Early-season snow off to good start in Colorado’s high country

Colorado’s snowpack is 140% of average for this time of year — but it’s still far too early to tell what kind of snow year the state will have

Chris Outcalt
Colorado Sun
Sun splashes across the still snow-covered slopes of the Steamboat Ski Resort Wednesday, May 4 in Steamboat Springs. The most recent storm system to move through the area brought snow flakes and much-needed moisture to the Yampa Valley.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Snowpack on the Western Slope is off to a good start, but experts caution it’s difficult to draw many meaningful conclusions from snow-covered, high country peaks this early in the season. 

“It’s kind of like leading a football game by a field goal halfway through the first quarter,” Jeff Lukas, an independent climate researcher, wrote in an email. 

As of Thursday, the statewide snowpack was 140% of the median from 1991 to 2020, and 142% in the Colorado River headwaters area specifically, according to SNOTEL data compiled by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The averages were slightly higher elsewhere on the Western Slope. 

Still, there’s a long way to go. Typically, on Nov. 9, Colorado is about 8% of the way to achieving statewide median snowpack, Lukas said. Right now, the state is about 12% of the way there, he said. But, Lukas cautioned that there’s very little correlation between mountain precipitation in October and early November and the final totals across an entire snow season. 


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