Statewide snowpack numbers above average
Local snowpack is 114 percent of normal for this time of year, and most of the rest of Colorado is normal, says the Natural Resource Conservation Service.
“The statewide snowpack is right where it needs to be for this time of year. It’s difficult to make up an early-season deficit in snow accumulation, so being right at normal is a great place to be,” said Brian Domonkos, snow survey supervisor with the NRCS.
Above normal locally
The Upper Colorado River Basin is running 14 percent ahead of normal, as are the Yampa and White River basin, and the South Platte River basin, the NRCS said.
The water year begins in October and in 2014 the weather was unseasonably warm and precipitation was nearly nonexistent.
However, November brought cooler temperatures and snow to the mountains. The moisture stopped before Thanksgiving and the state experienced an unusual lack of moisture for over two weeks, Domonkos said.
But skiers and winter enthusiasts had no reason to be concerned. A few big December storms brought significant snow just in time for the Christmas holiday, boosting statewide snowpack totals to 99 percent of median statewide by Jan. 1.
Besides the Colorado River basin at 114 percent of median, the Gunnison Basin is 99 percent of median and the South Platte basin is 112 percent of median.
Statewide reservoir storage is in good shape; end-of-December storage totals were at 103 percent of average, Domonkos said.
The normal is based on the 30-year average between 1980-2010, said Diane Johnson with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. That norm will be adjusted in 2020 for the next 30-year cycle between 1990-2020.
“Snowpack is all about good conditions on the hill, good conditions in the rivers, and a good water supply,” Johnson said.
Johnson tends to be cautious, and while she’s encouraged by the early season snowpack, she said a great deal can happen between now and April, or worse, nothing can happen.
Not all good news
Unfortunately not all of the major basins in Colorado are reporting normal snowpack conditions.
The Upper Rio Grande and San Juan, Animas, Dolores, and San Miguel basins are reporting totals of just 71 and 75 percent of median respectively, according to the NRCS.
That’s not great news for these areas that have not recorded a normal seasonal snowpack since 2010, Domonkos said.
“If these basins don’t receive increased precipitation over the next few months, they may be looking at their fifth consecutive year of below normal snowpack and seasonal streamflow runoff,” Domonkos said.
Across the rest of the West, well below normal snowpack dominates throughout the Cascades of Washington and Oregon, the Sierra Nevada of California, as well as in much of other southern parts of the West, said the National Water and Climate Center.
The graduates of Vail Mountain School’s class of 2019 will be off to far-flung destinations next fall, set to enter college in one of 16 different states or explore the world on a gap year. One grad is even attending college in Canada.