From BeaconReader.com (Bob Berwyn):
We all know what a blanket of fresh snow is supposed to look like — it’s the stuff of poetry. And for skiers and snowboarders, it’s the magic carpet that carries us beyond the edge of gravity, free-falling down mountainsides immersed in a spray of frozen crystals.
But for the last 10 years, the snows falling in parts of the Colorado Rockies have been far from virgin white. From March through May, the mountainsides sometimes look more like gravy covered mashed potatoes, as regional weather patterns blow huge amounts of desert dust to the high peaks of the San Juans and beyond. Instead of skimming down the slope with wings on your feet, skiers sometimes find themselves stuck in the muck. In a worst-case scenario, you might even double-eject out of your bindings if you hit a particularly sticky patch in a transition area.
Much of that seasonal dust is coming from dry lake beds in Arizona, from arid grazing lands around the Four Corners area and from intensively used recreation and energy development areas in the wider region. Satellite images clearly show the source and the deposition areas, and 10 years of detailed data from snow-study plots around the Colorado mountains show how the dust is affecting snow and water.