Steamboat’s valley snow lowest in 9 years
February 2, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The 13 inches of snow on the ground in the city of Steamboat Springs at the end of January was the lowest since 2010 – lower even than 2012 when the snow depth was 14.5 inches, according to weather watcher Kate Gmeiner.
Gmeiner faithfully collects precipitation data for the Colorado Rain Hail and Snow Network — CocoRaHS.
"I looked back on CocoRaHS, and 2018 is the lowest amount of snow on the ground at the end of January since 2010,” Gmeiner said.
But there may be snow on the way in the first weekend of February. Meteorologist Michael Weissbluth of the SnowAlarm blog predicted Thursday that Steamboat Ski Area could receive 2 to 5 inches of new snowfall on the Saturday morning snow report, with the possibility of another 3 to 5 inches during the day and overnight.
But the real snow-maker could be the storm that develops Monday afternoon and night, with the possibility of 6 to 12 inches of snow.
January actually produced 21 inches of new snowfall, but mild daytime temperatures settled the snow and took a good deal of the air out of it. And Gmeiner actually recorded .27 10ths of an inch of rain last month. As far as low, new-snow accumulation records go, January 2015 only saw 6.6 inches, she reported.
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Gmeiner takes her measurements at a weather station just above the valley floor between downtown and the base of Mount Werner. And snow levels in the valley shouldn't be confused with the unpacked snow level at mid-mountain on the ski area, which was reported at 38 inches Friday.
And Steamboat is among the more fortunate resorts. Aspen Mountain stands at 24 inches of base, and Crested Butte reports 30 inches, according to Colorado Ski Country USA.
Throughout the Colorado Rockies, the Natural Resources Conservation Service reports below average snowpack, but the combined Yampa/White River basin ranks among the highest snowpack with 73 percent of median. Only the Laramie and North Platte Basin at 81 percent, and the South Platte Basin, encompassing the northern Front Range, at 83 percent of median, are healthier.
On Jan. 5, a hydrologist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service said it would take well above-average precipitation for the rest of the season to realize a normal peak snow accumulation, particularly in southern Colorado.
Since then, statewide snowpack has improved only marginally, putting it even further off "schedule."
Gmeiner referenced the low January snow total in Steamboat in 2012, and that happens to have been a year when spring runoff peaked unusually early. In a typical year, snowpack in the mountains here peaks in mid-April and begins to slowly melt through May and June, feeding the streams and rivers with cold water.
However, in 2012, the last snow year as sparse as this one, the Yampa River, below its confluence with Soda Creek in downtown Steamboat Springs, peaked at just 1,900 feet per second on April 27, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. That compares to the heavy snow year of 2011, when the river peaked at 6,010 cubic feet per second on June 6.