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Depths of winter

Fish Creek Falls trail accessible to hikers

Last week’s snowstorm on the Park Range brought the settled snow depth on the summit of Buffalo Pass to 117.6 inches.

The news that the snowpack on the Continental Divide is 134 percent of average for Jan. 13 is important to summer hikers and anglers. It means that if the winter holds form through March, they probably won’t be driving their SUVs and pickups to Summit Lake and the Mount Zirkel Wilderness trails there until about July 10.

For valley residents who don’t own snowmobiles, however, the more immediate question might be, “How much snow do we have in town?”



A National Weather Service spotter on Anglers Drive has posted snow totals at his residence for October, November and December.

The Anglers neighborhood, between downtown and the ski area, tallied 0.8 of an inch in October, 28.9 inches in November and 59.7 inches in December for a total of 89.4 through the end of the year. In January, Anglers Drive has added 21 inches of snow, bringing the city limits total to 110 inches.



Of course, if you want to confirm the settled snow depth, you may want to climb onto your rooftop. If you live near the base of the ski area, you’ll discover the snow is up to the third rib on a tall man.

Two decades ago, a winter like this meant outdoor recreation depended on skis or snowshoes. But the constant traffic at trailheads such as the one at Fish Creek Falls mean hikers can enjoy the depth of winter relying on a good pair of snow boots with lug soles. Step off the trail, though, and you’ll sink to your fanny.

The north side of Fish Creek Canyon, with its south-facing slopes, absorbs enough solar radiation that hikers will find themselves peeling down to their base layer within 15 minutes.

The U.S. Forest Service is plowing both parking lots at Fish Creek Falls. The daily admission sticker costs $5.

The remote snow-sensing site at Dry Creek (the foot of Buffalo Pass) shows just how great the difference in snowpack is at the Continental Divide and lower elevations similar to that of the Fish Creek Falls trailhead.

As of Friday, Dry Lake had 59.8 inches of settled snow compared to the 117.6 above 10,000 feet at the Tower measuring site.


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