Early snow falling mostly in north

La Niña leaving south fairly dry, at least for now

Ski resorts in northern and central Colorado are benefitting from La Nina while southern areas are falling short, according to a report released Wednesday from the National Resources Conservation Service.

The report, titled the Ski West Report, is an estimate of snow depths around ski areas across the West.

La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean usually bring more snow to northern ski resorts, and this year Steamboat Springs already is reporting a record November snowfall of 90 inches.

While the north half of the state is above average in its snowfall, “It appears across the West that the Southwest is fairly dry, and that extends into southern Colorado, as we would expect to see during a La Nina,” said Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the National Resources Conservation Service in Denver.

According the report, the area around Steamboat has received 178 percent of its 30-year average snowfall to this date. The area around Keystone, Arapaho Basin and Loveland ski area is 157 percent of average, while the snowpack around Copper Mountain and Breckenridge is 139 percent of average.

Southern ski resorts are showing the usual lighter snowfalls characteristic of La Nina conditions. The area around Purgatory near Durango is at 100 percent of average, Telluride is at 98 percent, and Wolf Creek registers 84 percent.

Gillespie cautioned that while it appears the winter is trending toward a typical La Nina winter, it’s still early in the snow year.

“You need to keep in mind this early in the season that it’s easy to have fairly wild fluctuations in percentages because we aren’t dealing with a lot of snowpack,” he said. “A couple of inches makes a lot of difference when you have 6 inches of snow on the ground.

“If we have this much of an extreme swing later, in April say, it would be much more newsworthy.”

Snowpack in the Colorado River Basin within the state is at 130 percent of average as of Dec. 1, the report said. The North Platte River basin is at 146 percent of average. The snowpack in the San Juan, Animas, Dolores and San Miguel rivers area is at 67 percent, while the Rio Grande Basin is a 56 percent.


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