‘I wish every winter was like this’
VAIL – Ed Moore, a Vail local since 1980, said this year is right up there with the best skiing seasons since he arrived.”I wish every winter was like this,” he said.Moore, an alpine and telemark skier who’s aiming for 100 days on the hill, said this year ranks in the top three early seasons he’s seen here. And he’s optimistic about the rest of the season.”I think it’s going to keep snowing,” he said.Experts tend to agree with Moore, at least for the short term. The picture for the rest of the winter is a bit uncertain, with some experts saying it’s going to keep snowing, but others saying it’s too hard to tell.State climatologist Dr. Roger Pielke Sr., a professor at Colorado State University, said Vail’s snow fortune is due to a storm track that’s bringing huge amounts of moisture from the Pacific. A weak La Nina seems to be part of the pattern, Pielke said. But the system is staying consistent, Pielke said.”The weather pattern we’ve had has been remarkably persistent,” Pielke said.It looks like the pattern will continue for the next two weeks – but Pielke said it’s hard to know what will happen the rest of the winter.
“Beyond those two weeks, forecast skills drop off,” he said.But University of Colorado climatologist Klaus Wolter was more confident the weak La Nina pattern will continue to bring snowstorms to the central and northern Colorado mountains for the next couple of months.That pattern is bringing storms to Vail from the north and northwest – while leaving the San Juans and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado with relatively little snow.The current weather trend should keep up until early March, Wolter said.”The overall pattern doesn’t look like it’ll change,” Wolter said.Wolter compared the current system to the 1995-96 season, when a similar system brought a lot of snow to the area prior to the spring.Storms moving inNational Weather Service forecaster Joe Ramey said there are two storm systems moving toward Vail in the next week – one on Sunday and one on Thursday. The Sunday storm is forecast to dump 4-8 inches in Vail, Ramey said.Those storms may also hit the dry Four Corners region. That will be welcomed by southern Colorado and New Mexico, which are seeing less snow than normal.
The amount of water in the snow – a key measurement for spring water supplies – in the Upper Rio Grande basin in southern Colorado is only 34 percent of average, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. In contrast, the Upper Colorado River basin, which includes Vail and Beaver Creek, is 131 percent of average.But Ramey said it’s hard to say how much snow will fall during the rest of ski season.Scott Toepfer, a forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, said the jet stream dipping down and bringing storms with it. He said he expects the pattern to persist for a while longer.”I would think give this another month of more snow,” he said.While the top of Vail Mountain has been getting near-record amounts of snow, the town of Avon is much closer to average, said longtime local weather watcher Frank Doll.Doll said he has 22.5 inches of settled, undisturbed snow in his back yard. But still, this is one of the better snow years in recent memory, he said.”It’s one of the higher ones we’ve had in a while,” he said.Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or firstname.lastname@example.org.