Grand County snowpack flounders in mid-January
GRAND COUNTY SNOTEL SITE DATA January 13, 2019
• Lake Irene
o Current depth: 43 inches
o Snowpack: 67 percent
• Phantom Valley
o Current depth: 25 inches
o Snowpack: 44 percent
• Willow Creek Pass
o Current depth: 28 inches
o Snowpack: 127 percent
• Arapaho Ridge
o Current depth: 45 inches
o Snowpack: 60 percent
• Stillwater Creek
o Current depth: 21 inches
o Snowpack: 48 percent
• Buffalo Park
o Current depth: 28 inches
o Snowpack: 19 percent
• Berthoud Summit
o Current depth: 36 inches
o Snowpack: 59 percent
• Middle Fork Camp
o Current depth: 26 inches
o Snowpack: 61 percent
• Jones Pass
o Current depth: 35 inches
o Snowpack: 63 percent
Grand County’s snowpack picture is not looking nearly as rosy in mid-January as it did in mid-December with the current average snowpack in Middle Park standing at just over 60 percent of average.
As of Sunday Jan. 13 Grand County’s overall snowpack stands at just 60.89 percent of historic averages for this time of year. The deepest snow tallied in Grand County is still at the Arapaho Ridge SNOTEL site, located north of Kremmling and east of Rabbit Ears Pass near Troublesome Creek.
As of Sunday snow at Arapaho Ridge was 45 inches deep, a figure that is only 60 percent of historic averages for that date at that location. Arapaho Ridge is one of Grand County’s snowiest areas and was also the location recording the deepest snow in mid-December when the snow was measured at 35 inches deep.
The Willow Creek Pass area had the highest percentage snowpack for mid-January. The SNOTEL weather data gathering site at Willow Creek Pass, located just south of the pass in Grand County, tallied a snow depth of 28 inches on Jan. 13, which was 127 percent of historic averages for the date and location.
Snowpack in Grand County is thinnest at Stillwater Creek’s SNOTEL site, located near the Idleglen Staging Area. Snowpack at Stillwater Creek was 21 inches deep on Sunday and 48 percent of historic averages. The lowest percentage snowpack in Grand County can be found in Buffalo Park, an area north of Kremmling and west of Highway 9 and slightly north of Red Dirt Reservoir. Buffalo Park’s mid-January snowpack was just 19 percent of historic averages for the date at 18 inches of snow depth.
Two of Grand County’s popular backcountry skiing areas, Berthoud Pass and Jones Pass, are also experiencing a bit of a lull in mid-season snowfall. Snow depth tallied at Berthoud Summit by SNOTEL sites was 36 inches on Sunday, just 59 percent of historic averages for that date. Over on Jones Pass the snow was one inch less in depth at 35 inches but based on historic averages for that SNOTEL site it’s pack is at 63 percent of average.
Looking at the state of Colorado as a whole the situation seems much more positive than what Grand County is anecdotally experiencing. According to data provided by federal agencies that track snowpack Colorado’s statewide snowpack on January 1 was 93 percent of the historic median. Comparing the current winter season to last winter federal officials say statewide snowpack is up 169 percent above the same time period from last season, as of January 1.
There was a significant decrease snowpack in Grand County from the mid-December tabulation that showed snowpack in late 2018 at 112 percent of historic averages. The Natural Resources Conservation Service – or NRCS, part of the larger US Department of Agriculture, gathers and reports snowpack data for the federal government.
Officials from the NRCS begin gathering snowpack data shortly after the first of the year and continue through April though SNOTEL data is available year round online. Each month the Kremmling NRCS office publishes an official report. The official reports published by the local office includes data gathered from 15 different locations in and around Grand County. Our current snowpack tabulations are based on data from nine SNOTEL sites with data available online.
The NRCS determines a specific region’s snowpack percentage based upon the historic 30-year average that has been recorded at a given location on the date the data was gathered. Even though Grand County’s snowpack has fallen as a percentage of historic averages over the past month the snow depth across all of Grand County is deeper in mid-January than it was in mid-December. However, because Grand County typically sees less snow in mid-December the snowpack at that time was higher as a percentage of the 30-year average for that date.
The NRCS is currently using a 30-year average data set running from 1981-2010. Eventually the NRCS will redevelop a 30-year average model based on data sets taken from 1991-2020.
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