Aspen flirts with powder record
ASPEN, Colorado ” This month is shaping up as the second snowiest December in Aspen since someone started keeping records in 1934.
The official weather station at the Aspen Water Plant measured 57.5 inches of snowfall as of 8:30 a.m. Thursday. A snow-filled forecast for the last four days of December virtually guarantees this month will top the 58.30 inches that hit Aspen in December 1951.
The record for the month is 72 inches in December 1983, according to city data. That record could be challenged with a little luck.
Aspen native Erik Klanderud has a unique benchmark to measure Aspen snowfall ” the roof of his mom’s house in east Aspen. He recalled that four feet of snow covered a flat section of the roof in 1983-84. He spent two weeks of holiday break from school shoveling roofs.
“It was probably one of the hardest jobs I had,” he said.
He’s noticed that his mom’s roof is once again snowcapped to a level he hasn’t seen in years. “It probably has three feet easily,” he said.
Only the smiles of skiers and riders have accumulated quicker than the snowfall. A season that started so bleak has turned into one of the best on the slopes. Only seven inches of snow fell during a warm, dry November ” giving all but the most optimistic a sour outlook.
“It just goes to show you, Mother Nature will fool you every time,” said Jim Markalunas, a longtime Aspen weather watcher.
The snow has piled up even deeper on the higher elevations of the ski areas than in town. Much of Aspen got rain rather than snow during an early December storm. Aspen’s water plant is at an elevation of 8,148 feet. Aspen Mountain tops out at 11,200 feet while Snowmass’ Big Burn section hits 11,835.
The Aspen Skiing Co. dubbed this month “DEEPcember” because of all the powder. About 108 inches have fallen on upper Snowmass during the month ” twice the monthly average and one-third of the annual average of 300 inches for the season, according to the Skico website. The record for the month at Snowmass is 117 inches, according to Skico records.
Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands as well as Snowmass are “creeping right up behind 1983-84” for a record December, according to Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.
So far this month, there have been 10 days with four or more inches of powder on the slopes, Skico records show.
Now, the big question is: How will the rest of the winter unfold? The winter of 1983-84 set the mark with a phenomenal 278 inches of snow in town. In addition to the record-setting snowfall in December that season, 55 inches fell in November and 47.5 inches fell in March at the Aspen water plant.
The second-best season on record was 1994-95 when 239 inches fell at the plant.
Markalunas warned about getting hopes too high. The only thing predictable about the weather is unpredictability. The record of 72 inches in December 1983 was followed by only 10.5 inches of snow in January 1984.
“One month doesn’t make a trend,” Markalunas said. “You can sandwich a fat month between two slices of bread.”