Jan 4, 2024 - News

Colorado to get much-needed snow after slow start to winter season

Median Colorado snowpack
Data: NRCS; Chart: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Much-needed snow is arriving in Colorado this week as concerns mount about drought conditions in 2024.

State of play: The state's snowpack is just 68% of its normal level to start the year, the latest figures show, with lower totals in the southern parts of the state where moderate to extreme drought pervades.

  • Even at higher elevations, snow is hard to find with average base depths at ski resorts in the mid-20 inch range, rather than the 40-plus inch averages this time last year, Chance Keso at OntheSnow tells us.

What they're saying: The snowpack is "vitally important to create water for the various ecosystems, reservoirs, lakes, streams, etc. that all rely on them," he says. "The lack of snowpacks makes those summer months harder" when it comes to drought conditions."

What to watch: A three-pack of storms moving through the state starting today won't be enough to reverse the trend, with much of the state expected to see little accumulation.

The intrigue: The mountains are expected to fare better with double-digit totals predicted at most ski resorts in the next week, OpenSnow meteorologist Joel Gratz forecasts.

  • Steamboat in the north and a handful of southwestern ski areas may see 20-30 inches.

Between the lines: The saving grace so far this season is the cold temperatures and low sun angle which have enabled resorts to open more terrain through the busy holiday season despite the lack of snowfall.

The big picture: Colorado is not alone in its snow woes. The Western U.S. and Canada are seeing milder and drier conditions amid a strong El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

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