Local snowpack above average thanks to early season storms

“The more snow the merrier”

The amount of snow resting on hillsides and mountaintops in the Upper Gunnison River Basin is above-average so far this winter, but this year’s snowpack isn’t quite as thick as it was during the massive snows of last winter.



The snowpack in the Upper Gunnison Basin is holding at 113 percent of average (over 30 years), according to the National Resources Conservation Service. The NRCS operates a series of snow monitoring stations in the Gunnison Valley called SNOTEL sites or snow courses, and they primarily focus on the water content of the snowpack.
Following a storm cycle that hit during the last week of January, the Gunnison Basin snowpack’s water content rose to 118 percent of average, but some warm days since then have brought it back down.
The snowpack is still about 25 percent lower than it was at this time last year.
According to SNOTEL data, up on Schofield Pass the snow is 82 inches deep, and holds a water content of 28.5 inches, which is about four inches less than last year.
When it comes to water supplies, Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District manager Frank Kugel says conservationists are rarely satisfied with the amount of snow that falls in a given season. “We’d like to see more,” he says.
Kugel says groundwater levels in the Gunnison Basin are lower because of 2008’s dry summer, and water that would normally flow downstream to Blue Mesa Reservoir could end up getting sucked into the ground this spring. “We had seven months of below-normal precipitation. We need a strong snowpack to make up for that,” Kugel says. “It’s a good start.”
In the town of Crested Butte, wastewater plant manager and town weather guru Taylor Davis says three inches of snow fell in October, 12 inches fell in November, 67.5 inches fell in December and 42.5 inches in January. “So far for the year we’ve had 125 inches, which is about 40 inches less than last year” at this time, Davis says.
 Crested Butte Mountain Resort reports 206 inches of total snowfall, with the ski season about half over. Last year CBMR had a record-setting 421 inches of snow.
With a 46-inch base midway, and all the terrain open except for the Peak, CBMR communications director Todd Walton says the skiing couldn’t be better. “Conditions are really good right now,” he says.
In addition to filling in the rocky sections on some of the resort’s extreme terrain, Walton says the extra snow also means the groomers will be kicking longer, and it gives the terrain park crews some room to buff out the park and pipe. “The more snow the merrier,” Walton says.
And more snow is on the way. The National Weather Service is forecasting the next flakes to fall this Friday, and snow should continue for several days thereafter.

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