Snowstorm drops a bundle;  more expected at week's end

From the left, freshmen Danielle Thurston and Dylan Scarborough, junior Patrick Martinez, and sophomore Maddie Burdine build a snowman named Olaf during lunch period at Grand Junction High School on Monday.

Western Colorado foothills towns are enjoying bragging rights when it comes to an early-December snowstorm that whitened Grand Junction, with more moisture looming for the region later this week.

Grand Junction Regional Airport received 2.6 inches during a 24-hour period ending Monday morning, the most since 3.4 inches fell Jan. 21 during what was the biggest storm of the 2017-18 winter season. One Fruita-area measuring site received a reported 5 inches.

Parts of Cortez received as much as 10 inches of snow, even as places such as Silverton and Telluride didn't get much snow, said Chris Cuoco, senior forecaster for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

"The big winner was the southwestern (Colorado) foothills," he said.

In southeastern Utah, both mountains and valleys benefited nicely. Nineteen inches of snow smothered La Sal Mountains measuring site, while Moab got 3 inches, Blanding, 6, and the Neck area of Canyonlands National Park, 5.7 inches.

Powderhorn Mountain Resort received 4 inches over 24 hours, but its marketing and sales manager, Ryan Robinson, said the resort has gotten at least 23 inches since Nov. 29, and 51 inches so far for the season.

"By comparison, the running snowfall total wasn't above 50 inches till mid-February last season," he said.

Robinson acknowledges that last season set a low bar given the poor snowfall.

"But if you're comparing the two seasons we're off to a tremendous start," he said.

National Weather Service data shows snow accumulations of 11 and 13.5 inches, respectively, at what are called the Mesa and Skyway measuring sites on Grand Mesa over the last 72 hours.

Robinson said while Powderhorn is monitoring forecasts for more snow and there's an off-chance of it opening early, it most likely will stick with its planned Dec. 13 opening to ensure safe and skiable conditions.

Clearing conditions Monday combined with the snow-covered ground were expected to result in the coldest temperatures thus far for the season around the region Monday night. Cuoco said there's at least a fair chance of snow in the region Wednesday night through Saturday morning, although that storm doesn't look particularly strong for Grand Junction, and then another storm is forecast to arrive around Dec. 12-13.

"Like anybody we're glad that we're getting a more normal snowfall this year, and hopefully it will fill up our reservoirs next spring and we'll avoid the problems we had last year," he said.

While there's still a long snowpack season ahead, "it's been a good start and we're hoping it will continue," he said.

Drought-stricken southwest Colorado has responded favorably to the snowfall of recent days.

Snowpack in the Gunnison River Basin rose from 94 percent of normal Thursday to 108 percent as of Monday, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and cumulative snowpack in river basins in far-southwest Colorado rose from 70 percent of normal to 80 percent over that same time.

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