, Weissbluth said it’s “absolutely” possible that 2012-13 could end up an average or above-average year for snowfall despite the dry start.
“I’m not saying we will, but there’s no reason to give up hope yet,” he said.
The city of Steamboat Springs wasn’t left out of the unusual January snowfall pattern.
The city received 32.1 inches of snow this month, with all but 4.7 inches of that total falling in the past week. The average January snowfall in town is 38.2 inches.
The storm meant city Public Works Director Chuck Anderson had plows circulating local roads 24 hours a day this week.
“When it’s snowing like that, it’s all the time,” he said.
As for the slippery driving conditions, he said the five city plows were laying down “a little bit extra” scoria.
The snow also is easing any concerns about next week’s Winter Carnival street events. Anderson said the city has been stockpiling snow at Howelsen Hill for weeks.
“We have nice, fresh, perfect powder-type snow for Winter Carnival,” he said.
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com