Tom Ross: TV meteorologists save January |

Tom Ross: TV meteorologists save January

An old John Deere tractor no longer in service sits in a snow-covered hay meadow at the Brown Farms along Colorado Highway 131 just south of Steamboat Springs.

Thank whiteness there is more snow in Steamboat's forecast for Sunday, because we haven't been getting our share. Even if it dumps on the last day of the month, January 2010 will not go down in Steamboat history as 31 days of abundance.

And if you have the empty feeling that you haven't had the opportunity to shred the white gold you're entitled to this winter, it's no illusion.

Steamboat skiers and television weather forecasters still were celebrating at midweek after more than 15 inches of fluff fell early in the week. The skiing was very good, and conditions turned around just in time.

Steamboat old-timers will tell you that the snow gods always show off this time of year when the ski area hosts TV weather dudes and dudettes from all across the country for the annual weather summit.

Just ask the folks in Paducah, Ky.

Chief meteorologist Jennifer Rukavina, of Local 6 WPSD, the NBC affiliate in the western tip of Kentucky, stood in front of the Steamboat gondola this week, with thick flakes falling behind her, and filed a live report that began like this: "As you can see, it's been snowing a lot and has been ever since I got here two days ago …"

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Thanks, Jennifer, we're glad you came back to Steamboat and brought us our best skiing conditions in three weeks. Please return in 2011. You are our good luck charm. We need you.

At least we got to taste a little powder before we bid adieu to a January that just didn't live up to our own lofty expectations.

Steamboat residents were climbing out of a slump this week that saw a 12-day stretch from Jan. 8 through 19 when only a half-inch of dust fell on the trails.

With fewer than three days left in the month Friday morning, the ski area had counted January snowfall of 39.5 inches. The season-long snowfall total for 2009-10 (the counting began in October when a few aspen leaves still clung to the trees) stood at 135.5 inches Friday.

How many powder days did we enjoy this month? The 5 a.m. snow report for mid-mountain reported snow on 14 days, but only on six occasions did it snow more than 4 inches. The biggest storms of the month occurred Jan. 3 to 4 and Jan. 24 to 25. In both instances, the 5 a.m. report touted 8 inches followed by 4 inches the next morning.

It's kind of scary to realize that January, on record, is the snowiest month of the year, and it's already behind us. The 20-year average for January snowfall is 82 inches. We only came up short by about 3 1/2 feet this month.

Heightening the sense that something has been missing from our lives is the fact that during the preceding two months of January, in 2008 and 2009, we feasted on powder like convention-goers in a Las Vegas buffet line.

In case you had forgotten, January 2009 delivered 109 inches of snow, and January 2008 came through with 129 inches.

There weren't many days when it didn't snow in January 2008 — the ski area had measurable snow on 26 mornings, and there were 16 powder days of 4 inches or more.

We went a little crazy during a seven-day span that month that saw 3, 6, 15, 7, 10, 8 and 3 inches on the morning report. It added up to a nice fat fitty-two inches in a week's span. But we didn't take it for granted back in '08, did we?

I hope not, because the winter of 2007-08 produced the record season snowfall of 489 inches. January 2007, with 41 inches of total snowfall, was much more like the month Steamboat skiers and riders are about to close the book on.

However, anyone who was here in January 1996 has all-time bragging rights. That was the month we survived 216.5 inches of snowfall at mid-mountain.

Perhaps we'll beat that number this February.