Snowpack news: Early season snow kickstarts the schussing season

Snow water equivalent as a percent of normal January 16, 2014 via the NRCS
Snow water equivalent as a percent of normal January 16, 2014 via the NRCS

From KUNC (Luke Runyon):

In the West, some states are enjoying their best snowpack in years. And early too. In others, the new year has only brought more dry weather. That’ll mean significant water problems later in the year…

Northern Colorado has been deluged with snow this winter. Storm after storm has delivered, leaving river basins for the South and North Platte well above average percent for the amount of precipitation received so far this water year, which begins Oct. 1…

While Northern Colorado is sitting pretty, the southern half of the state could be in for some trouble if spring snow storms don’t roll through. There’s been little respite for residents of the Arkansas River valley near Rocky Ford. Dust storms were kicked up in high winds at Christmas-time outside La Junta.

Conditions aren’t nearly as bad in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, an agricultural powerhouse, but could devolve quickly. Farmers in the traditionally dry region are paying close attention.

From The Denver Post (Steve Raabe):

Colorado’s ski season is off to a strong start, with the largest group of resorts reporting a 22 percent increase in skier visits through the end of December. Heavy early-season snowfall allowed ski areas to open more terrain than usual and contributed to the good launch, according to a report released Monday by Colorado Ski Country USA.

While the increase was vivid compared to relatively weak performance in the same period last year, the industry trade group said early-season activity was 6.7 percent higher than the five-year average for the period from October through December.

“Riding momentum from last spring and buoyed by early-season snow this fall, the season got off to a very positive start,” Melanie Mills, president and chief executive of Colorado Ski Country USA, said in a release. “While we’ve set a brisk pace, there is still a lot of ski season left. With such wonderful conditions we’re optimistic that the momentum will continue.”

The group’s report was compiled from 21 member resorts in Colorado, representing most ski areas except those operated by nonmember Vail Resorts, which owns Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in the state.

In a separate report released Monday, Broomfield-based Vail Resorts also said it saw gains for its Colorado and Utah resorts this season through Jan. 5. But Vail’s overall results for the ski season to date were mixed at its eight mountain resorts in Colorado, Utah, California and Nevada. Vail’s five ski areas in Colorado and Utah reported a 7.4 percent increase in skier visits compared with last year. But at its three resorts surrounding Lake Tahoe, where early snowfall has been poor, visits were down 23.4 percent.

Vail Resorts chief executive Rob Katz said in the release Monday that he is confident that the company will meet its financial projections. “However,” he said, “our confidence is predicated on more normalized conditions returning to Tahoe.”

Vail said ticket revenue in Colorado and Utah was up 11.7 percent.

The good snow that boosted Colorado resorts’ performance through December has maintained in early January.

In a 48-hour period through Monday afternoon, Steamboat reported 13 inches of new snow, 12 inches at Copper Mountain, 11 inches at Eldora and 10 inches at Telluride.

The snow allowed resorts to open more terrain earlier, prompting comparisons to the 2007-08 ski season.

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