Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

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January 22, 2014
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Outlook for fresh snow poor through January in Aspen

Fresh snow in the Aspen-Snowmass area has been a no-show for nearly 10 days, and it looks like it will stay that way for some time, at least through the end of this month.

That’s what the forecasters at www.aspenweather.net are saying, and they aren’t happy about it either.

“You can tell your readers we’re upset about it too,” said Ryan Boudreau, one of the experts at the local weather website. “This 10-day stretch is killing us, and we are headed towards a below-normal winter if we don’t get at least 60 inches in February and 60 inches in March.”

Since Oct. 1, Aspen Mountain has surpassed 130 inches of snowfall. Snowmass is close to hitting the 150-inch mark. Both are much higher mid-January totals compared with the 2011-12 and 2012-13 ski seasons.

There’s a slight chance of snow on Thursday, but Boudreau said whatever falls won’t amount to much ­— perhaps a trace.

“We need more snow,” a Galena Street Shuttle driver said while chatting with a passenger on Tuesday morning.

There could be a weather-pattern change sometime around Jan. 31 or Feb. 1, but the forecast models are shaky on the subject, Boudreau said.

“Do we see more snow around the beginning of February? Yes. But does the pattern stick? We don’t know,” he said.

With skier visits up this year and strong early snowfall providing a solid base for its four mountains, Aspen Skiing Co. isn’t worried.

“It’s not unusual to have an extended period of high pressure at any point in a given winter, even when we have a great snow year,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. “We’re fortunate to have had a very snowy October-November-December, cold weather and great moisture content in that snow. We have a pretty killer base down right now. It’s solid, it’s deep, it didn’t blow a lot early in the season, and it got to settle down.”

At Aspen Mountain, the base is 36 inches at the top and 33 inches mid-mountain. At Snowmass, the base is 45 inches at its highest point and 32 inches mid-mountain.

As of Tuesday, snowpack for Aspen was 111 percent of average, according to the Natural Resource Conservation Service. The overall snowpack for the entire Roaring Fork Basin, which includes the Crystal and Fryingpan river valleys, was 105 percent of average.

Even with the bright sunshine and dry days, the ski mountains aren’t losing parts of their base, Hanle said.

“It’s not been that warm yet,” he said. “It’s not melting like it does in the spring when we can lose an inch or two a day of the base because of the sun’s angle and it’s warm during the day and doesn’t get as cold at night.”

Hanle said the bluebird days give the company an opportunity to tackle some marketing opportunities.

“We do a lot of photo shoots for next year,” he said. “We need grooming shots and park shots and kids ski-school shots, and this is when you get the best images for that.”

He also pointed out that not everyone likes to ski powder. Some locals and visitors enjoy lazy cruises down groomed trails, warm temperatures without snow blowing into their faces and easygoing lunches on the on-mountain restaurant decks. For them, the current conditions are ideal.

“Would we like to have more snow? Sure,” he said. “But we take what we can get in the business, and we enjoy the sunshine while we have it. And the forecast can change.”

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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