Raindrops keep falling on Aspen | VailDaily.com

Raindrops keep falling on Aspen

Janet Urquhart
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesLunchtime diners enjoy a rare bit of sunshine Monday on the patio at Pacifica, where Claire Thomas waits to seat customers. Rainy days have put a damper on outdoor activities in Aspen of late
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ASPEN – Aspen isn’t Seattle, but you’d never know it from the weather.

Monsoon season in Aspen has arrived far earlier than the usual mid- to late-summer start to afternoon rains and thundershowers. As often as not, it’s overcast and gray first thing in the morning these days, and temperatures have remained unseasonably cool.

On the positive side, lawns have never looked better, wildflower fanatics are bracing for a showy display in the high country thanks to the abundant moisture, and fire danger in the backcountry is nil.

“It’s like the Pacific Northwest around here right now,” noted Tom Grady, director of operations at the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, where the seasonal discussion of fire restrictions has yet to take place for obvious reasons.

The downside to all the rain is the abundant growth means more vegetation that could burn later, Grady said.

“It’s the Catch-22,” he said. “All this rain will create more fuels later. We will not escape it.

“We could get zero rain for a couple of weeks and it will dry out just like that,” Grady said.

Those who live in rural areas would be wise to keep the tall grasses mowed around their homes and other buildings, added Scott Thompson, Basalt fire chief.

“It may do very well for them come July and August.”

In the meantime, the weather – Sunday brought pouring rain, hail and snow in various parts of the Roaring Fork Valley – is a regular topic of conversation, if not outright grumbling.

“It’s been interesting,” said Glen Loper, owner of Groundskeepers of Aspen, a landscape and lawn-care firm.

Loper was forced to shut off the sprinkler systems at clients’ homes as the lawns are getting so much rain. In fact, it’s been difficult to get the lush grass cut between the showers.

“The past two weeks, we’ve had to work Saturdays to get caught up,” he said. “I could probably count on one hand the number of times we’ve had to do that.

“It’s gloomy and everyone’s cranky, but everything’s green.”

Some Aspen shops, at least, are enjoying an uptick in the purchase of rain gear, or browsing customers. “Sometimes they come in just to get out of the rain,” said one shopkeeper.

Restaurateurs who typically capitalize on Aspen’s penchant for al fresco dining have seen little of it so far this month.

On Monday, though, Aspen’s lunchtime crowd enjoyed a rare bit of sunshine breaking through partly cloudy skies.

“Certain resilient people are determined to sit outside,” said Russell Hoffberger, owner of Pacifica, which opened for the season on Friday and kept its patio open until Sunday evening, when it simply got too cold. Snow fell, albeit briefly, Hoffberger said.

Mezzaluna keeps its outdoor tables set up and ready for dining, though the effort is often futile.

“We have to break it up and put everything away five or six times a day,” said manager Antonio Alvarado.

And, the weather puts a damper on business, he said.

It’s definitely slower when it’s colder,” Alvarado said.

As for this week’s weather forecast, the National Weather Service was calling for mostly cloudy skies with a chance of rain Tuesday morning and more rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon, with highs in the 50s. Rain is possible Tuesday night, with snow predicted above 10,000 feet. On Wednesday, the weather service was calling for mostly cloudy skies with possible rain in the morning. Rain and snow showers are likely in the afternoon, with highs of 45 to 55.

On Friday through Saturday, the forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies with a chance of rain and thunderstorms hovering at 40 to 50 percent each day.

janet@aspentimes.com