Snow on the way or so they say |

Snow on the way or so they say

Alex Miller
CVR NY Mtn. SM 3-4

VAIL – The specifics are a little fuzzy, but forecasters are predicting the warm, sunny weather seen around the state lately is on its way out. In its place will be a prolonged period of more turbulent weather that should bring new snow to the mountains.That’s good news for skiers and boarders, who were spoiled in the first part of the season with abundant powder and who now have to endure hard-packed and even icy conditions in places.”Unless the sun is really strong, the snow stays hard,” said Robin Lundgaard at Pepi Sports in Vail. “We still have a good base and it’s holding up well, but there’s no such thing as too much snow.”According to Mike Chamberlain, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, a transition to more unsettled weather should begin Tuesday with colder air moving in to replace the high pressure that’s caused all the sunny weather.”This pattern looks like it will continue well into next week,” Chamberlain said, adding that winter weather warnings and advisories will likely result. But no specific predictions for accumulation amounts have been made yet, he said.With several storms developing in the Pacific, Chamberlain said they’ll move into the mountain region from the Northwest. By Sunday or Monday, he said, most of the West will be under a big, low-pressure system that should generate significant amounts of snow in the mountains and rain at lower elevations.Recent warm weather has caused a great deal of snow to melt in the mountain valleys, but it hasn’t had much effect on the overall snowpack. According to data from snow observation stations on Vail Mountain, Copper Mountain and Fremont Pass, this year’s snowpack – as measured in inches of water equivalent – is still far above average and tracking similar to the epic winter of 1983-84.

In that year, the snowpack level reached nearly 90 inches of water at is peak in early May – about 30 inches more than an average year. Mike Bauer, conservation specialist for the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District, said he was pleased to see how well the local snowpack has hung in there. “We’re holding our own pretty well,” he said, referring to recent warm weather. “I thought we’d be depleted, but the meltdown is more at road level.”A typically snow-heavy March and April will see local snowpack remain well above average into the runoff season, Bauer said. But it also depends on temperatures.”The big questions is when does it peak and how rapidly does it run off?” he said. “We like to see it stick around until mid to late June.”Drought elsewhereWhile the northern and central mountains are in good shape, the same isn’t true in southern Colorado. “It’s pretty dry down there,” said Mike Gillespie, the snowpack supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “It’s looking like a drought situation for a big part of the southwestern part of the country.”

In his monthly report, Gillespie said that even some of the river basins that were reporting impressive snowpack numbers have dipped down to just above average in the past two months. Overall, the state snowpack is at 89 percent of average.”For most water users across southern Colorado, this year’s runoff outlook mirrors that of 2002, one of the worst drought years the state has faced in decades,” said Allen Green, state conservationist with the Conservation Service.Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14625, or Daily, Vail, Colorado

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